Edward Corgnati with his daughter, Virginia Aiello, and wife, Marilyn...

Edward Corgnati with his daughter, Virginia Aiello, and wife, Marilyn Corgnati. Credit: Alan Aiello

He was known as the $5 million man. It was a nickname Edward M. Corgnati earned in adulthood for his athletic prowess, which included strikeout records and perfect games.

"Dad excelled in many sports in high school, especially football and baseball. He actively played ball on many Suffolk County softball leagues and was a star pitcher," said daughter Virginia "Ginny" Aiello of Smithtown.

A longtime Smithtown resident, Corgnati died on April 20 of COVID-19-related complications. He was 90.

Corgnati was born at the outset of the Great Depression, on Nov. 12, 1929, in the small coal-mining town of Freeport, Pennsylvania. His family emigrated from Piedmont, Italy, and came to America as bakers, supplying bread to families in the town.

Corgnati would take a piece of his family business out to sea when he enlisted in the Navy during the Korean War, just shy of his 21st birthday.Aboard the USS Damato, he served as a baker and worked with ammunition.

He met the love of his life during his last month of enlistment.

"My dad was stationed in Bermuda and my mom was vacationing on the beach with her sister at that time. My dad passed by on a boat with friends and waved at my mom. She waved back and the rest was a whirlwind romance," Ginny said.

Corgnati and his wife, Marilyn, were married in Bayside two months after his naval discharge and celebrated more than 66 years of marriage, which included many return trips to Bermuda.

He began his police career in 1957 at the Port Authority, joining the Nassau County Police Department in 1962. He received numerous awards before retiring from the Second Precinct in 1982, working as an armored guard for another 10 years.

"He had a gift of making everyone feel at ease. He was always fair-minded, humble, kind, and he treated everyone as equals," Ginny said of the traits that served her father well as a police officer. "My favorite memory of my dad was a class trip in third grade to the Nassau County police headquarters. He showed up to surprise me and took us on the tour. I was so proud of him and so lucky to call him my dad."

Corgnati’s grandson, Daniel Aiello, has fond memories of his grandfather’s time as a brave man in blue.

"I remember him telling me a story of a break-in at a hamburger place. Pop was around the block and just missed the guy but noticed that he dropped a bag of cash by the register," recalls Daniel, of Smithtown. "Pop hid in the shadows because he knew the guy would come back and when he did, Pop tackled him and got the arrest."

Growing up, Daniel spent a great deal of time with Corgnati, especially at the ballfield and hockey rink. Corgnati was always there for advice and support.

"He came to all of my hockey games and always relished in my accomplishments. He was a larger-than-life person," Daniel said.

Corgnati was active in the Smithtown senior center and enjoyed boating, fishing and gardening. He grew sweet tomatoes and hand-delivered them to family and friends. Of all his accomplishments and endeavors, it was Corgnati’s family that made him proudest.

"My dad always said, ‘Love your family, take care of each other, and most of all, be kind to everyone,’" Ginny said. "I’m an only child, and he always told me, ‘You’re my legacy.’ He also loved my husband, Alan, like a son. He will live on in our hearts forever."

Besides his daughter and grandson, Corgnati is survived by his wife, Marilyn, and his great-granddaughters Abigail and Emma. A Mass and a celebration of his life will be held at a later date.

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