Bruno Baratta, a seasoned labor lawyer and one-time Long Island congressional hopeful who was heavily involved in local Catholic organizations, died of natural causes last month. He was 86.

Baratta, of Oyster Bay, who died Feb. 25, served as legal counsel to the Town of Oyster Bay's human resources department from 1988 until his retirement in 2001 -- capping off a career that included working for the National Labor Relations Board and running his own private practice in Mineola from 1955 to 1987.

"He was a character in the court," said his son Robert Baratta, a professional sports agent living in Glen Ridge, N.J. "He would say certain things to a judge that might have gotten anyone else kicked out, but because it came from him, he would get away with it. He just had that way about him."

Baratta was born in Brooklyn, the son of Italian immigrants, and grew up in Long Beach during the Depression, living in an apartment above a luncheonette on Long Beach Road.

After graduating from Long Beach High School in 1944, he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in Hawaii and San Diego until 1946.

Baratta graduated from Hofstra University in 1948 and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1952 alongside classmate Robert F. Kennedy, his son said.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

In 1965, he married Margaret Porrier of Garden City at a small ceremony at the Vatican. The wedding highlighted Baratta's deep ties to his Catholic faith, his son said.

Baratta served on the board of trustees for Molloy College, the Rockville Centre school founded by the Sisters of St. Dominic of Amityville. He was a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus Catholic fraternal organization, and taught catechism at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in Woodbury.

"He was a human GPS to any church on Long Island," another son, Tim Baratta, also a sports agent, said in a eulogy of his father delivered at his funeral March 1 at St. Dominic Church in Oyster Bay. He received a military burial at Calverton National Ceremony in Suffolk County.

In 1964, Bruno Baratta, active in the Nassau Republican Party, lost a primary bid for a congressional seat representing portions of Hempstead and North Hempstead.

"It was his first and last foray into running for office," Robert Baratta said. He noted that while his father considered other bids for public office, he held back in order to raise his eight children after his wife died of cancer in 1989.

Baratta is survived by his children: Regina Concannon and Charles Baratta, both of Huntington; Christina Caristo and Elizabeth Baratta, both of Locust Valley; Tim, Robert and Norman Baratta, all of New Jersey; and Catherine Baratta of Manhattan. Other survivors include 17 grandchildren.