Anthony Marino, shown in 1996, died of COVID-19 on April...

Anthony Marino, shown in 1996, died of COVID-19 on April 5 at 91. Credit: Doreen Marino

A practical jokester who would unwittingly wear two left shoes and cleaned cuts with paint thinner, Anthony Marino was a kind and inventive spirit.

From behind a basement bar in the '70s and '80s, he would serve drinks with fake bugs in the ice cubes.

A running practical joke of his involved a wooden crate he built and marked with warning messages. Inside the crate was the furry tail of an animal.

“He would say, ‘Oh, my friend found this mongoose,’” said his daughter Doreen Marino, of East Northport.

He would ask friends and family to poke the creature with a stick, persuade them to take a closer look, then hit a latch that would trigger the furry tail to come flying out.

“Everyone got tricked by that, every family member,” his daughter remembers fondly.

In late March, Anthony Marino, 91, was standing on a chair in his Little Neck basement when he fell and injured his hip. In the days that followed an emergency hip surgery, Marino’s family would learn that he had contracted COVID-19. He died in early April.

Per Doreen Marino's description, he was a jokester with a quirky personality. He would wear two left shoes and not even know it, she said. His cousin, Anne Anderson, expressed a similar sentiment.

“He was a very funny guy,” said Anderson, of Whitestone. “You never knew if he was being serious or joking.”

When he was not playing jokes or cards, the Navy veteran was working hard. He owned the auto body business North Shore Collision in Flushing and was generally handy.

“He was very stubborn,” Doreen Marino said with a laugh. “He could fix just about everything; he always thought he could fix everything better.”

He would build his own houses, including one in the Hamptons.

He rigged a contraption there that would spray water at the deer eating his plants, his daughter said. Deer — or people — would trip a laser as they walked up to the front of the house, then find themselves startled by a sprinkler.

His penchant for finding solutions carried over to first aid.

“You got hurt and he was like, ‘Yeah that’s fine, here, put some thinner on it,’” Doreen Marino said.

He was “Tony” to friends and “Babe” or “Uncle Babe” to his family, for his position as his parents’ youngest child.

After the death of his own father, Anthony Marino grew into a “hustler” from a young age, his daughter said. As a preteen, he would catch fish with his grandfather and sell them door to door in Flushing.

Jokes aside, Marino’s legacy was perhaps the generosity and kindness his daughter describes.

Growing up, Marino lived in his grandfather's three-family house along with Anderson, who calls him "more my brother than my cousin."

"He took me everywhere, we did everything together," said Anderson, who is about 15 years his junior. 

She recalled raising pigeons with him in the backyard, taking regular trips to the roller rink, making grape jelly together with the fruit of the backyard grapevine. In the wintertime, Marino would take Anderson to build snowmen and to sled down the "tremendous hill" behind their house, she recounted wistfully. 

"There wasn't a day that went by that he didn't include me in everything," Anderson said.

Weather fair or foul, Marino came through for the people in his life. When Anderson's father lost his job after surgery left him unable to use one of his arms the same way, Marino offered him work in the auto body shop.

"He was right there for everyone," Anderson said. 

As an adult, Marino used the money he earned to feed a habit of extending a helping hand to those he cared about.

“He didn’t need anything,” Doreen Marino said. “He would be in the ratty car and the ratty clothes and shoes; he wanted everyone else to be happy.”

Besides his daughter, Marino is survived by his wife, Margaret, of nearly 68 years; their three other children, Debra, Ronald and Anthony; and 10 grandchildren.

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