An 81-year-old Port Jefferson Station man died in a single-car crash early Wednesday as he headed to the East Meadow Fire Department, where he was a fixture for more than 30 years, his family and firefighters said.
Pasquale Aiello, a retiree who did maintenance work at the firehouse, was heading west on the Northern State Parkway when he lost control of his Nissan Altima and struck a tree near Exit 42 in Dix Hills, State Police said.
Aiello, the only person in the vehicle, was pronounced dead at the scene. Road conditions were not believed to be a factor in the 4:57 a.m. crash, which remains under investigation, police said.
Dix Hills firefighters responded to Wednesday's crash and alerted the East Meadow department after seeing department stickers and a blue light on the dashboard.
Aiello, known as "Patty," usually arrived at the station around 6 a.m., and was often the first to turn up the heat, open the doors and brew a pot of coffee.
"If I get to be 80 and work as hard as he did, you lived a good life," said Gary Nauth, an East Meadow firefighter.
Nauth said Aiello rarely took time off. He worked as a full-time maintenance worker since retiring as a New York City sanitation foreman about 20 years ago.
Rose Ann Pfeiffer, 57, of Smithtown, one of three daughters, said she repeatedly urged her father to cut back his hours.
"He said, 'Yeah, maybe next year.' That was always the conversation," she said.
Aiello, a great-grandfather, was raised by Italian immigrants who sold produce from a pushcart in the Little Italy section of the Bronx, she said. "They came from nothing . . . and they had to make a living," Pfeiffer said. "His father was like that; his mother was like that."
An Army medic during the Korean War, Aiello worked multiple jobs when his children were little, recalled another daughter, Patricia Gazura, 50, of East Setauket.
In the 1970s, Aiello, his wife Mary and their three daughters moved to East Meadow, and he soon joined the fire department. He rose to the rank of rescue captain and became a lifetime member of Ladder Co. No. 1.
"He just loved the culture of the firehouse -- the camaraderie," East Meadow Chief Robert Salvesen said.
The family said Aiello's funeral will be Monday morning at St. Raphael Catholic Church in East Meadow.
Jim Aspenleiter, an East Meadow volunteer and maintenance worker, said Aiello used to cook eggs, toast and home fries at the firehouse on Sunday mornings.
Aiello didn't work on Monday. On Tuesday, Aspenleiter called to check on Aiello, who said he was sick.
"Stay home tomorrow," Aspenleiter told him.
"No," Aiello replied. "I'm coming in."
With Gary Dymski