The Hampton Bays Public Library received a large donation last week from the estate of a local man who died this past spring.
An avid patron of the Ponquogue Avenue library, Edward Bierlein, who died in April, left the library $100,000 in his will. Eugene Francolini, Mr. Bierlein’s longtime friend, lawyer and executor of his estate, gave the check to Madeline O’Keefe, president of the Hampton Bays Library Board of Trustees, last week.
“He used the library frequently, and I guess wanted to give back,” Mr. Francolini said this week when asked about the reason for his friend’s generosity. “He also gave $100,000 to St. Rosalie’s [Roman Catholic] Church and $100,000 to [Good Shepherd] Hospice [of Port Jefferson]. His estate was only about $450,000.”
Library Director Susan LaVista said the institution’s board of directors has not decided what to do with the money and, for the time being, will hold it in the library’s reserve fund.
“Clearly, he was philanthropic in his attitude, because he gave to a number of worthy causes,” Ms. LaVista said. “We are so grateful and appreciative of his generosity, and we want to make sure we do the right thing for the community and for him in his honor.”
Mr. Francolini, who met Mr. Bierlein while the two were students at the Floral Park-Bellerose Elementary School, said his friend was an avid golfer as well as a member of the Southampton Golf Club. Mr. Francolini suggested that the library invest the money to expand its section for golf-related materials and perhaps include a plaque with Mr. Bierlein’s name on it.
After a career working as a men’s fashion buyer for Montgomery Ward in Manhattan, Mr. Bierlein followed the advice of Mr. Francolini and moved to Hampton Bays in 1968, when he purchased the Water’s Edge Cottages, which he eventually turned into a co-op.
Mr. Bierlein never married and had no children, Mr. Francolini noted, adding that Mr. Bierlein left the remainder of his estate to his nieces.
Mr. Francolini, who is a few years younger than Mr. Bierlein, said the two lost touch after high school, with Mr. Bierlein joining the Army before earning his Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University and Mr. Francolini joining the Navy and then attending St. John’s University. However, once they were both stateside, Mr. Francolini always pushed for his friend to join him in Hampton Bays.
“It took a while,” Mr. Francolini said. “But I got him out here.”
In his final years, as his health deteriorated, Mr. Bierlein was visited by Mr. Francolini regularly. Mr. Francolini said he was happy to fulfill his friend’s final wishes.