Ronald Hunte of Medford endeared himself to customers of his plumbing and heating company by responding to calls at all hours and often refusing payment.

Some called him "Boiler Ron," because he was the man they turned to when the house got cold, his sister, Tina Manning of Coram, said Wednesday.

"He was like the mayor. He knew everybody," Manning said, adding her brother counted clients throughout Suffolk and Nassau counties. "He always had time to talk to somebody."

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Hunte died Sunday at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital in Port Jefferson from injuries he received earlier that day when his 2003 Buick Rendezvous veered off the William Floyd Parkway in Ridge and struck trees along the road, Suffolk police said. He was 60.

The crash is under investigation, police said Wednesday.

Rosalie Hanson of Gordon Heights said Hunte had been "a fixture in the community many years" and was beloved by customers of his company, Stawarm Heating Service, which Hunte founded in 1997.

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She said it was not unusual for Hunte to respond to calls in the early morning hours and cut his prices for indigent customers.

"He was an upstanding man to everybody," Hanson said. "If you didn't have money, he would fix your burner for free or give you a discount. . . . The one thing he didn't do was ask for anything in return. Never."

Hunte graduated from Longwood High School and was a member of the Central Brookhaven Lions Club. He belonged to a local motorcycle club and often was seen riding a purple motorcycle dubbed the Grape Ape, his sister said.

She said he provided vocational training in plumbing and heating at the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare's annual conference, Counseling and Treating People of Colour: An International Perspective.

She said Hunte was a fun-loving brother with a mischievous sense of humor. Once when she called a phone number that Hunte had given her, her call was answered by a potential suitor who called himself Sergio. Only after Sergio wooed her for several minutes did she realize it was her brother, who had adopted a fake accent.

"I had no idea," she said. "He's very good at that."

Besides his sister, Hunte is survived by his brother, Theodore, of Middle Island.

Viewing hours are 7-9 p.m. Sunday and 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. Monday at St. James Funeral Home. A funeral will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the funeral home. Burial will follow at Pinelawn Memorial Park, Pinelawn.