Joseph James Governale, a Manorville general contractor honored by Gov. W. Averell Harriman in 1957 for his role in "The Miracle of Manorville" - the rescue of a boy who had fallen into a sandy shaft - has died, his family said. He was 86.
Governale died Aug. 26 of a heart attack.
On May 16, 1957, Benjamin Hooper Jr., 7, was playing with a friend in the backyard of his family's bungalow on Ryerson Avenue when he fell into a 21-foot-deep well dug by his father. The well was 3 feet wide at its mouth but narrowed to 6 inches. Benny, who fell feet first, was trapped for more than 24 hours as rescue workers toiled feverishly to save him.
One of the volunteers who descended upon the Hooper home that evening was Governale. Although he was in a body cast - the result of a broken back and seven broken ribs - Governale drove his crane to the Hoopers' yard, according to published news accounts and his family.
"He wasn't the kind of person who'd let pain get to him," said one of his sons, Steven, 53, of Ronkonkoma. "My father was that good to a fault."
In an interview with The New York Times in 1957, Governale said when he reached the Hoopers' yard, he decided a second shaft had to be dug parallel to the well shaft, then a tunnel connecting the two shafts as a rescue route.
The rescue effort - the biggest news story in the nation at the time - came to be known as The Miracle of Manorville.
Hooper, now 60, was among those who attended Governale's wake on Friday and funeral on Saturday.
"He said, 'I wouldn't miss this for the world. He saved my life and I owe that to him, your uncles and the Manorville Fire Department,' " said Steven Governale.
Born on June 2, 1923, in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, Governale moved with his parents to East Meadow in the 1930s, said his son. At the start of World War II, Governale got a job as a machinist at Fairchild Republic. In 1943, he enlisted in the Army but did not see combat, his son said.
After he was honorably discharged in 1945, Governale's father bought him a bulldozer, paving the way for him to establish his own contracting business, Governale Construction, his family said.
He worked with master builder Robert Moses and in the 1960s and 1970s helped build numerous roads and housing developments on Long Island, including Eagle Estate, Pepperwood and Eastwood Village, said his son. The last major project Governale worked on was the Grumman headquarters in Bethpage.
"There is not one road on Long Island that hasn't been touched by Governale machinery," said his son.
In addition to Steven, Governale is survived by his wife, Julie; daughter Eileen Samuel of Manorville; sons Joseph of Riverdale, Calif., and Robert of Wading River; brothers John and Carl, both of Manorville; and 10 grandchildren.
Governale was buried in Brookfield Cemetery in Manorville.