Joseph Nocella, the former Hempstead building commissioner who designed and...

Joseph Nocella, the former Hempstead building commissioner who designed and built hundreds of homes and commercial buildings throughout Long Island, died June 19, 2010 of complications of heart disease. He was 76. Newsday's obituary for Joseph Nocella
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Joseph Nocella, the former Hempstead building commissioner who designed and built hundreds of homes and commercial buildings throughout Long Island, died Saturday of complications of heart disease. He was 76.

Nocella is credited with popularizing the high-ranch style on Long Island, according to Joseph Nocella Jr., 45, of Seaford, one of Nocella's three sons.

He remembered his father as an assiduous worker with a kind heart. "I admired him," he said. "He was a brilliant man and one of the most compassionate people I have ever known."

After Nocella's birth Nov. 27, 1933, his family moved to Elmont, where he lived for almost 70 years. In 1951, Nocella was crowned champion of Golden Gloves, a premier boxing amateur event.

"Boxing was his passion," said another son, Brian, 42, of Levittown. "He was a good fighter all around. There wasn't anything he could not tackle."

According to Nocella Jr., "People wanted him to turn pro but his father said no."

Instead, Nocella attended the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor's degree in engineering. After college he served four years in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before becoming an exclusive home builder. He was appointed commissioner of the Department of Buildings in 1996 and retired in 2006, according to Nocella Jr.

"He loved his job as commissioner," his son said. "He had to retire in 2006 because of his failing health."

Nocella pulled through after enduring several recent health problems. After a bout with sepsis, a potentially fatal blood infection, he recovered and lived another three weeks. "The doctors were stunned," said Nocella Jr.

Nocella is also survived by his wife of 54 years, Eileen. His oldest son, Frank, passed away in 1998 at the age of 37.

"After Frank passed away we were all devastated," said Nocella Jr. "My father is the one who told me that someday we will die. Life includes death and there is no way to get around that. He went through knocks and never lost perspective or the extraordinary capacity to forgive."

Added son Brian: "He taught me the value of work and family. For a man [5-foot-2], he was larger than life."

The family will receive visitors Monday from 7-9 p.m., and Tuesday from 2-5 and 7-9 p.m. at Charles J. O'Shea Funeral Home on 2515 N. Jerusalem Rd. in East Meadow. The funeral Mass will be offered Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. at Maria Regina Catholic Church at 3945 Jerusalem Ave. in Seaford.

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