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Mary Agosta, Huntington resident who helped create library, dies at 91

Mary Agosta, a nursery school teacher and founding

Mary Agosta, a nursery school teacher and founding member of the Harborfields Public Library, "really cared about kids," said her daughter, Diana Agostacq of Manhattan. "She really cared about children and their futures." Credit: Vito Agosta

In the early 1970s, Mary Agosta thought her Huntington neighborhood needed a library, so she and other residents helped create the Harborfields Public Library.

Two decades later, Agosta thought young parents needed to learn leadership skills to help them become more involved in their communities. So she helped found a program to teach parents Long Island history and how to navigate local government.

Agosta, who was 91 when she died on Aug. 1 from congestive heart failure at her home, had a passion for community involvement that stemmed from her love of children, her family said. 

“She really cared about kids," said her daughter, Diana Agosta of Manhattan. "She really cared about children and their futures.”

Born Mary Theresa Frago on Sept. 25, 1926, in Hartford, Connecticut, Agosta received a bachelor's degree in early childhood education from St. Joseph College in Hartford in 1947. Two years later, she received a master's degree in child development from Merrill Palmer Institute at the University of Michigan. 

She and her husband, Vito, a professor at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, lived in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and moved to  Huntington when he transferred to the school's graduate studies program in Farmingdale.

The couple raised three children while Mary Agosta became involved in local groups such as the League of Women Voters and the town Democratic committee, her daughter said. 

Thinking the Huntington Public Library was too far away from their neighborhood, Agosta joined with other parents to lobby for a referendum to establish the Harborfields Public Library. After the referendum passed, she remained involved with the library for decades, serving as a trustee and key volunteer supporting the library's programs as it expanded from about 5,000 books to more than 250,000 books, according to library director Carol Albano.

Later she joined the Youth and Family Counseling Agency in Oyster Bay, where she trained volunteers to work with young mothers. In 1994, she and Child Care Council of Suffolk executive director Janet Walerstein formed the Parent Leadership Initiative, which teaches parents how to advocate for their children and run for public office, the leadership initiative's executive director Jennifer Rojas said. The group counts 850 graduates, including former Huntington Town Board member Glenda Jackson.

“She was a great mom," Diana Agosta said. "She was the mom who never yelled. Her rules were firm but she always listened. You always felt listened to. You always felt she would understand.”

In addition to her husband and daughter, Agosta is survived by two sons, John Mark Agosta of Palo Alto, California, and Charles Christopher Agosta of Harvard, Massachusetts, and six grandchildren.

A funeral Mass was held on Aug. 10 at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport. She was buried at St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Huntington.

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