Richard Rocco Famighetti of East Farmingdale was the kind of guy who held a crowd in rapt attention, his anecdotes of life in Brooklyn an endless source of entertainment, relatives said.
His quick wit and dry humor were the product of more than nine decades of a life filled with memories of the smiles of the people of Farmingdale, the laughter of his wife and children, and the valor of his fellow soldiers during the Normandy invasion during World War II.
A member of what has been dubbed the Greatest Generation, Famighetti, who was also known as Pop, Dick, Dad and Uncle Richie, died of pneumonia at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip on Nov. 17.
He was 93.
“He taught me loyalty and honesty and love and humor,” said his daughter, Jo Ann Jacquemain, of Deer Park, adding, “He left a smile in the hearts of all people he met.”
Born in the East New York-Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Famighetti was the eldest of two children of Francis Molaro Famighetti and Marino Famighetti, Italian immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island in 1903. His formative years were spent during the Depression and, said his daughter, even then he brought laughter and joy to his parents during a time of national distress.
But it was his time during the war as an infantryman that both displayed Famighetti’s grit and shaped him into the man who Jacquemain called the patriarch of the family.
He was drafted at 18 years old, shortly after graduating high school in 1943 from the New York School of Printing. He moved up through the ranks to become a corporal and was assigned to Battery C, the 133rd Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion, which fought in the European theater during World War II.
During the Normandy invasion, his unit was among those that stormed the shores of Omaha Beach to free France from the grip of Nazi Germany. Famighetti later helped free prisoners in concentration camps.
In civilian life, he took on blue-collar jobs, first as a carpenter, then as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, from which he retired in 1987. He was also a staple at the Hills and A&P supermarkets in Farmingdale, where he stocked goods and merchandise.
“He taught all of his children respecting ourselves and people around us, along with hard work, is worth more than all the money in the world,” Jacquemain said.
His passions included dancing, but especially the singing voice of Frank Sinatra and his talented buddies in the fabled Rat Pack, and Big Band music. Indeed, Famighetti’s love of music and dance helped him serenade the former Margaret Banahan, a phone company operator whom he met at a club in Long Beach.
They married in 1956 and had four children over the next 11 years. The family settled in Farmingdale in 1958.
Famighetti served his neighbors by joining the East Farmingdale Fire Department, where in 1999 he was named Firefighter of the Year and where he held the ranks of lieutenant and captain of the fire police. He was a lifetime member of the fire department.
He had an eclectic taste in hobbies, tending vegetable gardens, enjoying coupon-cutting and shopping, and collecting model lighthouses, Hess trucks and the caps of Snapple bottles, his daughter said. She added that he had a way with plants and could bring those on the brink of death back to life.
And he was rarely without a camera, relatives said.
He was dedicated member of St. Killian’s Church in Farmingdale, the New York State Fire Police and the local Republican committee. He donated money to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and the Wounded Warrior Project.
In his later years, Famighetti shuttled between Virginia Beach and East Farmingdale.
His wife preceded him in death in 2010. A daughter, Patrice Delutri, died in 2009.
In addition to Jacquemain, Famighetti is survived by three sons, Richard of Alta Loma, California, Thomas, of Deer Park, and James of Tucson, Arizona; a sister-in-law, Gail Banahan of Virginia Beach, Virginia; a brother-in-law, Dave Greiner of Florida; 10 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; 18 cousins; and many nieces, nephews and friends.