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Thomas Joseph Reilly, ex-King Kullen exec, dies at 74

Thomas Joseph Reilly, who rose through the ranks

Thomas Joseph Reilly, who rose through the ranks of King Kullen supermarkets to become a top executive, has died. He was 74. Credit: Reilly Family

Thomas Joseph Reilly, a devout Catholic and ordained deacon who raised his family in Huntington Station and rose through the ranks of a Long Island supermarket chain to become a top executive, has died.

Reilly, a father of three and a grandfather of four, died at home Dec. 13 surrounded by his family after a bout with chronic myeloid leukemia. He was 74.

The family patriarch, who was born Oct. 8, 1943, in Rockville Centre and settled in Huntington Station, was remembered by his family as a loving and giving man who never turned away someone in need.

“He was at peace,” said his daughter, Melissa Ellard, of Norwich, Connecticut, about his final days. “He never complained. His faith was very deep. He knew he had done all he could.”

Reilly was the youngest of five, his family said. His mother died when he was 6 and he was raised by his siblings, his family said.

Reilly’s Catholic faith was cemented early and while growing up he said the rosary during weekly prayer sessions with his family. He also received a Catholic education, from grammar school to high school, his family said.

As a teen, Reilly worked as a wagon boy for King Kullen, the supermarket chain based in Bethpage, his family said. It was also during this time that Reilly met his future wife, Margherita when he was 16, his family said.

The couple married in 1962.

“He was my best friend,” said Margherita Reilly, his wife of 55 years. “He gave me everything.”

The couple were active members of their local parish, St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station.

As the years passed, Reilly held several positions at King Kullen, including full-time clerk, store manager, district manager and finally in 1992, he became vice president of operations for the chain.

His ascent was rivaled only by his religious faith. He became a deacon in 1993.

Reilly worked at the supermarket until his retirement in 2004. He then focused on giving back to the community and his church, soon becoming the business manager for St. Hugh Parish. In that role, he oversaw the renovation of the parish along with the creation and management of the parish’s annual golf outing.

Reilly also served on several boards, including the St. Vincent de Paul Society Bethpage Council, the St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, and the Catholic Health Services Eastern Region.

He was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia four years ago and had a bone marrow transplant. But a year ago, the disease came back as tumors in his pancreas and liver.

In his final year, Reilly wanted to survive long enough to perform his religious duties for his son Joseph Reilly, of Ipswich, Massachusetts, who was getting married in October.

“He kept saying ‘I have to be good for your brother’s wedding,’” Ellard said. “Then he declined six weeks after that.”

Reilly is also survived by son Gerald, of Huntington Station; and sister Patricia O’Keeffe, of Greenlawn.

A funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 18 at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station. Burial was at St. Charles/Resurrection Cemetery in East Farmingdale.

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