Alissa Sue Taff was a problem solver — a fixer.
When a shuttered Sunquam Elementary School in the Half Hollow Hills school district was on the brink of being sold in the late 1990s, Taff made it her mission to have it reopened by harnessing community support and rallying school officials, and it was.
When a religious organization purchased property to build a house of worship on a former farm in Melville that residents had hoped would one day be a park, she helped engineer a deal that saw the house of worship constructed a few miles away, the creation of the park on its earmarked land, and, as a bonus, the construction of affordable senior housing.
“Every time she would do something good, somebody else would call her with another issue,” said her husband, Ross Taff. “She would fix that issue and then somebody would call with another issue; the other day I said she was the fixer of the neighborhood.”
Taff, 68, the president and founder of the Civic Association of Sweet Hollow, which represents about 2,000 homes in the Huntington and Melville area, died Aug. 14 of colon cancer on her 48th wedding anniversary.
The park, at Round Swamp and Old Country roads, was renamed Alissa Sue Taff Sweet Hollow Park in her honor this month, while the library at Sunquam had previously been named for her. Taff was a past president of the Half Hollow Hills school board and was instrumental in the creation of The Greens on the former property of the Long Island Developmental Center in Dix Hills. Her daughter, Tara Levy, said her mother was also particularly proud of raising $50,000 in a month for a playground at Sunquam after it reopened.
Frank Petrone, who was Huntington Town supervisor during all of these events, said Taff, known as Lisa, was a dignified woman who did her civic duty with strength and heart.
“Lisa would take on the most difficult tasks for her community, she took them on and led the fight and she eventually wound up winning,” Petrone said. “She dug her heels in but when you worked with her, and when she worked with you and she saw that people were willing to work, she was a pleasure to deal with and work with.”
While known as a tenacious community leader who always came prepared with well-researched information, Levy, 39, of Manhattan, said she had the same dedication and focus when it came to her family, creating a warm home filled with love, generosity and pets — especially dogs.
“I was always first, our family was always first; she loved me more than I can ever say, I loved her too, but she was just a super mom,” Levy said.
Taff was born Feb. 26, 1951, in the Bronx, the second of two daughters of Sidney and Jeanette Ilowitz.
She was raised in the Bronx, went to Roosevelt High School and went on to City College earning a bachelor’s in liberal arts in 1973.
She taught fifth grade in a Bedford-Stuyvesant public school and later worked at Data Terminal Systems, a company in Philadelphia.
She met her husband in the Bronx at a party in 1967. They moved to Long Island in 1984.
“We had a great marriage,” Taff said. “We traveled the world, took Tara with us a lot of times, we lived a very nice life.”
Taff had recently become a grandmother to Atlas, a role that her daughter said she embraced and was poised to take on with the same zeal she had for all the other things close to her heart.
“She was so happy to be a grandma,” Levy said. “I think that her biggest regret is to not be here for her grandson.” Levy said.
In addition to her husband, daughter and grandson, Taff is survived by her sister Dale Charnick of Simi Valley, California, and son-in-law Jake Levy.
A funeral service was held Aug. 16 at Gutterman’s in Woodbury. She is interred at Beth Moses Cemetery in Pinelawn.