Leo R. Russo, a longtime Farmingdale resident who climbed the ranks of Newsday’s circulation department over decades of work at the newspaper, died of endocarditis on Jan. 26. He was 70 years old.
An avid bowler and fan of New York sports teams, Russo is remembered by his family for his quirky humor and his bottomless interest in everyone he met.
“You couldn’t walk in the front door without getting questions thrown at you,” said his wife, Hinda Russo, 71. “If you really wanted to know about yourself, call Uncle Leo and he’ll let you know.”
Leo R. Russo was born in Manhattan in December 1946, his wife said. The oldest of three children, he grew up in Woodside, Queens.
“He was a little bit of a wild child,” she said. “He was always getting in some kind of trouble.”
Russo and his family moved to North Massapequa in the early 1960s, she said, where he attended Plainedge High School.
After high school, Russo worked briefly at the former Mays Department Store on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown, his wife said. But it was not long until he accepted a position at Newsday in 1965 delivering papers to businesses.
It was the beginning of a career at the newspaper that would span nearly three decades and see Russo ascend to the position of district manager in the late 1960s and finally circulation supervisor in the late 1980s, according to Steve Chernow, Newsday’s distribution systems supervisor.
“He was fun to work with,” said Chernow, who is also Hinda Russo’s brother. “Everybody loved him.”
It was at Newsday that Russo met his wife in 1965. Hinda Russo, who now works for a car dealership group based in Westbury, was a clerk in the newspaper’s circulation department at the time.
“It was like love at first sight,” she said of their earliest encounter. The two married one year later.
They lived in Westbury and then Levittown before settling in Farmingdale in 1968. Hinda Russo still lives in the village, as do their daughters Donna Russo, 50, and Lisa Goodenough, 45.
“My father was very family-oriented,” said Goodenough, recalling her father’s frequent trips to the bowling alley with her 10-year-old son, Alexander Goodenough.
“Everybody looked up to him like our leader,” she said.
Russo retired from Newsday in 1994, later opening a store that hosted birthday parties in Farmingdale and then working at Westbury Jeep Chrysler Dodge.
Russo is survived by his wife, two daughters, and grandson.
The family held a funeral at Chapey & Sons Funeral Home in Bethpage in late January.