Nicholas P. DiNapoli, the father of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and a longtime Roslyn resident, died Sunday at 92 after a life of hard work and optimism, his family said.
Even as he faced the heart disease and cancer that caused his death, “he was an optimist, he was in it for the fight,” Thomas DiNapoli said of his father.
Nicholas DiNapoli, who was born in 1924 in Roslyn, faced tragedy at a young age: his 38-year-old father died of a heart attack when the boy was 11, then the family lost their house, Thomas DiNapoli said.
The boy began working as a caddie at local golf courses, earning $10 a round and turning over $9 to his mother to support the household, Thomas DiNapoli said.
Nicholas DiNapoli graduated from Roslyn High School in 1942, then entered the U.S. Army Air Corps and was stationed in California, where he was promoted to corporal and spent three years maintaining planes that operated in the Pacific, his son said.
After World War II, Nicholas DiNapoli began a 40-year career with the New York Telephone Company as a splicer’s helper, climbing up telephone poles and down manholes in a job that always kept just a little dirt under his fingernails, Thomas DiNapoli recalled.
In 1948, Nicholas DiNapoli married Adeline Abbondandelo. In addition to Thomas DiNapoli, the couple had another son, James DiNapoli, who now works in the state courts system. Adeline died in 1991.
After a childhood spent without a father and with little means, Nicholas DiNapoli devoted his adult years to scrimping to pay for college for his sons, supporting their careers and later meeting his grandchildren for regular breakfasts, Thomas DiNapoli said.
“His mission was to make sure he could provide for his family and do the things that just weren’t in the cards for him,” DiNapoli said.
A Republican, Nicholas DiNapoli helped in his Democratic son Thomas’ campaigns for state Assembly and comptroller by stuffing envelopes and hauling boxes.
In 2007, Thomas DiNapoli told his family to stay away from Albany during a long, nasty fight with then Gov. Eliot Spitzer over whom the legislature should pick as comptroller to fill a vacancy.
After DiNapoli won, he found out his father had been in the back of the chamber anyway.
“He said, ‘Especially if you lost, I wanted to make sure you weren’t by yourself,’” the comptroller remembered.
Nicholas DiNapoli also was a volunteer firefighter, was active in Boy Scouts and Little League, and always owned a station wagon — with the thought that you never could tell when a neighbor would need help to carry a load, Thomas DiNapoli said.
A wake is planned Tuesday and Wednesday from 2 to 5 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m. at the Roslyn Heights Funeral Home, 75 Mineola Ave., Roslyn Heights. A funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at St. Mary’s Church in Roslyn Harbor.