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Nassau pols mourn Peter Schmitt at wake

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano attends the wake

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano attends the wake of Peter Schmitt, the Massapequa Republican who was also the Legislature's presiding officer. (Oct. 6, 2012) Credit: Howard Schnapp

Before a backdrop of flowers and life-chronicling snapshots, friends and colleagues paid their respects Saturday to Peter J. Schmitt, presiding officer of the Nassau County Legislature.

The Republican leader from Massapequa died Wednesday after suffering a heart attack.

"He was a friend and a good man, and a good man for the people of this county. He will be sorely missed by all of us," said County Executive Edward Mangano, who was with Schmitt when he collapsed.

Joining Mangano at the afternoon wake at Massapequa Funeral Home, county GOP chairman Joseph Mondello called the sudden death of Schmitt, 62, "a great loss to Nassau. He was strong and a straight shooter."

Visiting hours resume from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday, with the funeral Mass at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Rose of Lima Church in Massapequa.

Many people arrived early by a half-hour or more Saturday, among them Long Beach Democratic Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg.

"He was my friend, despite our different political philosophies," Weisenberg said.

Also in attendance were two former county executives: Democrat Thomas Suozzi, whom Mangano succeeded, and Republican Thomas Gulotta, Suozzi's predecessor.

Gulotta said he was there to support Schmitt's widow, Lois, and the rest of the family. Schmitt, he said, "was a man of strong convictions, always working in the best interests of the residents."

Several Republican county legislators were on hand to offer their condolences, including Levittown's Dennis Dunne and Lynbrook's Francis Becker.

Dunne, leaving the coffin, said of Schmitt: "He looks like he's ready to get up and lead a charge again."

Becker, close to tears, said: "I used to address him as 'our fearless leader.' "

On display at the funeral home were two boards filled with snapshots. One was all about family. The other told the story of Schmitt's public life, showing the legislator with politicians, veterans, Boy Scouts and others.

Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), for whom Schmitt worked when King was county comptroller, said "Schmitt was a complex man. He had this tough look on the outside, but he really was kind of gentle, and he knew how to make time for his family."

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