Bill Claudio, who for nearly three decades was an owner of the iconic Greenport restaurant that bears his family’s name, died Saturday, his family announced. He was 81.
Mr. Claudio was part of a corporation that purchased the restaurant in 1989 from his father William Claudio Sr. Claudio’s, which was founded in 1870 by Manuel Claudio, was billed as the longest continuously family-owned eatery in the United States until it sold in 2018.
Born July 5, 1938, Mr. Claudio grew up in Greenport and achieved his adolescent dream of flying in the Air Force. After a brief stint at the Coast Guard Academy, he spent four years in the Air Force and then attended Parks College of Aeronautical Technology at St. Louis University. In 1963, he re-enlisted and spent seven more as an Air Force fighter pilot.
As a Vietnam War-era captain, he flew 216 combat missions for the Air Force, earning 20 air medals among his various citations.
He traveled the world in his career before returning to the family business, reluctantly at first, to continue the tradition. The group that bought the restaurant included his wife Jan, Kathy Claudio and Beatrice and Jerry Tuthill. Mr. Tuthill, after whom Crabby Jerry’s was named, died in 2016.
Mr. Claudio left the military in 1970, spent several years in real estate in Atlanta and Colorado, and then returned to an aviation-related field in Long Island when he worked for Hazeltine Corporation in Greenlawn. He served four years as the corporation’s director of international marketing, focusing mostly on selling black box equipment for aircraft throughout Asia.
He worked for the telecommunications company MCI and also bought and sold jets for an aircraft company in Maryland.
It was a phone call from Mr. Tuthill in 1989 that helped convince him to get into the family restaurant business. Mr. Tuthill presented him a plan to expand the business. The restaurant complex now includes Claudio’s, Claudio’s Clam Bar and Crabby Jerry’s.
“What makes this place work is that it’s been run by the same family,” Mr. Claudio said in 2013 as he prepared to serve as grand marshal of the Maritime Festival. “But we’ve also hired superb employees, some who have been with us since day one in 1989. If you don’t have talent on your side, it doesn’t work.”
A memorial visitation is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport. A chapel service will be held Thursday, Oct. 31, at 10 a.m. at the funeral home. Interment will follow at Cutchogue Cemetery on Main Road in Cutchogue.
Donations may be made to:
Air Warrior Courage Foundation
P.O. Box 877, Silver Spring, MD 20918
Photo caption: Bill Claudio, shown here in 2013, owned the Greenport restaurant for nearly 30 years as part of a corporation. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder/file)