A huge "Star Wars" fan, Larry Joffe was set to open his West Babylon Bricks & Minifigs shop on May 4, but died of a heart attack that day. His widow, Rachel, on Wednesday said she is making it her mission to make his dream come true and the store is set to open on Larry's birthday, May 20. Credit: Barry Sloan

He'd been in love with Lego since he was a boy, and his uncle had bought him a set, so, after a career in IT, Larry Joffe told his wife he wanted to open a Lego store.

Rachel Joffe never quite understood the attraction though she'd been in love with her husband pretty much since their first date — a daylong trek to go snow-tubing in Pennsylvania, a match cooked up by her sister and a friend.

She especially loved the kid in him, so she said, Why not?

"People told him, 'You're out of your mind. You're 58 years old, you've never run a business,' " Joffe recalled. "My attitude was, 'It's what you always wanted and if not now, when?' "

But the dream turned tragic on May 4, when, just minutes before a soft-launch opening for friends and family at the store in the Great South Bay Shopping Center on Montauk Highway in West Babylon, Larry Joffe told his wife he wasn't feeling well. She thought he was just exhausted from the 18-hour days he'd spent setting up the store, a franchise of Bricks & Minifigs — a national chain of stores that specializes in buying, selling, and trading Lego products.

An ambulance took Larry to Good Samaritan University Hospital in West Islip, where he was pronounced dead of a heart attack.

On Saturday, which would have been her husband's 59th birthday, Joffe will open the store, and she hopes to launch a 503-C nonprofit spinoff so she can raise funds to give free Lego kits to underprivileged kids. "This has been disaster upon disaster," said Joffe, a career social worker. "But I have to figure out how to make this work for him.

"I have to see it through. I just do."

The couple's Facebook page has a photo of an overjoyed Larry holding the keys to the store, after he'd spent months searching for a location.

Adding to the tragedy, Joffe said, was that her husband was a huge "Star Wars" fan — and had planned the opening specifically for May 4, Star Wars Day (with its catchphrase, May the Fourth be with you).

Larry's mother, Susan Joffe, a longtime Long Beach resident, said she was waiting in the parking lot with a sheet cake for her son when she saw the ambulance.

"I was sitting in my car with a 'congratulations' cake in my lap," she said. "He was so excited about this store and to have this happen, literally five minutes before it was to open, well … it's a total shock."

Born in Bronxville on May 20, 1964, Larry Joffe grew up in Long Beach, graduating from Long Beach High School. He was the middle child of three — his older sister, Ellen, died of ocular melanoma; his younger sister, Sharon, was the WLIR radio personality Sharon at the Shore. Larry Joffe was a talented hockey player, a lifelong New York Islanders fan, and for fun built race cars he drove at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut, Susan Joffe said.

He also did home renovation work for family and friends.

It was the kid in Larry that Rachel Joffe said first attracted her. She grew up in Commack, had never married, and was almost 40 when she was persuaded to meet him for a date.

Booked for a snow-tubing trip to Pennsylvania, there wasn't enough room on the bus for Larry — so, letting her guard down, Rachel agreed to make the round-trip with him by car.

"When you know, you know," she said. "It felt like I knew him forever … We were engaged within eight months, married within a year. I was like, 'If I like being with you that long, then we're definitely a match.' He could bake you the best cheesecake you ever had, make you the best spaghetti and meatballs you'd ever eaten, then could go and gut a room for a renovation.

"I used to call him 'Martha Stewart with a hard hat.' He was funny. He was my rock.

"I can't tell stories about him and just not laugh."

 At the funeral service, Daniella Joffe — Dani, who is preparing for her bat mitzvah next month — referred to her dad as "her little brother." That's how close, Joffe said, their relationship was. "He used to tell our daughter, 'As long as Mommy still thinks I'm funny, everything's fine.'"

Joffe said she's grateful Larry and Daniella went on a father-daughter trek to Billund, Denmark a month or so ago to visit the Lego House — a more than 35,000-square-foot building filled with 25 million Lego bricks near Legoland and Lego Group headquarters.

Now, the store grand opening will take place Saturday at 10 a.m.

There'll be all sorts of Lego kits for sale — new kits, old kits, used kits — and tables with loose Lego bricks, not to mention mini figures that span the range of imagination, Joffe said. The store features a lounge area where parents can relax as their children explore. And, of course, Joffe said, there are various Lego attractions for adults who love them.

A guest from the reality compeition TV series "Lego Masters" also is scheduled to appear, Joffe said.

Everything will be in place, she said. Except for Larry.

"When I was sitting there at the hospital, I knew something was going on," Joffe said. "But I never dreamed it had anything to do with us, that he wasn't going to be fine. When the doctor came out and said, 'I'm sorry' — well, I just fell to the floor … Now, all I can do is make this work. For Larry.

"He was the biggest kid you'd ever meet. This was his dream."

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