An elderly Springs man was found dead outside his home on Locust Drive early in the morning of January 22, according to East Hampton Town Police Chief Michael Sarlo.
An ambulance call came in at 7:35 a.m., after a snowstorm that dumped at least six inches in East Hampton, saying that a snowplow driver had discovered a man unconscious and not breathing in the snow near his home, the chief said.
The Springs Fire Department Ambulance and Town Police responded to the scene, where the man was pronounced dead.
Town Police later identified the man as 84-year-old Ralph E. Batalla, who lived at 1 Locust Drive.
Mr. Batalla had lived in East Hampton since the 1970s and had a long career in retail, and when he first moved to the area from Manhattan with his partner, George Fleming, he got a job working at JG Melon in Bridgehampton. Most recently he worked at Provisions in Sag Harbor, from which he retired two years ago.
According to his niece, Denise Downs, of Poughkeepsie, Mr. Batalla was well known for his sense of humor.
“We said in our family that he was Peter Pan—the child that never grew up,” she said. “He was always kidding around, always joking and making people laugh and smile.”
She said when she was younger and visiting her uncle in East Hampton with her grandmother, he once pretended to trip and fall down a staircase, rolling all the way down in a slapstick prank.
Mostly, Mr. Batalla was appreciated in East Hampton for his kindness when stopping in at local businesses to say hello and share a smile, Ms. Downs said.
“We are sad because we’re going to miss him, but the whole family feels he’s where he wants to be right now,” she added. “The fact that the community has so many kinds words to say takes the sad weight off our hearts makes us feel so happy.”
Lieutenant Robert Gurney said that Mr. Batalla may have experienced a “medical event” in his yard, just outside his front door, on the evening of January 21. His death does not seem suspicious, he said.
Mr. Batalla was predeceased by his partner, George Fleming. The family has not yet planned a memorial service, but when they do, information will be posted to the Provisions website at provisionsnaturalfoods.com.