Ernest Vigliotta ran successful duck farms, helped his wife raise seven children and volunteered countless hours to the church across the street from his Center Moriches home. Also, during a card game in the early 1960s, he and some friends came up with the idea of building a golf course in Manorville. He was still the president when Rock Hill Golf & Country Club celebrated its 50th anniversary last year.
Vigliotta died at home on Nov. 12 after a long illness. He was 91.
“He was a legend in Long Island golf,” said Michael Jacobs, director of golf at Rock Hill, noting that Vigliotta was part of the ownership group from the start and served as president for the past 20 years, guiding the public course through a rocky time in the industry.
“We have photos: He was the first one ever to take a shot on the course, during construction,” Jacobs said. “He was like a father to me and he always made sure we did the right things. If golfers got caught in a thunderstorm he always said, `Give them a rain check.’ ”
Angela Werner, Vigliotta’s daughter and next-door neighbor, said, “He was that helping hand, someone who always knew it was better to give than receive.” She added that up until his final weeks, he would go to the course every day, after having walked across Ocean Avenue for Mass at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church along with Philomena, his wife of 67 years.
He was active in many ministries and charitable events at the church, leading fundraising for efforts ranging from a new school in the early 1960s to a new church building in the late 1990s. Vigliotta was a past Grand Knight of the Queen of All Hearts Council Knights of Columbus. He and his siblings donated land and helped establish the Shrine of Our Lady of the Island in Manorville.
“As I was making calls about Dad’s passing, and there were many, I was struck by the fact that no matter who it was, they broke down and cried,” Werner said. “Even more striking was what followed was a story about what Dad had done for them.”
Vigliotta was born in Brooklyn one of 15 children, and grew up in Eastport, Bethpage and Patchogue before serving in the Marines during World War II. When he returned home, he joined his father and brothers in running three duck farms and a tree removal business. He eventually took day-to-day responsibility for the businesses and spent 18 years as chairman of the Agway Feed Corporation. Still, Werner said, he always had time for his family.
Along with his wife and daughter, he is survived by daughters Maria Sikora of Manorville, Joan Kret of Middletown, New Jersey, Margaret McMahon of Center Moriches and Theresa Hubbard of Smithtown; sons John of Gloucester, Virginia. and Paul of Manorville; sisters Elisa Hines of Tampa, Jean Delaney of Bayport, Margaret Nardone of Bay Shore and Tina Vigliotta of Medford; brothers Albert of Islip and Chris of Eastport; as well as 30 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren.
Funeral Mass was celebrated at St. John’s on Nov. 16. Burial was at Calverton National Cemetery.