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A. Giosasi, restaurateur and songwriter, dies at 72

Aristides Michael "Harry" Giosasi, a retired restaurateur who saw early success as a pop music songwriter and performer, died Saturday of cancer at age 72, surrounded by family in his Riverhead home.

He was best known for his 1958 hit single "Pretty Baby," performed with his sister Irene under the names Gino and Gina. He and co-writer Artie Zwirn also wrote a hit for the Impalas, whose "(Sorry) I Ran All the Way Home" was number two on the pop charts in 1959, earning a gold record.

Years later, the songs were on the movie soundtracks of "Stand by Me" and "Peggy Sue Got Married," his sister Irene Robison of Levittown said.

To hear them on the soundtracks "was such a thrill because it was so many years after the fact. When you hear it, it's like you live forever," she said. "In his heart, he never left the music industry."

While music remained his passion, he was a contented family man with two daughters, she said, earning a living alongside his wife of 44 years, Heide, 65.

They opened their first Harry and Heide's deli in Baldwin 38 years ago, before moving it to Bellmore. Later they owned the Main Street Grill in Southold and, after a brief retirement, operated Heide's Hotdogs out of a truck in Patchogue.

Giosasi was 20, helping out in his parents' Uniondale diner, when he and customer Zwirn, a construction worker, discovered a mutual interest in songwriting.

Giosasi had recorded a demo of "Pretty Baby," one of their collaborations, with his teenage sister. Famed rock promoter and disc jockey Alan Freed and his manager heard the song and had the pair signed to a record company. The song made it into the top 20 on the pop charts and appearances soon followed on American Bandstand and in Freed-promoted rock shows.

Giosasi was born on May 5, 1937, to Albanian-born parents and grew up in Woodside, Queens, graduating from Bryant High School in Astoria.

Giosasi and his wife married during his four-year stint as a draftee in the U.S. Army, from 1963 to 1967.

He was, she said, "GQ Magazine gorgeous, a dream walking. He had the most beautiful blue eyes, pearly white teeth, an Adonis build, but he was so down-to-earth it never affected him."

They raised their daughters - Michelle Cunniffe, 43, of Oakdale and Janine Roberti, 40, of Plainview - in Merrick, then moved to Peconic.

"He was compassionate, gave mischievous smiles when he played with you and he always laughed. He loved life and people."

Besides his sister, wife and two daughters, survivors include a sister, Louise Plumeri of Uniondale, and three grandchildren.

A funeral will be at noon Wednesday at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons, 111 St. Andrews Rd., Southampton, with burial to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Coram.

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