Joseph N. Mondello, a former United States Ambassador, Hempstead Town supervisor and attorney who for more than three decades as chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee was a powerful force in county politics, died Monday night, family members confirmed. He was 84.
Christopher Ostuni, who is married to Mondello's daughter Lisa Ostuni, of Dix Hills, said Mondello, of Bayville, died "peacefully" late Monday at Glen Cove Hospital.
"Many knew him as ambassador and chairman and lawyer but to us he was just dad," Lisa Ostuni, 44, told Newsday on Tuesday.
"He touched the lives of so many. He loved helping others and that's what kept him going and I believe that was also the secret to his success," Ostuni said.
Mondello, the son of Italian and Puerto Rican immigrants, was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn and was a longtime resident of Levittown and Oyster Bay.
He served as U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago under former President Donald Trump, and as New York State Republican chairman.
On Tuesday, friends and colleagues remembered Mondello as a skilled political organizer who was dedicated to the Nassau GOP as a means to better the community.
They called him a resilient party leader who shrugged off losses and bounced back the next election cycle.
Former Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said he met Mondello nearly 50 years ago when they were young lawyers serving on the Hempstead Town Board.
King said Mondello not only boosted his political career, but was loyal friend.
“He’s always been there for me,” King told Newsday.
“He was a political giant,” King said. “We have one of the premier political organizations in the country because of Joe. He was always on top of the situation. When you needed him, he’d call you back in five minutes. He picked good people and he was loyal to them.”
Former Republican U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, who also met Mondello when they served on the Hempstead Town Board, recalled that Mondello moved to Levittown from Brooklyn and saw the Nassau GOP as a vehicle to improve his new community.
Mondello’s goal was to attract the new residents moving into Nassau from New York City — many of whom were Democrats — and “make them Republicans,” D’Amato told Newsday.
“He wanted the job done and saw it was done in the right way,” D’Amato said. “He was tough but a strong and fair leader within the party. He wanted to pick the best people for the job.”
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman, a Republican who took office in January, said Mondello “lived an extraordinary life of service,” and called him “one of the most decent, and patriotic men I’ve ever known.”
Jay Jacobs, chairman of the state and county Democratic committees, called Mondello, “an American first, and a Republican second.”
Jacobs continued: “While adversaries in our political roles, we became friends in real life. He was a tough competitor but always a man of his word.”
Nick Langworthy, chairman of the state Republican Committee, on Tuesday called Mondello, "principled in conduct, competitive by nature and compassionate in action."
Langworthy continued: "Joe's personality was larger than life and he commanded deep and abiding respect for his legendary leadership of the Nassau County Republican Party that spanned three decades. I will always be indebted to him for mentoring me as a young Party leader on how to be a successful county chair."
Nassau Republican Chairman Joseph Cairo said in a statement: "Throughout his service as an elected official, his tenure as the U.S. Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, and his time as Chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee, Joe Mondello was always focused on service to others and improving our society,"
Mondello, who was known as a strict fiscal conservative, began his political career as a town council member in Hempstead Town, a Republican stronghold and Nassau County’s largest municipality.
Mondello was appointed Hempstead Town supervisor in January 1987, and was reelected by wide margins in 1987, 1989 and 1991.
Before the 1996 formation of Nassau’s 19-member legislature, Mondello as Hempstead supervisor also served as vice chairman and majority leader of the county board of supervisors.
A local Republican leader in the Levittown community since 1974, Mondello was elected chairman of the Nassau County Republican Committee in April 1983, and held the post until 2018.
He took the reins of the county party after predecessor Joseph Margiotta, who died in 2008, was forced to resign after his conviction on federal mail fraud and conspiracy charges in a municipal insurance kickback scheme.
Mondello served as Republican National Committeeman for New York State from 1992 to 2004 and as Chairman of the New York Republican State Committee from November 2006 until September 2009.
Mondello was credited with moving the state GOP organization forward financially.
But in November 2008 Republicans lost the state Senate majority — and with it, their last hold on statewide power.
When Mondello was replaced as state chairman, Republicans held only two of the 29 seats in the state's delegation to Congress.
Mondello had been a delegate to every Republican National Convention since 1984 and was among the first GOP county chairs in New York to support Trump for president in the 2016 election.
Joseph Nestor Mondello was born on Feb. 13, 1938 in Brooklyn to Rosario Mondello, a printing press operator, and Rose Martin, an immigrant from Puerto Rico.
The family moved to Laurelton, Queens before settling in Massapequa when Mondello was 13 years old.
He served as an airman in the New York National Guard from 1955 to 1956 and in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958, attaining the rank of corporal.
He received a bachelor's degree in 1962 from Hofstra University — the same year he met Linda Elizabeth Crabtree, a Trans World Airlines flight attendant, at a house party in the Hamptons.
They were married in 1964 and moved to Levittown in 1970 where they raised their family, eventually moving to Oyster Bay Cove in 2000.
In addition to his wife and daughter Lisa, he is survived by daughter, Elizabeth of Melville; sister Norma Ferretti of Massapequa; and five grandchildren.
Mondello is predeceased by his son, Joseph Nestor Mondello, Jr.
A funeral mass is planned for Monday at 11 a.m. at St. Dominic Roman Catholic Church in Oyster Bay, with burial to follow.