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Patricia Piscitelli dies; was ‘heart’ of Newsday composing room

Patricia Ann Piscitelli began working at Newsday shortly

Patricia Ann Piscitelli began working at Newsday shortly after graduating from Westbury High School in 1963. She spent her entire career working for the newspaper, first in Garden City, then in Melville. Credit: Piscitelli family

Former Newsday employee Patricia Ann Piscitelli, who oversaw composing room payroll in the newspaper’s old Garden City site and at the current Melville facility, died of suspected heart disease at her home in Westbury.

She was 70.

Piscitelli, who died June 3, was born Nov. 24, 1945, in Glen Cove and grew up in Westbury. Shortly after graduating from Westbury High School in 1963, she was hired at Newsday, where she spent her entire career.

Her talent at mathematics and her loyalty to her colleagues endeared her to co-workers in the often rough and raw environment of newsrooms in the 1970s and 1980s, said Terry Saracino, 68, of Carle Place, who was a composing secretary and production manager.

“She had a calculator in her head — she was like a calculator herself,” Saracino said. “She knew their contract backwards and forwards and she looked out for her men. Patty was the heart and the soul of the composing room.”

“She was the one who should have gone to college,” said her brother Mario Piscitelli, 66, of Nesconset. “She could have gone to any school she wanted to. She chose to go to work.”

One mark of Piscitelli’s fortitude was her determination to commute to work despite not knowing how to drive.

“In junior high her and some friends were riding bikes in Old Westbury. A friend of her got hit by a car and she got nervous and never learned to drive,” Mario Piscitelli said. She often got rides from friends such as Saracino or took buses during her 30 years of working at Newsday.

Piscitelli’s steady guidance and support was instrumental in the composing room, where the next day’s paper used to be physically laid out with heated blocks of letters known as “hot type.”

“Patty was one of the key people on the support staff working for the composing and production and press room staff,” said Caryn Eve Murray, a Newsday assistant editor who used to work with Piscitelli. “She was a very devoted part of the team. She had a very big personality. She was a very kind person, and very welcoming to folks.”

Piscitelli was also a steady anchor in her family’s lives — when Mario Piscitelli’s wife died at a young age, she helped her brother raise his daughter, who regarded her as a second mother.

“She always had a listening ear, always very good with advice,” said the daughter, Cathleen Speranza, 43, of upstate Highland. And when Speranza’s young daughter was in treatment at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for childhood leukemia, “my aunt would get up at the crack of dawn and come with me to the city for the appointments. It was huge,” Speranza said. “I couldn’t have done it without her.”

In addition to her brother and niece, Piscitelli is survived by a grandniece. She was buried in her family plot at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.

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