2012 Top Story No. 9: Southold says goodbye to one of its finest

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12/23/2012 8:00 AM |

TIM KELLY FILE PHOTO | Family members carry out Mr. Romanelli’s casket after his funeral service.

In Southold, the New Year was anything but happy following the death of businessman and former town councilman John Romanelli, who died four days after Christmas from burns suffered during a fuel loading accident at his company, Burt’s Reliable, in Southold.

He was only 47.

A native of Farmingdale along the heavily developed Nassau-Suffolk border, Mr. Romanelli, who ran unsuccessfully for supervisor in 2003,  championed a radical open space preservation that many in his own party opposed and likely doomed his chances for victory.

A Suffolk Times editorial printed following his  death said, “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.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell recalled that he was just 17 when he met Mr. Romanelli.

“He gave his heart and soul to Southold Town,” Mr. Russell said. “Even when you disagreed with him it was impossible to be mad at him.”

The Suffolk Times named Mr. Romanelli its business person of the year for 2008. He earned praise for stepping forward to help provide new heating and air conditioning at the now restored Brecknock Hall mansion at Peconic Landing in Greenport.

In July Cross Sound Ferry dedicated its annual fund-raising fireworks cruise in memory of Mr. Romanelli. Some of the proceeds were donated in Mr. Romanelli’s name to Eastern Long Island Hospital.