Before there was a Nike slogan, there was Frank Corso Sr.’s personal catchphrase.
“He used to always tell us — even before Nike came out with those ads — he’d say ‘Just do it,’ ” said Dorothy Roberts, his youngest daughter. “ ‘Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.’ ”
Corso, 89, of Huntington, was a trial attorney who devoted his time to helping others improve their lives, whether defending them in court or mentoring them in their careers, his family recalled. He died Sept. 3 surrounded by family at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn after suffering complications from a heart attack.
He was born in Brooklyn in 1928 to immigrants from Sicily, and was the eldest of three children. Growing up, Corso worked in his father’s bowling alley near Chauncey Street, said Roberts, of Lake Grove. He married his wife, Dorothy, a childhood friend, in 1951.
Shortly after the wedding, Corso was drafted into the Army but never ended up on a battlefield, his daughter said. In Fort Dix, New Jersey, he was assigned to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, where he defended soldiers with legal troubles. It was the beginning of a legal career that would span decades.
With a degree from St. John’s University in Queens, he left the military and was admitted to the New York State Bar Association in 1954. He moved his family to Bethpage, later Dix Hills and then Huntington, serving as partner at or outright owning five law firms.
“He was a very dominant personality,” said his son, Frank Corso Jr., 62, of Smithtown.
Corso took on mostly medical malpractice, personal injury and business cases, some of them headline-making. He represented a Long Island boxer who lost his leg in a 1982 car accident, and the family of a woman rendered comatose by Rocky Mountain spotted fever, who fought to take her off life support.
Corso also had a passion for politics, his son said. He ran unsuccessfully for Oyster Bay Town Board and for Congress in the 1960s, but later devoted time to support the administration of Gov. Hugh Carey, and counted New York’s Democratic Party elites among his friends.
In the 1970s, he purchased a pile of beams, timber pieces and sawdust from the original Independence Hall from a Pennsylvania man who won them in an auction, Corso Jr. said.
At home, his daughter said Corso took the role of family patriarch seriously. He led a troop of Boy Scouts in Dix Hills and offered business and legal advice to his children and their friends, anything to give younger people a career boost, said his daughter.
“Maybe it was part of his Italian upbringing, but it was always, ‘Bring over whatever friends you have,’ ” said his daughter, who relied on her father when she ran for the Sachem school board in 2011. “He was very generous.”
Corso’s two favorite pastimes were golf and gambling, his children said. Card games were his specialty — he liked the way they worked his mind, said his daughter.
Corso always wanted to stay active in his work and family life, his children said. Corso and his wife separated after more than 40 years of marriage, but he maintained a close and caring friendship with her until her death in 2002. He continued working and shared an office with his son’s business consulting firm until he had a heart attack in August.
Even then, “He was still alert,” said his daughter. “That was his thing, always asking about your day and your children.”
In addition to Corso Jr. and Roberts, he is survived by daughters Elaine Corso of East Northport and Patricia Fiorello of Brooklyn, eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
A funeral was held on Sept. 8 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Roman Catholic Church in Centerport, followed by burial at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.
The Corso family is asking that donations be made in Corso’s name to the American Heart Association, the American Kidney Fund or the American Diabetes Association.