When John Palumbo wasn’t servicing the stars and setting up props for HBO shows like “The Sopranos” as a member of Theatrical Teamsters Local 817, he could be found working with the Center Moriches Seahawks, the youth football organization in his community.
“He was a staple in the community and a huge advocate of helmet safety and concussion prevention,” said his father, John Palumbo, of Selden, who served for 30 years as the president of the Suffolk County Police Athletic League for football. “His life was all about working to support his son, John Edward, who was his brightest star, and reaching out and helping others. He became the liaison between Center Moriches youth football and the high school.”
John Palumbo, 54, of Center Moriches, was killed in a one-car crash early Thursday on the Southern State Parkway.
He was born in Brooklyn and attended Immaculate Heart of Mary, an elementary school, before his family moved to Selden, where he attended New Lane Elementary. He graduated from Newfield High School in 1980, where he starred in football and baseball.
Palumbo spent two years studying to be an auto mechanic.
“When he tired of cranking the wrench, he got into Local 817 and everything clicked for him,” his father said. “He’s been working steady for Local 817 and making a name for himself.”
Palumbo was responsible for all Department of Transportation relations. He drove the props trailer and was in charge of moving the trucks and controlling all the log sheets for Universal and HBO. The last big show he worked on was “White Collar,” which airs on the USA Network.
“He worked with a lot of celebrities over the years and they all respected his work ethic,” said Teamsters colleague Mike Scalice of Medford, who worked with Palumbo for 17 years. “He worked ‘The Sopranos’ for many years and was very close with star James Gandolfini. Johnny was very personable and accommodating to everyone.”
Palumbo also made quite a name for himself in his community.
He was instrumental in getting new football helmets for the Center Moriches Seahawks youth organization. He started Breast Cancer Awareness fundraising at the high school’s homecoming game and painted a large pink ribbon at the center of the football field.
“He had a huge heart and loved the month of October and that it stood for the fight against breast cancer,” John Palumbo said of his son. “He made a good, honest living and he was generous. He would always go into his pocket for those less fortunate.”
Many still call Palumbo a hero after he found a lost 4-year-old boy on Fire Island 23 years ago.
“The kids were playing down in the water and when it was time to leave, our son Nicky had wandered down the beach,” said Dan Cicciaro of Port Jefferson Station. “We all panicked. The police stopped the ferry service and all private boats from leaving Fire Island until he was found. And my friends John Palumbo and Mike Scalice found him three quarters of a mile away from our umbrella. He carried our little guy all the way back and will always be a hero to me.”
“My brother was a really giving person,” said Palumbo’s sister Denise Loomis, of Corsicana, Texas. “He was extremely dedicated to the community — just like his father. He really became my dad.”
Palumbo is also survived by his mother, Mary, of Selden, and sisters Dianne Harrison and Doreen Feldmann, also of Selden. A viewing at the Marinello Funeral Home on 493 Middle Country Rd. in Coram is scheduled from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on Monday. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. at the Marinello Funeral Home. Burial will follow at Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai.