Joseph Pascarella Sr., a Korean War veteran who served 28 years in the United States Marine Corps and later became head of the county's Veterans Service Agency, died Monday after a yearlong battle with cancer. He was 80.

Pascarella, of Westbury, worked for 25 years as a correction officer at the Nassau sheriff's department before retiring and winning election as trustee on the Westbury school board. He later became school board president.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, who appointed Pascarella as executive director of the VSA in October 2011, said he led the agency "with the same pride, distinction and patriotism in which he served our nation."

Scott Castillo, the agency's deputy director, said Pascarella took over a department in disarray after a worker failed to submit nearly 100 benefit claims, some dating back six years.

"Joe brought structure to the department," said Castillo, now the agency's interim director. "He turned it all around."

Under Pascarella's leadership, the amount of cash awards provided to Nassau veterans grew from nearly $1 million in 2006 to more than $10 million in 2013, Castillo said.

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Pascarella was born in the Breezy Hill section of Westbury. His father, Anthony, was a metal worker and his mother, Angelina, was a seamstress.

After graduating from Westbury High School, Pascarella joined the Marines and in 1953 was deployed to Korea, where he served three months with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Division, as a forward observer.

After the war, Pascarella was honorably discharged with the rank of corporal. In 1957, he joined the Marine Corps Reserves stationed in Garden City. He retired after 27 years, attaining the rank of company first sergeant.

Pascarella went on to work for the Village of Westbury in its Sanitation Department and as a mechanic for the Long Island Lighting Co., and he owned a gas station in Westbury.

Pascarella was married for 56 years to his wife, Marion, 75, and the pair had five children.

Joseph Pascarella Jr., 49, said his father was always supportive, but never tried to be his best friend. "He was the perfect father," said Pascarella, a Nassau correction officer. "He was always there to pick you up when you fell down."

A wake will be held at Donohue-Cecere Funeral Home in Westbury from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church in Westbury.

In addition to his wife and son, Pascarella is survived by a brother, Anthony, of Massapequa; another son, Tom, of Westbury; daughters Marion Buffolino, of Westbury, Maureen Doody, of East Meadow, and Joann Fresa, of Westbury; eight grandchildren and one great-grandchild.