Nicholas P. Constandy treasured running his restaurants almost as much as he enjoyed opening his home to friends and neighbors for meals with his family.
The original owner of Embassy Diner on Hempstead Turnpike in Bethpage, who later opened Crows Nest Restaurant in East Farmingdale, was famous for his spanakopita — a Greek spinach pie — and his marinated beef with lemon potatoes, said his daughter, Lynn Constandy Albers of Cold Spring Harbor.
“He was a wonderful cook — very passionate. And it was always ‘the more, the merrier,’ ” she said.
Constandy, 96, died from a brain hemorrhage on Jan. 4, his daughter said.
“We were really blessed by him,” Constandy Albers said. “He was the patriarch of our family. He was just bigger than life.”
Constandy grew up in the Greek village of Soustani, near Sparta, under his mother’s care. He was 14 when joined his father in the United States in 1934.
The summer after he graduated from Cortland High School in 1942, with the war raging, Constandy enlisted in the Marine Corps.
He served in the 4th Marine Division, taking part in three beach landings in the Marshall Islands, as well as the battles of Saipan and Tinian in 1944, according to his family.
He was wounded during the assault on Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima in February 1945, and later received a Purple Heart, the family said.
After the war, Constandy attended Rider College — now Rider University — in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, working in the food industry while earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
He opened a restaurant in the Poconos before moving to Long Island in 1958 where he settled in the village of Farmingdale and lived for more than 50 years with his wife of 56 years, Urania, 85. The couple had three children: Constandy Albers, 53; Peter Constandy, 55, of East Northport; and David Constandy, 50, of Oyster Bay.
“He had, in my mind, a very tough family life growing up with split parents. They weren’t divorced, they just lived in different countries,” Constandy Albers said. “I think that’s why having his family together here meant everything to him.”
He owned the Embassy Diner from 1960 to 1968, and then opened Crows Nest, popular among employees who worked in offices along the Route 110 corridor, his family said.
While “family, food and golf” were his passions, his generosity and love of community extended to his children’s high school friends, many of whom notched their first jobs in his restaurants.
Veterans in uniform would show up at his restaurant each year on Nov. 10 to celebrate the Marine Corps’ birthday — on that day in 1775, the Second Continental Congress established the Continental Marines — and drinks would be on the house.
Constandy was an active member of Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead, where he sang in the choir.
In addition to his wife and children, he is survived by four grandchildren, a great-grandson and numerous nieces and nephews.
A funeral Mass was held Jan. 7 at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Resurrection in Brookville. He was buried at Long Island National Cemetery with full military honors. Despite a snowstorm, family and friends came from as far away as Chicago and Florida to pay their respects, Constandy Albers said.
“He was just such a kind man, but there was a solid work ethic there that you couldn’t replicate,” she said.