One of Southampton Village’s most beloved mayors died Thursday, April 17. Peter J. Majkowski Jr., who served as mayor from 1971 until 1979, and as a village trustee for eight years prior to taking over the municipality’s top elected position, died in Rochester, New York. He was 94.
His family, friends and colleagues agreed this week that Mr. Majkowski loved Southampton Village and his family, and was one of the most personable people they knew.
“He was just the most gracious, friendly, dignified person,” said William Hattrick Jr., who served as mayor from 1985 until 1989. His administration followed Mr. Majkowski’s successor, former mayor Roy L. Wines Jr.
Though they never served together on the Village Board, Mr. Hattrick said he got to know Mr. Majkowski and remembered him as being a wonderful and happy guy. Mr. Majkowski’s “snow-white, silky hair” also left an impression, Mr. Hattrick said. The hair earned Mr. Majkowski the nickname “Silver Fox.”
“He was like a parent,” recalled Gene Dombrowski, the village’s first parks supervisor. “He wanted to know everything you were doing, even when you were off-duty.”
Mr. Dombrowski, who served under eight mayors during a 36-year career with Southampton Village that ended in 2005, said Mr. Majkowski was one of the best.
“He liked a good laugh,” Mr. Dombrowski added, “and I have to say, he always told the truth, whether you liked it or not.” He also said that just in the way he carried himself, Mr. Majkowski’s presence commanded authority.
Joe Romanosky, another former mayor who finished his third and final two-year term in 2005, said Mr. Majkowski was a role model for him. “He was one of the people I went to when I started thinking about running for mayor,” he noted.
And even after Mr. Romanosky was elected to office, he kept deferring to Mr. Majkowski for advice. In fact, Mr. Romanosky called Mr. Majkowski “Mr. Southampton.”
The village was very lucky to have Mr. Majkowski, Mr. Romanosky added. While many leaders are reactive, Mr. Majkowski was a proactive mayor with a very keen sense of what was to come, Mr. Romanosky said. “It takes a unique individual to look into the future,” he added.
Mr. Majkowski was largely responsible for the creation of the Southampton Village’s Parks Department in 1973 and the Buildings Maintenance Department the following year. Initially, there was resistance to the creation of the Parks Department because taxpayers didn’t want the added expense, Mr. Dombrowski recalled. But once everyone saw the improvements to the aesthetics of the village, they began to appreciate it. “A lot of communities followed suit after seeing what was happening here,” Mr. Dombrowski said.
Mr. Majkowski was also a proponent of preserving open space in Southampton, and during his tenure he saw that the village’s amount of preserved space increased from 3 acres to more than 100 acres.
Even after he left his post as mayor, Mr. Majkowski continued to serve on beautification committees, including the Trees Committee, which, among other activities, catalogued American elm trees in the village that were threatened by Dutch Elm disease. Mr. Dombrowski recalled Mr. Majkowski coming into the Plant Department office to point out wilting trees he saw in Southampton and make sure they were tended to.
His interest in horticulture went back to his days as student. After he graduated from Southampton High School, where he was a runner and basketball player, Mr. Majkowski set aside his original plan of studying business at New York University and sought a degree from the State Institute of Applied Agriculture at Farmingdale. He received a degree in ornamental horticulture in 1940.
He then went on to work in the greenhouses of a private estate in Westbury and, during World War II, he went to work at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation, later Grumman Aerospace Corporation, in Calverton where airplanes were manufactured for the U.S. military. Following the war, he worked for his parents, Peter and Helen, at Pete’s Inn in Bridgehampton. His last career was with the Suffolk County Department of Health. He retired in 1974.
Mr. Majkowski lived in Southampton until two years ago, when he moved to the Jewish Home of Rochester, a nursing home located near Pittsford, New York, where his youngest daughter, Pamela Poduska resides. Though her late father was Catholic, Ms. Poduska said that he fit right in at the nursing home and even had the opportunity to practice his Polish again.
In addition to Ms. Poduska, Mr. Majkowski is survived by his older daughter, Linda Clineburg, of St. Michaels, Maryland, as well as five grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
His wife, Mary Jane, predeceased him in 2005. Following Mr. Majkowski’s retirement, they wintered in Florida, where they participated in Southampton Day, a nearly 50-year-old annual gathering of village residents who were vacationing in or had moved to Florida. The couple had been married for 67 years.
A funeral service was held on Tuesday at Our Lady of Poland Roman Catholic Church in Southampton, and Mr. Majkowski was buried in the family plot at Sacred Hearts Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Village of Southampton, 23 Main Street, Southampton, NY 11968. Collected funds will go toward the purchase and installation of a memorial bench in honor of Mr. Majkowski.