Alfred ''Fred'' Romito, owner of East Islip Lumber

Alfred ''Fred'' Romito, owner of East Islip Lumber Credit: /Romito Family

They met at the bus stop.

He was 18, waiting to catch a bus to the train so he could finish his final year of school back in Brooklyn, at Boys High School. She was only 16, waiting for the bus to Sewanhaka High School.

Soon, Catherine Spica was getting to the bus stop early. And her parents couldn’t quite figure out her newfound infatuation with school. But, it wasn’t school that Catherine was infatuated with and leading her to arrive early at the bus stop out on Franklin Avenue in Franklin Square. It was Alfred Romito.

That was the late 1950s. And, in 1960, Catherine Spica married Romito at nearby St. Catherine of Sienna in Franklin Square. The two of them got a house a few months later in Bay Shore. There, they raised two children, a boy and a girl, Fred and Teresa, and eventually bought a lumberyard, East Islip Lumber, and, as Catherine Romito explained it, “Having a wonderful life.” As she said Friday: “He was a very good man, with a gift for people.”

Alfred Romito Sr., 77, also known as Fred, died Dec. 10 of congestive heart failure, just three days after losing an older brother. His brother Lawrence, known as Larry, who, according to Catherine Romito, was mentally disabled, was 84. [Larry died after complications from a broken hip, Catherine said.] “By the time Larry died,” Catherine said, “Fred was very sick. We didn’t tell him. Now, when they meet in heaven, I’m sure they’ll wonder what each other’s doing there.”

Fred Romito was born in Brooklyn, one of five boys and two girls.

After graduating from Boys High, Catherine said her husband attended night classes at Farmingdale College and also joined the U.S. Air Force, later becoming a reservist assigned to Floyd Bennett Field. He then sold construction equipment for Malvese Equipment Co. in Hicksville before buying East Islip Lumber in 1982, which his children now run.

Fred was “a hardworking guy,” a compassionate man, good hearted, who really liked people, Catherine said.

He was a founding board member of Gold Coast Bank, a member of the Southward Ho Country Club and the Peconic Sportsman Club. He served as a board member of Our Lady of Consolation, United Cerebral Palsy of Suffolk County and the Children’s Developmental Center. He also helped raise funds for victims of an earthquake that ravaged Italy, and raised funds to fight breast cancer and to benefit hospice care, the Police Athletic League and Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, she said.

“He wasn’t one to brag about it,” she said. “Some of it, I didn’t even know until people came and told me how he’d helped.”

Somehow, Catherine Romito said, she knew he’d be the love of her life from that first moment — back at the bus stop.

“We were very young,” she said, adding that Fred’s family had just moved to the neighborhood.

“He was the new person in the neighborhood. One of the neighbors introduced us. It was just hello at the beginning. . . . Because we were so young and my parents were strict — it was a different world then — we first saw each other mostly with a group of friends. But, we always seemed to gravitate to each other. We sort of knew we were meant for each other, . . . We were very lucky. We were lucky with our children, with our extended family. With our friends. . . . I feel we were blessed.”

In addition to his wife of 55 years, and their son and daughter, Romito is survived by a sister, Mary Salvemini, and a host of relatives.

Services were held last week at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church in Bay Shore, followed by interment at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

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