Paul Sabatino, a pioneering Huntington Station businessman who was part of Long Island's suburban boom after World War II, has died. He was 93.
Sabatino died Friday at home with his family present in his Kings Park condominium after being hospitalized several times in recent weeks with various health issues.
During his 50-year career, Sabatino, who had only a high school education, started and ran his own home building business, a real estate firm and later an insurance business. He also did income tax preparation and owned a travel agency.
"He was a simple person who worked hard. He always told us hard work is its own reward," said his son, Paul Sabatino, former Suffolk County chief deputy executive and long time legislative counsel. "Being from the Depression era, he taught us to be cautious and prudent. For example, he taught us every time you leave a room, turn off the lights."
He also said his father was proud that his three children all earned college educations, the first in the family.
An only child, the elder Sabatino was stricken with a form of polio-osteomyelitis at age 2, which left him with restricted mobility in one ankle. The condition kept him from serving in World War II. Instead, he worked at Grumman, helping construct fighter planes for the war.
Sabatino left Grumman after five years to go into business for himself, first building homes in Huntington Station, then going into the real estate business, providing what were popularly known as "lunchpail" loans to help young home buyers afford the down payment to get mortgages.
His son said his father had a local reputation for being scrupulously honest.
"He was always very careful how he charged people to make sure it was the work he was doing. He never rounded off the dollars. If something was 33 cents, he would charge 33 cents. . . . . People would tell me they always felt he was fair and reliable, and after he married, people liked to deal with my parents because they were essentially a mom and pop operation."
Sabatino met his wife, Bernadetta, through a client who suggested he meet his sister. She lived down the street from Sabatino's office, but commuted daily by train into the city, where she worked as a secretary at several government agencies. The couple married in 1948 after dating for a year and half.
"My father attracted the business with his skills and ethical reputation. My mother made them repeat customers with her soft voice and gentle touch," said his son.
The couple had been married for 55 years at the time of Bernadetta Sabatino's death in 2004. They lived most of that time in Huntington Station.
In addition to real estate and insurance, the couple also developed an extensive income tax service. Sabatino sold the insurance business and the family moved upstate in 1959, but he found few business opportunities. He returned to Long Island in 1960 and opened a travel agency that operated until he retired in 1997.
Other survivors include two daughters, Charlotte Sabatino of Kings Park and Margaret Sussman of Henderson, Nevada, as well as three grandchildren.
A wake will be held Monday at A.L. Jacobsen Funeral Home in Huntington Station from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. A memorial service will be held at the funeral home Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. Burial will follow at Huntington Rural Cemetery in Huntington.