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John Lea of Kings Park: Former highway foreman enjoyed helping family, friends

John Lea, 75, died of complications of the

John Lea, 75, died of complications of the coronavirus on April 4. Credit: Lea Family

John Lea was a friendly man who enjoyed helping others, a longtime highway foreman and a fun-loving father who put his family first, his children said.

Lea’s youngest daughter, Diana Dughi, 46, of Prosper, Texas, still remembers the big grin on her father’s face when she saw him in a crowd when she ran the New York City Marathon last fall.

“His eyes were big and bright. He had a big smile,” Dughi said, choking up as she spoke. “It was a grinning look of pride.”

Lea, 75, died of complications of the coronavirus on April 4 at his Kings Park home. His wife, Domenica Lea, 73, whom he married in 1967, also contracted the virus but is recovering, his family said.

Lea was always willing to help others, his family said, whether it was building a deck for a neighbor or making a table for a friend. One time, Lea drove to Pennsylvania to teach a friend how to put a patio on his new home.

“When we had older cars, he would change my oil and fix my brakes to save me money,” said daughter Deborah Lea-Powers, 52, of Astoria. “He helped my brother with his house. When they needed a wall taken down, my father was right there.”

Lea was born on July 28, 1944, in Catania, Italy, to Joe Lea and Agatha Murer. His parents divorced when he was little, and he grew up in Brooklyn, his family said. First a truck driver, Lea later worked for the Huntington Town Highway Department as a foreman for nearly 30 years. The Army veteran also loved classical music and boating.

“He can be a serious guy,” said his son, Jon Lea, 48, of Hauppauge. “But he did funny things too. He would make funny faces to make you laugh.”

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Lea was known in the family as a prankster. He would draw mustaches on his children’s faces when they were asleep and “steal” his then 4-year-old granddaughter’s princess crown on a birthday cake to put it on his own head.

After Lea retired in 2007, he and his wife bought an RV and took cross-country trips to visit family and friends. 

“Family was the most important thing to him,” Dughi said. “My father would move the world for me. And he did.”

Lea is survived by his wife and three children. A funeral was held on April 13 at the St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Huntington. A celebration of his life is planned for a later date, his family said.

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