Vic Scutari, soup kitchen founder, dies

Vic Scutari, a prominent Long Island political activist Vic Scutari, a prominent Long Island political activist who spent decades protesting American military actions, died on Jan. 12 after a long battle with Parkinsons disease. He was 80. Photo Credit: Handout

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Vic Scutari, a Long Island activist who protested American military intrusions, the plight of the homeless and political corruption in Nassau County, died Jan. 12 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 80.

Scutari founded Long Beach Food and Friendship INN, a soup kitchen that served about 85 people daily in the 1980s. He and his wife, Patti, devoted much of their time to helping the hungry and organizing anti-war protests.

Scutari's actions earned him plenty of news media attention -- and nights in a holding cell.

"He was the most altruistic person I have ever met," said Patti Scutari, 58. "And Vic could just not stand injustice."

Born in Westchester County, Vic Scutari was the youngest of two children raised by a boxing promoter father and homemaker mother.

He earned a bachelor's degree in business from Manhattan College and went to work on Wall Street, trading stocks. At 29, he married schoolteacher Peggy Donnelly, and they moved to Smithtown. The couple, who divorced in 1985, had three daughters: Susan, Lisa, who has since died, and Charmaine.

Scutari's life changed after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While Scutari was mourning, other stockbrokers pounced on the event as a financial opportunity. He immediately left the job, his wife said.

He moved his family to Long Beach and he became a counselor for troubled youths. He also opened a radical bookstore and started the Long Beach Voice, a weekly newspaper that railed against corruption at City Hall.

In 1973, Scutari became assistant budget supervisor for the Town of Hempstead. He quit four years later after refusing to kick back 1 percent of his salary to the Nassau Republican Party -- the practice at the time. Five officials were later charged in the scheme.

Scutari later planned to open a store on the boardwalk that would sell 99 percent fat-free frozen yogurt. The name was to be "The One Percent Solution" but the landlord cancelled the agreement. Scutari blamed political pressure.Scutari's life changed again in the '80s as Long Beach's waterfront construction boom forced several thousand residents out of their homes. He helped establish the soup kitchen in 1983.

"Vic was a trailblazer and so passionate about the cause," said Jean Kelly, executive director of the Hempstead-based Interfaith Nutrition Network.

The soup kitchen was a fixture in the city but was frequently evicted and forced to find new places to operate, including in front of City Hall.

The facility was destroyed during superstorm Sandy but is now working to re-open.

Through his work at the kitchen, Scutari met Patti, who had three children from a previous marriage. The couple married and had one child, Vic Jr.

They collected no salary from the soup kitchen but painted homes and delivered furniture to pay their $500 mortgage, she said.

Scutari would engage in frequent acts of civil disobedience, from sleep-outs to bring attention to the plight of the homeless to a 28-day fast at the U.S. Capitol and a sit-in at the Marine Corps recruiting center in Hempstead.

After Scutari was diagnosed with Parkinson's, the couple moved to Wendell, Mass., in 1993 and purchased a country store and started a restaurant.

Scutari's oldest, daughter, Susan, who lives with her mother in Merrick, said she will remember her father's courage and biting sense of humor.

"He was always teaching you," she said. "You just didn't know you were learning."

In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations to be sent to the soup kitchen at P.O. Box 294, Long Beach, NY 11561.Services were held in Wendell on Sunday.

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