Philip G. Maniaci.

Philip G. Maniaci. Credit: Neil Miller

After Philip G. Maniaci’s mother died of brain cancer when he was 8, neighbors and family friends pitched in to help care for him.

Now 79, Maniaci said those helping hands had a lasting impact, inspiring him as an adult to give back to his own community through hundreds of blood and platelet donations, as well as through leadership roles in organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, Deer Park Lions Club and Deer Park Fire Department.

“I saw people helping me when I was a kid, and I guess that inspired me and put something in my head,” Maniaci said of the death of his mother, Sarah. “So, when I got older I figured I would help people back. It’s my nature.”

Maniaci said he served four years in the U.S. Air Force — including a three-month stint building Quonset huts in Vietnam — during the 1960s. He relocated from the Bronx to Deer Park in 1974 with his wife, Gloria, and spent 36 years working for American Airlines, for which he said he served as a crew chief at LaGuardia Airport in Queens until his retirement in 2003.

In 1979, Maniaci said he joined the Knights of Columbus’ Our Lady of the Rosary Council No. 4428 in Deer Park and worked his way up the ranks until he reached the top position of grand knight in 2010.

Now the organization’s blood drive chairman for Suffolk County, Maniaci has donated blood 370 times over the past 3½ decades. He has made close to 300 platelet donations and given more than 46 gallons of blood, he said.

“I had a friend whose wife passed away from cancer, and he asked me if I would go give platelets, because cancer patients can’t produce the platelets in their bodies,” Maniaci said. “So I went with him once and I’ve been going ever since, starting back in 1990.”

Maniaci’s service doesn’t end there. He has been a member of the Deer Park Fire Department since 1979, and has been the president and safety officer, as well as head of the Deer Park Volunteer Exempt Firemens Benevolent Association. He is also involved with the Sons of Italy’s Constantino Brumidi Lodge No. 2211 in Deer Park and the Deer Park Lions Club, the latter of which he has served as treasurer and president.

Maniaci has also been a scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts of America’s Troop 157 in Deer Park, a coach in the Deer Park Little League and an usher at the Roman Catholic Church of Saints Cyril & Methodius in Deer Park.

His decades-long community involvements led to him being named 2024 Senior of the Year in March for the Suffolk County Legislature’s 17th Legislative District.

“Phil Maniaci leads by example and, in doing so, has inspired countless others to also give back,” said Legis. Tom Donnelly (D-Deer Park), who recently presented him with a proclamation for being named Senior of the Year. “I am thrilled to recognize this community icon, someone I consider not just a role model and mentor, but also that I am lucky to call a friend. His honesty, integrity and lifetime of dedication and public service make him truly deserving of being honored.”

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