Joseph Ferrante of East Hampton died October 2. He was 88.
Born in Brooklyn on May 28, 1925, a time he described as “when Broadway was a prairie,” he was the son of an iceman who made his rounds with his horse and wagon. His father rented the storefront in a family-owned Brooklyn building to a man who ran a luncheonette and turned out to be a numbers runner. His father inherited the luncheonette when the man was arrested, and also operated a mini wine industry from his basement. Family members all took turns minding the store and crushing grapes, survivors said.
Mr. Ferrante was drafted into the Army Air Force at the age of 18 and served as a gunner on a B-24 in the 450th Bomb group, 15th Army Air Force, flying 50 missions out of Italy, bombing Romanian airfields, and managed to be one of the few who survived, by pure luck.
He went to aeronautics school, worked at Fairchild Republic Airport until it closed, and ended up by happenstance at Brookhaven National Laboratory, where he worked for 30 years as a technical supervisor on the bubble chamber, the colliding accelerating beams, assisting the physicists and engineers in their search for the prime source of matter. He lived in Lindenhurst and then in Stony Brook.
He was a fine athlete, and loved baseball and bowling. In 1995, at the age of 71, in the midst of a blizzard, he bowled a 300 game that was reported in local newspapers that described him as the oldest guy on Long Island to bowl 300. He also got his name inscribed on the wall of the East Hampton bowling alley, which has since closed. Mr. Ferrante gave up bowling just last year.
Mr. Ferrante met his wife, Lynne, in 1976 at Parents Without Partners, and the rest is history. They lived in a winter rental on Lake Panamoka while their Wading River house was being built. Ms. Ferrante opened an art gallery, Chrysalis Ltd. in Westhampton Beach and they later moved to Water Mill, where they renovated a 100-year-old barn. They lived there with Ms. Ferrante’s mother, Sarah Addelston, until she died in 1993. They later sold the barn and moved to Sag Harbor, where they built another house, and then to East Hampton, where they have lived for the last 10 years.
Survivors said Mr. Ferrante played piano like a virtuoso, in the style of Errol Garner, although he never learned to read music. He just noodled along, playing his old favorites, all by ear. He loved all of the ’40s and ’50s bands and singers, especially Frank Sinatra. He would listen to music for hours. There was nothing in this world that he could not fix, survivors said. He heard sounds in the night and interpreted them, anthropomorphizing machines into living creatures—“That pump is telling me that it needs some water,” he might say. He was never doing nothing, always fixing, moving, pushing, pulling, keeping busy, his family said.
When Mr. Ferrante retired in 1990, his avocation became a new career. He was always saying, “I thought I was retired … when do I get to rest?” and he was always busy. Survivors said he was bright and smart and sensitive and gentle and tender, full of stories of all kinds, and had a tremendous sense of humor.
He was the last surviving member of the original Ferrante family; his mother and father, Nicholas and Anna, his sisters, Anne Provens and Emma Cozzolino, and brothers, Peter and Andrew, predeceased him.
He is survived by his wife, Lynne Addelston Heffner Cortes Ferrante; daughters, Joanne Rewinski and husband Michael, Francine Ferrante, and Lori Ferrante; granddaughters, Lisa Rewinski, Janine Rewinski and Julie Rewinski; nieces, Cora Gilbert and Andrea Ferrante; nephews, Ralph Cozzolino and wife Jackie, Peter Provens and wife Denise, Michael Caligiuri, and Joseph Caligiuri, and their children. He is survived by his wife’s daughter, Lynne Elise Calabrese and husband T.J.; and his wife’s grandchildren, Amanda, T.J., Daniel, Sara, Christopher, Kaeli and Chloe, Matthew, Joshua and Noah. He is also survived by his wife’s children, Andrew Heffner, Kevin Heffner and wife Danielle, Tracy Jones and husband Rob, Bruce Heffner, Wendi Heffner, and Caryn Malchman and husband David.
A memorial service was held at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor on October 6. Interment with military honors was at the Adas Israel Cemetery in Sag Harbor.