Phillip Messina, a Fort Salonga resident who several years ago rose to president of what became New York Community Bank, has died. He was 74.
Family members said Messina, who died of a brain tumor, became ill after visiting his son in Santa Monica, California, last year.
“The trip was wonderful but when we got back he complained about losing vision and feelings in his arm and leg. In the space of a week, he was almost incapacitated,” said Albert Messina, Phillip’s older brother.
Phillip Messina died at home Feb. 4 surrounded by family.
He graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens in 1961, and four years later received an economics degree from Queens College, relatives said.
They said he continued his education periodically by obtaining credits from various universities.
The father of three started his financial career as a bank teller at Columbia Federal Savings in Woodhaven, Queens.
Over the years, the bank grew by acquiring other banks and he grew with it, eventually being named president and chief executive officer of what is now New York Community Bank, headquartered in Westbury, family members said. He retired 17 years ago.
“He loved playing the guitar and piano. He taught me how to play the guitar. We bonded through music,” said his son Steven Messina of Rocky Point, who said he is still coming to grips with the loss. “I have my faith. That’s the most important thing. My father led an amazing life. He was a super success in every way, so that brings me peace and comfort.”
Phillip Messina’s love of music often compelled him to listen to the Beatles, one of his favorite bands.
Albert Messina said he will remember how close he was to his younger sibling.
“He was my baby brother, but sometimes he felt like he had to be concerned about me,” he said. “I am missing watching him function as an attentive husband, father and grandfather. He was terrific to his family. I’ve never heard anyone say anything other than positive things about Phillip. He loved his grandchildren.”
He is also survived by his wife, Phyllis, of Fort Salonga; daughter, Marybeth Seus, of Northport; and another son, Christopher Messina, of Santa Monica; and seven grandchildren.
A Mass celebrating Messina’s life was held March 17 at St. Philip Neri Church in Northport. He was cremated.