Frederick C. Filasky, whose farm stand, pumpkin picking and sweet white corn could draw thousands of residents a day to one of Nassau County's last major farms, died May 29 at Southampton Hospital of congestive heart failure. He was 75.
Filasky owned and farmed about 100 acres in Upper Brookville from 1962 until shortly after the 1987 pumpkin season. He had been in the midst of a long-running dispute with the Village of Upper Brookville over how much outside produce he could sell, at a time when suburban development was clashing with the Nassau farm.
Filasky, born Aug. 6, 1938, took over a traditional farm his father bought in 1939. He and his six siblings grew up harvesting potatoes, cabbage and other crops.
When his father died in 1962 Fred Filasky, who attended Oyster Bay High School, began operating the farm. He encouraged families to picnic there and would let kids go beyond the farm stand to pick out their own pumpkins, according to Adele Filasky, his second wife, to whom he was married 40 years.
"It started small," Adele said. "Word caught on."
"We'll sell about 800 [pumpkins] today," Fred Filasky told Newsday in October 1972, as he watched "kids bouncing basketball-sized pumpkins that failed to bounce back. Splat." "They ruin more than they pick," he said.
His oldest daughter, Karen Filasky, 48, of Rocky Point, said, "all the kids getting pumpkins, it was entertainment for him. It made him happy and proud to see the smiles on children's faces."
He also had a keen business sense.
"He took immeasurable pride in every single little detail," said his youngest daughter, Holly Rule, 35. "He was a real businessman. He liked being the leader, he liked running the show."
He put farm machinery on display, and kids would climb on it. He brought in llamas, rabbits, goats and pigs for a petting zoo, and his son Shane sold little bags of corn to feed the animals.
There was a rotating stainless steel carousel filled with radishes, celery, carrots and other local produce, and a statue of a bull on the roof of a barn as a landmark.
There was also Peter Pumpkin, a pumpkin-headed straw-stuffed scarecrow with a hidden public address system that chatted up younger visitors and directed games of Simon Says. Adele Filasky was often the voice of Peter Pumpkin, but her husband was the marketing driver.
Busloads of New York City children would come during the week and carloads of pumpkin pickers would come in on weekends.
"He'd have to hire Brookville cops to park the buses and direct traffic in and out," Adele Filasky said. At the farm's peak, about 2,000 kids a day came through the farm, she said.
Village officials complained that the farm was akin to a grocery, selling oranges, lemons and butter not produced on Filasky's farmland, and didn't fit into the increasingly suburbanized area. He sold the farm to a developer after his mother died.
Filasky went on to start an excavation company with his two sons, Fred Jr., 52, of Jericho, and Shane, 38, of Amagansett. Filasky and his wife would buy houses, fix them up, and rent and sell them, in places from Vermont to St. Barts. In 1996, he and Adele opened up a bed-and-breakfast, the Plover's Nest in East Hampton, for a few years.
They were in the process of fixing up their final house in the hamlet of Springs, in East Hampton, a small fishermen's cottage that he had said would be the final stop.
Besides his wife and sons and daughters, he is survived by another son, Brian, 50, of Huntington; a brother; three sisters; and three grandchildren.
Services have already been held.