In September 1960, after Cuba turned communist, Julio H. Regueiro, 22, and his new bride joined thousands of their countrymen in leaving for the United States.
They touched down at Idlewild Airport, now called Kennedy, with $19 in their pockets. She was nine months pregnant.
That "bittersweet" flight to New York, which Regueiro's wife, Maria, recalls as the last of its kind from Fidel Castro-led Cuba, was the beginning of a success story.
A tireless entrepreneur who dreamed big and cherished family, Regueiro, of Dix Hills, founded The Place Furniture Galleries, a home furnishings empire that grew to four locations in Queens and Nassau.
He died of fibrosis at Huntington Hospital on Tuesday, his son said. He was 73.
"What I felt my father was perfect at, his best virtue, was selflessness," said Julio J. Regueiro, of Wheatley Heights. "He was 100 percent giving . . . He was a very humble man because he started with nothing."
The elder Regueiro was born Sept. 22, 1938, in Havana, the son of a maitre d' and a seamstress.
The communist revolution convinced the young couple to leave family behind, even as they were about to start their own. They stayed with relatives in Manhattan until they could move to a Bronx apartment with their newborn daughter, Maria.
Regueiro found work as a wholesale record salesman, then at a furniture store in the Bronx, a post that whetted his appetite.
He became a partner in the Bronx store but branched out on his own in the late 1960s, opening a modest store on Steinway Street in Astoria. In 1970, he opened a grander location on the same street -- a three-story, 15,000-square-foot building.
He closed the others after the recession of 2008.
While his children took the reins of the business, he never actually retired. "He always said, 'I'm semiretired,' " Julio J. Regueiro said, adding that he treasured his father's advice. "We always talked to him about the business."
Besides his wife and son, Julio H. Regueiro is survived by a daughter, Maria Peters, of Dix Hills; a son, Martin, of Farmingdale; a sister, Heidi Nagid, of Miami; five grandchildren; and a niece.