Laurence John Rice, the father of Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice, whose construction company built public works and other large projects, died Friday. He was 89.
The eldest son of an Irish immigrant who started the construction company he would later take over, Rice raised 10 children with his wife, Christine, in Garden City.
"He had all the values that children of immigrants have," Kathleen Rice said Saturday. "He was up every morning at 5:30 and devoted his life to work, family and his Catholic faith," she added. "He taught us if you want nice things you have to work hard to earn them."
On Dec. 21, the eve of his 89th birthday, some 200 family and friends came to a Christmas party at his house. Son Paul Rice, a New York architect, said his father's health was declining with bladder cancer and heart problems and he couldn't be part of the party.
"We had people quietly come up to his room and sit with him for several hours," he said.
Kathleen Rice said her father had a wonderful time seeing everyone.
"My sister put him to bed, he said, 'I love you sweetheart,' and he never woke up again," she said.
Rice was born in New York City and grew up in Forest Hills, Queens, with two brothers and a sister. During World War II he served stateside in the Army and later earned a degree from Fordham University and took over the family business.
He took up flying as a hobby, but when he proposed to the woman who would become his wife, Christine -- a friend of his sister's -- he sold the plane he'd flown around the country to buy the engagement ring.
"I don't think she liked the fact that he sold his plane but I think she liked the fact that he loved her enough to do that," Paul Rice said.
They married in 1953 and moved to Garden City.
He later bought another plane.
Paul Rice said his father was proud of the work his company did on parts of Southampton Hospital and St. Patrick Church in Huntington. News reports show the firm won contracts for projects at the hospital now called Nassau University Medical Center, a cargo building at Kennedy Airport and a building at Governors Island.
His Catholic faith was central to his life. After decades of running Laurence J. Rice Inc., the construction business his father formed in 1911, he dissolved the company and spent much of the 1990s working for the Catholic Church's building commission, Paul Rice said.
Political discussions at home led to passionate debates, Kathleen Rice said. "When I told him I was running for DA, he said, 'Oh, I'm so happy for you, this is great,' " she said. "And I said, 'By the way, Dad, I'm running as a Democrat.' "
He replied, " 'Oh how can you shame the family that way?' because he was a registered Republican." Nonetheless, he was her biggest supporter, and before he died changed his registration to Democratic, she said.
His wife died in 2006. He also is survived by sons Louis of Providence, R.I., and Timothy of Newtown, Conn.; daughters Mary Ann Blicksilver, Christine Rice and Sheila Rice of Garden City, Ellen Rice of New York and Elizabeth Connors of Los Angeles; sister Maura Murphy of Garden City; brother Charles of Mishawaka, Ind.; and 11 grandchildren. His eldest son, Laurence J. Rice Jr., died 2009.
Viewings will be held Sunday from 7 to 9 p.m. and Monday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Fairchild Sons Funeral Home in Garden City. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Tuesday at St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Garden City.