Martin J. Racanelli Sr., a principal at Melville-based construction firm Racanelli Construction Co. and one of Long Island's earliest big name industrial developers, died Monday in Bay Shore of cardiovascular and respiratory illness. He was 77.

Racanelli had worked alongside his five children at the firm since its founding in 1992. The firm, which specializes in construction management, general contracting and design for industrial, retail and medical properties, has built many Island facilities in recent years, including the Atria Assisted Living Community in Bay Shore, the Air National Guard building in Westhampton Beach and the YMCA building in Patchogue.

 

Born in Bellmore

Born to Constance and Nicholas Racanelli Sr. in Bellmore on Nov. 15, 1937, Racanelli was a graduate of Seton Hall High School in Patchogue, where he met his wife of 56 years, Rochelle. He later went on to earn his bachelor's degree from Providence College in Rhode Island.

"A lot of the people he did business with over the years became his friends," said his son Nicholas H. Racanelli. Nicholas Racanelli, as president of the firm, manages it with his three brothers and sister. He said his father's wit and "electric personality" set him apart as someone who could "adapt to any personality" to work out business deals.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"He was just a kind soul," Nicholas Racanelli said.

Martin Racanelli is best known for his work as a commercial real estate developer with N. Racanelli Associates, which his father founded in the early 1950s, and which was one of the biggest developers of its time. The family business, which spanned three generations, developed many corporate headquarters in the Hauppauge Industrial Park, in addition to the former Hauppauge Corporate Center at 150 Motor Pkwy.

After a widespread market bust in commercial development in the early 1990s, the company restructured before re-emerging as separate companies, including Racanelli Construction.

"In the worst of times he was always cheerful and upbeat and it rubbed off on the people around him," said Dix Hills resident John DeLollis, 76, a former interior contractor and a longtime friend. As a businessman, Racanelli leaves behind a legacy of "honesty and integrity," evidenced by his preference for handshake agreements over lengthy legal documents, DeLollis said.

Handshake was his contract

@Newsday

"I don't believe in all the years I did business with him I ever had a written contract," he added.

He and his wife contributed to many charities and nonprofits, including the American Heart & Stroke Association, the North Shore-LIJ Health System and the Hospice Care Network's Children's and Family Bereavement Program.

In addition to his wife and son Nicholas, other survivors include sons Michael, Richard and Martin Jr.; a daughter, Constance; brothers John, Anthony, Joe and Eugene; and 10 grandchildren with two on the way. He was predeceased by his brother Nicholas Racanelli Jr.

A wake will be held from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at the Frederick J. Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in East Islip. A funeral service is scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Patrick Church in Bay Shore.