The word is tossed about so carelessly and so often, and used when it really doesn’t apply. But there’s no disputing that the sudden loss of John Romanelli, former councilman, businessman, family man, friend and neighbor, is in every sense of the word a tragedy.
In looking over our past coverage of John’s years of service in town government and his role as a leading member of the North Fork’s business community, we were not at all surprised that friend and (political) foe alike offered glowing comments about him. Anyone spending just a few minutes with John would quickly conclude that he was, to use the vernacular, the real deal. Honest, energetic, sympathetic, engaging, dedicated, concerned, caring — the praise heaped on him goes on and on. We’re glad John got to hear it. While it may seem a minor point, we were also struck that every photograph we’ve printed of John, from his quirky business advertisements to the news story of his conceding the 2003 supervisor’s election, he’s smiling that trademark smile of his. Anyone spending just a few minutes with him would realize that he wasn’t playing to the camera.
That was John, cheerful as always.
But perhaps the most impressive aspects of John’s character were his unflinching courage and integrity, both of which were put to the test during his unsuccessful bid for supervisor. Perhaps because he grew up near the Nassau-Suffolk border, John had more than an abstract view of the need to preserve Southold’s open spaces. Like many, he grew up in a congested area and moved east for a better quality of life for himself and his family. Also like many, he knew that conversation doesn’t bring about conservation. He went up against powerful forces in his own party to offer a new, and perhaps radical, preservation program. He stood his ground, spoke his piece and took his lumps. He never lost his cool, he took his defeat gracefully and continued to be a model citizen, all the while smiling that big John Romanelli smile.
We have lost someone truly special.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the Romanelli family and we hope they find solace in the knowledge that John was more than just admired, he was loved.