In a poignant unveiling ceremony last week, the junction of Woodside Avenue and 59th Street in Queens was named for the fallen national guardsman.
As a blustery wind and the rumble of subway trains on elevated tracks combined for a noisy backdrop there was no mistaking the sense shared by all present that the street was being named in honor of not just a good man, but also a hero.
Carvill was killed last year while on active duty with the New Jersey National Guard in Baghdad when his vehicle was caught in the blast of a roadside bomb.
His death was a huge loss to the Irish American community in the tri-state area, one that immediately prompted an effort to secure his memory by placing his name on a street in Woodside, where for years he had volunteered his skills at the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.
In leading the speakers at the unveiling ceremony, held on Wednesday, Nov. 2, attorney and Emerald Isle chairman Brian O’Dwyer said that the gathering was in honor of “our friend Frank Carvill” and all he had done “for our community and our people.”
O’Dwyer said that every day that people came to work at the Emerald Isle they would now see Carvill’s name on the street.
“This center, where no one is ever turned away, will stand as a living memorial to Frank Carvill,” O’Dwyer said.
Following an invocation from Monsignor James Kelly that included lines from a Patrick Kavanagh poem, City Councilman Eric Gioia, who led the legislative effort to secure the name change, said that a million streets could be renamed and it would still not be enough to completely honor Carvill.
“Frank Carvill was a hero, not just to Irish Americans, but to all Americans,” Gioia said.
The actual unveiling was completed by Carvill’s sister, Peggy Carvill-Liguori. Watched by her mother Mary, brother Danny and her husband Joe, she pulled back a cover and gave birth to “Frank Carvill Place.”
Carvill-Liguori said that while the reason for her family’s presence at the unveiling was a sad one, they were all thankful for the work and effort that went into commemorating her brother.
It was important to remember the way Frank lived and not just the way he had died, she said.
Sean Crowley, president of the Brehon Law Society, said that Carvill had been a tireless fighter for peace and justice in Northern Ireland.
Carvill, he said, was the kind of person who would be in the back row of a photograph, but first into a causes.
“He was always giving to others,” Crowley, who was also representing his brother Congressman Joe Crowley, said.
Brehon lawyer and retied army JAG Corps member, Brigadier General Jim Cullen, said that Carvill had not just been an exemplary citizen and exemplary soldier but twice the citizen and twice the soldier.
“He led by example and never did anything that he would not do himself,” Cullen said.
“We lost so much of ourselves that day on Palestine Street in Baghdad.” Carvill’s death on June 4, 2004, was a tragically ironic end for a man who had worked out of uniform as a paralegal for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, had survived the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center and had only avoided the 2001 attack because he had been driving to a meeting in Brooklyn.
After the first plane struck he rushed back to help in rescue work at the place that would become known as Ground Zero.
Carvill, who lived in Carlstadt, had been a member of the New Jersey Guard for 20 years but he had devoted himself to what friends and admirers agreed was an extraordinary level of commitment to a variety of Irish causes.
Carvill, who was 51, was a founding member of the Irish Immigration Reform Movement and was, at the time of his death, the Emerald Isle center’s treasurer.
He was also active in Irish county associations, his family roots being in counties Armagh and Cork.
As well as being a member of the Cork Association, Carvill was also first vice president of the Armagh Association. He was a member of the Brehon Law Society and Ancient Order of Hibernians Div. 7.
Carvill, who was unmarried, cared for his legally blind mother at the family home in New Jersey after the death of his father.
After the unveiling ceremony was complete and those in attendance had adjourned to the warmer confines of the Emerald Isle offices, a comrade of Carvill’s from Iraq, Ben Washington, spoke of his lost friend.
Washington said that he did not usually feel comfortable speaking in public but felt no such problems talking about Carvill.
There were stories about everyone, Washington said. What made Frank Carvill different to most was that all the stories were good and all were true.
One of the true stories, he said, was that Frank Carvill had let go of a seat on a plane heading out of Iraq.
When he had learned of a fellow soldier who was facing a family crisis back in the U.S., he immediately gave up the seat to that soldier, Washington told the hushed room.