Syosset attorney Robert de Poto dies at 87

Attorney Robert De Poto, of Syosset, a Navy

Attorney Robert De Poto, of Syosset, a Navy veteran, died March 18, 2013. He was 87 Newsday's obituary for Robert De Poto
(Credit: Handout)

When attorney Robert de Poto was preparing to try a case, whether it was murder or malpractice, he would sequester himself in the family living room and study reams of documents until he knew what was on every page, his son said.

"He worked very diligently on cases," said Robert de Poto II, of Huntington, the eldest of de Poto's eight children. "From what people said about him, Dad must have been pretty good."

De Poto, whose love of the law never overshadowed his love of family and faith and fun, died March 18 at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset after a fight with prostate cancer. He was 87.


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De Poto was born in Jamaica, Queens, the second of three sons to Amadeo and Catherine de Poto, his son said.

Sometime after de Poto graduated from John Adams High School in Queens, the family moved to Malverne. In 1944, he enlisted in the Navy, where he was the gunner on a Curtiss Hell Diver plane in the Pacific during World War II.

Two years later, de Poto returned home and enrolled at Hofstra University, where he was a quarterback on the football team and played on the university's first lacrosse team. He graduated from Fordham Law School and passed the bar in 1954.

Around the same time, de Poto met his future wife, Jonell Abbene.

"There might have been a spark of personality," Robert de Poto said. "My mom found my dad very funny."

Married in 1955, the couple raised six daughters and two sons. The de Potos moved to Syosset, where he started a private practice handling both civil and criminal cases.

"He was scrupulously honest, hardworking and . . . highly regarded, not only by other lawyers but by the judges," said de Poto's former law partner, Frank Giorgio Jr.

De Poto's strength was his ability to connect with people, whether it was sizing up a potential juror, or drawing out someone's life story at a cocktail party. He loved to cuddle his children and grandchildren and tell stories, or perform magic as "The Great Dadoonie," said a daughter, Diane Ferris of Oyster Bay.

In addition to his wife, his son Robert II and daughter, Diane, De Poto is survived by daughters, Jonell Boecker of Old Bethpage, Laurie of Shelter Island, Dolores of Oyster Bay, Christine Lentz of East Northport and Marilyn of Oyster Bay; a son, Ted of Lake Mary, Fla.; 11 grandchildren; and brothers, Amadeo de Poto of Malverne and Richard of Hicksville.

A funeral Mass was said for de Poto on March 22 at St. Edward the Confessor Church in Syosset. Burial was at Nassau Knolls Cemetery, Port Washington.

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