John S. DaVanzo came to be known as "Mr. Mineola" during his decades as a member of the Mineola Fire Department, several terms as an elected official of the village and the Town of North Hempstead, and a role with any civic group that asked him to lend a hand.
"He always gave of himself. He was always putting other people before himself," his daughter, Mary DaVanzo of Bayside, recalled this week.
DaVanzo was 92 when he died last Friday. He was laid to rest Tuesday at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury after a funeral Mass at Corpus Christi Church in Mineola, where he had been a longtime congregant and usher.
He was born in Mineola, one of seven children. At Mineola High School, he was all-varsity in football, basketball, baseball and track, and attended Hofstra before being drafted in 1943.
He spent his entire life in the village, except for a stint in the Navy during World War II.
He was a radio man on the destroyer USS Glennon when it was sunk by enemy fire during the Normandy invasion.
During leave from the Navy, he married Pauline Leach, who died in 1995.
After returning to Mineola in 1946, he became a member of the Mineola Fire Department and established a moving and storage company with his brothers Carmine and William.
He rose to the rank of captain in the department and later served as honorary chief.
The long list of civic groups he joined included the Elks, Lions, Kiwanis, Knights of Columbus, Italian-American Civic Association, the Mineola Historical Society and the Mineola Library Board. The village pool was renamed in his honor in 2007 for his work on the pool board.
The local Republican club was named the John S. DaVanzo Mineola Republican Club and he spent decades in public life.
He was elected a village trustee in 1955, a member of the North Hempstead board in 1965 and North Hempstead town clerk in 1974. He was again elected a village trustee in 2005 and served two, two-year terms.
He was co-chairman of the Mineola Centennial Parade in 2006, and his high school teacher, Beatrice Hubbard, then 99 years old, was grand marshal. It was little known at the time, but DaVanzo visited Hubbard at least twice a month until her death last year at 106, often bringing a bouquet of roses to cheer her up.
He was a longtime volunteer at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn and, in recent years, could be found at the front desk of Village Hall, acting as an unofficial greeter and ombudsman.
"He was special. I don't know there are any others out there like him," said state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola), who was mayor of Mineola while DaVanzo was a trustee when both men tried and failed to have the village create its own police force in 2006.
"His volunteerism, his devotion to his church and his community. . . . He lived a life with dignity," Martins said. "You look around you now, in a world where that means less and less, and when you lose people like this, it matters."
DaVanzo is also survived by sons Richard of Miller Place and John Sr. of Orchard Park, N.Y.; daughters Judith and Theresa DaVanzo of Mineola; and 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
His family said his life was reflected in one of his final wishes: that anyone wanting to make a donation in his memory do so to the charity of their choice.