Paul Felice was involved with many Patchogue Village organizations.

Paul Felice was involved with many Patchogue Village organizations. Credit: Cheryl Felice

Longtime Patchogue Fire Commissioner Paul Felice had an encyclopedic knowledge of his hometown.

“If they went to a house fire, he would explain who used to own that house, who built that house, who moved in and out of the house,” his daughter Cheryl Felice said. “He knew everything about Patchogue and loved sharing those stories.”

Paul Felice, a three-term Patchogue Village trustee who owned an auto service shop and wore many different village hats, died April 25 of complications of heart disease. He was 87.

One of 12 children, Felice was born on Jan. 3, 1936, to Dominick Felice Sr. and Emma Lanzetta Felice. He grew up on Second Street in Patchogue, surrounded by many aunts, uncles and cousins.

“He always had the benefit of large family gatherings that always seemed to center around his mother's kitchen table,” Cheryl Felice said. 

During his junior year at Patchogue High School, he started dating Margaret Lotito.  Their first date was at the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts. 

“Once he and my mother walked up the balcony steps, he knew he was going to marry her,” Cheryl Felice said.

Years later, Paul Felice would watch his granddaughters, Reneé and Monika Felice Smith, perform dance recitals at that same theater. One of his proudest accomplishments was leading the restoration of the theater in 1997-98. 

Felice proposed to Margaret after their senior prom. They married in 1956 and they welcomed two children: Cheryl Felice and Karen Felice Smith.

Like many of his brothers, Felice became a mechanic. After working at his brothers’ gas stations and doing a 13-year stint as head mechanic of Blue Point Laundry, he opened Paul’s Garage in 1974. He was the eighth member of his family to run an auto service shop in Patchogue Village.

Whenever people "were stumped on a mechanical issue and they couldn't figure out the problem, they would call my dad,” Cheryl Felice said.

Paul Felice was always more than happy to help, especially at his nephew’s marina, where he spent many hours tinkering on his boat.

“We always used to call him MacGyver down here,” his nephew Ken Becker, owner of Leeward Cove Marina, said. “He could fix anything out of nothing.”

When Felice was in his early 20s, he noticed a small house fire in his neighborhood. He was quick to extinguish it using a nearby garden hose.

“I think that's what inspired him to want to go into firefighting,” Cheryl Felice said.

That led to 65 years of volunteering with the Patchogue Fire Department. He worked his way up to chief in 1988. He became fire commissioner in 2007 and was reelected to four consecutive five-year terms, lasting until his death.

While on a ski trip upstate, Felice found a 1960 Mack ladder truck. After restoration, it was brought to Patchogue and used to transport the antique Honey Bee, the fire department’s original hand-drawn pumper from the 1800s.

“He was very proud of getting it for the department to show off our first piece of equipment,” said current Chief Frank Densing, who met Felice as a teenager when he would bring his car to Paul’s Garage.

The Mack truck is also used in parades and to transport deceased firefighters to their final resting places. Felice also brought the first fireboat to Patchogue’s waters. 

Felice wore many hats over the years, including as president of the Patchogue Ambulance Company, president of the Patchogue Lions Club, inspector at Patchogue Community Development, first team sponsor of the Patchogue Youth Athletic Association, and commodore of the Brookside Yacht Club and Suffolk Boat Club.

He was voted Italian of the Year during Patchogue’s 2012 St. Liberata Festival and received the Lions International Robert J. Uplinger Award last year.

One of Cheryl Felice’s favorite memories with her father was seeing the Mets at Shea Stadium in 1968 when the fire department arranged a father-son trip.

“My dad said, ‘I don't have a son, but I have a daughter who would love to go to that game and I'm taking her to that game,’ ” she said.

The father-daughter duo brought home a signed baseball as a souvenir.

“I didn't know my father kept that baseball all these years until we found it in the basement," a year before he died, she said.

Besides his wife, daughters and grandchildren, Felice is survived by his sisters, Patricia Rizzi and Joanne Celauro.

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