From construction laborer to foreman, Frank Farina helped build Trump Tower, Penn Plaza, Brookhaven National Laboratory and other landmarks in a career that spanned almost 50 years, his family said. He was 85 when he died Dec. 7 at Huntington Hospital.
The Dix Hills resident was fresh out of the Merchant Marine and World War II, anxious about finding a paying job, when a friend got him work as a construction laborer.
Farina saw the beginnings of modern methods in raising skyscrapers and was one of the first in New York City to drive the "buggy," a motorized hopper that carried concrete mix from the cement truck and could go across two wood planks to less accessible areas of the job site.
"Every time you went into the city with him, he'd say, 'I worked on that building. 'I worked on this building,' " recalled his son, Frank Farina of Holbrook, a Newsday truck driver. "He felt pretty proud about that and talked about how they're still standing."
Farina became a "legend" in the city's construction business, his tough but kind disposition garnering respect from the bosses, the union and the regular guys on the job, said his brother Joseph Farina, 72, of Dix Hills. Union workers followed him from job to job because they wanted to work with him, the brother said.
"They followed him like you couldn't believe," Joseph Farina said. "People used to visit him at his house, call him up. He'd be on the phone three or four hours a night.
"He used to go there [to work] two hours early just for the camaraderie. He had to be there 8 o'clock, and he was there at 5:30, 6 o'clock."
On the job, they called Farina "Beefy," his mother's nickname for him, but his siblings, nieces and nephews called him "Sonny" for his upbeat disposition.
To his boisterous Italian family, he stood out as the quiet one, who'd ask "How are you," then wait for an answer and respond with something personal, his family said.
Every year, he and his wife, Dolores, hosted Christmas dinner, an affair with several courses and numerous trips from the kitchen to the basement, the only room big enough for the entire Farina clan and guests.
"He would have a conversation with anybody, and . . . he always made them feel like part of the family," said daughter Susan Annunziata of Kings Park, director of human resources at Newsday.
The second of five children, Farina grew up in the Canarsie area of Brooklyn.
He joined the Merchant Marine when he was 17; it was the only service that would take him because he was blind in one eye, which he later found out had a hole in the pupil, his family said.
Farina rarely spoke about his war service, his family said, but he did mention surviving 30-foot waves in the North Atlantic when ferrying supplies.
He was with friends on a Brooklyn beach when he met Dolores the summer of 1948. They married the next year.
Farina is also survived by another daughter, Helen Lagravinese of Medford; and eight grandchildren.
He was buried Dec. 10 at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale. Donations may be made to AHRC Suffolk, a nonprofit that helps people with developmental disabilities, at 2900 Veterans Memorial Hwy., Bohemia NY 11716.