Investigator Sgt. Keith Allison of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office leaves behind a legacy of positivity, faith and giving back, longtime friends and colleagues said days after he died from COVID-19.
“Everyone has that one person that no one has anything bad to say about — that was Keith for all of us,” said Lou Viscusi, president of the Suffolk County Correction Officers Association. “He brightened up the room and would spread positivity.”
Allison of Brentwood was diagnosed with the coronavirus a few days after Thanksgiving, friends and colleagues said in interviews. His symptoms steadily worsened, and he had to be hospitalized a week later, they said.
At age 52, he died on Thursday while in hospital care with “serious COVID-19 complications,” according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Members of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Office, current and former, said they were still “shocked” and in disbelief that their friend had passed away from the virus.
Allison was the first employee from the sheriff’s office who had been hospitalized due to the virus, though several had been diagnosed over the last nine months, said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon Jr.
“To hear that he succumbed to the illness was devastating,” Toulon said. “Everyone I’ve talked to on my staff has been getting choked up. Some people can’t even talk without crying. It’s been a hard year, and to culminate it with this is just very heart wrenching.”
Toulon said he did contact tracing and determined Allison did not get the virus from the office.
“I had to try to find out if the virus was contracted through his work environment. Naturally, you start to think ‘what could I have done better or differently,’” Toulon said.
In 1995, Allison began his career with the sheriff’s office as a correction officer at the Riverhead Correctional Facility, according to the release. After that, he began working for the personnel investigations bureau, conducting background investigations and interviews for new employees, the release stated. Allison eventually became commanding officer of the bureau and was promoted to investigator sergeant in 2018.
“Keith was a person that adored his family, loved serving the residents of Suffolk County as a member of the sheriff’s office, and he was very proud of being an investigator sergeant,” Toulon said.
Allison celebrated his 25th year of service in February, the release stated.
“What he did for work was incredible, but what he did for his community and his devotion to his family was unparalleled,” said Sean Worrell, who was the former investigator sergeant for the bureau.
Charlie Vallillo, a retired corrections officer who worked with Allison for 15 years, said Allison was most known for his religious faith and involvement with his church.
“For those of us that knew him, were friends with him, worked with him — we were all better people for it,” Vallillo said.
James Langhorn, assistant to the sheriff, said Allison was “like a younger brother that I never had. He was always doing for other folks, you hardly heard him talk about himself.”
Langhorn and others said Allison often would volunteer for his church and other community charitable efforts.
He spent “many years” volunteering with the Islip Town Branch of the NAACP, said Tracey Edwards, Long Island regional director of the NAACP.
“When you look up the definition of community servant, you will find his name,” Edwards said. “He was a mentor, a wonderful human being and truly a beaming light for our community — what all of us should aspire to be.”
Allison is survived by his wife, Brenda, his children, Alicia and Darius, and his granddaughter Ava.
Services will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Michael J. Grant Funeral Home in Brentwood, with interment scheduled for Thursday at the Pinelawn Memorial Park Cemetery in West Babylon. COVID-19 guidelines will be followed, with mask and social distancing rules as well as a limit of 50 people in the funeral home at a time.
“His legacy will live on for many, many years,” Edwards said of Allison. “We were all very fortunate to have him in our lives.”