William Francis Claudio of Greenport died peacefully at home Saturday, Oct. 26. He was 81 years old.Born at ELIH to William Claudio Sr. and Helen Patton Manwaring July 5, 1938, Bill enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1956, and re-enlisted in 1963 as an officer after obtaining a degree in aeronautical engineering from Parks College, all aimed at a singular goal — to become a fighter pilot. He graduated USAF pilot training in 1965 and was assigned to the 417th Fighter Squadron at Ramstein, Germany, sitting on nuclear alert; did a tour in Wethersfield, England; and ended his Air Force career at Phan Rang, Vietnam, flying his beloved F-100 Super Sabre. He achieved the rank of captain and was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses and 21 Air Medals. Many of his absolute favorite stories were of this time in his life.
A multitalented charismatic man, Bill went on to sell recreational real estate in Georgia and Colorado and enjoyed some success in modeling and acting before moving back to Greenport in 1974 to work for his father at Claudio’s Restaurant for three seasons. Moving from Greenport in 1976 with his soon-to-be wife, Janice, he joined Hazeltine Corp. and sold IFF equipment to countries in the Far East while earning his master’s degree from Columbia University. He later returned to his first love, aviation, selling commercial aircraft for Page AvJet and Beechcraft in Washington, D.C.
In 1990, Bill, his wife, two sisters and brother-in-law purchased Claudio’s Restaurant from his father, beginning a new chapter that would last 28 years. The restaurant, which opened in 1870 by Manuel Claudio, was considered by the National Restaurant Association as the oldest same-family-owned restaurant in the United States. Together they ran and expanded the business until finally retiring in 2018.
Well known in the Greenport community, Bill was larger than life and comfortably commanded center stage. He was an exceptional storyteller and a naturally gifted athlete who was quick with a joke and embraced life thoroughly. Aviation and boating were twin passions; he liked to go fast. Bill was a man who made very clear where he stood on all issues with all people at all times.
He will be remembered fondly and missed by many.
Bill is survived by his wife of 40 years, Janice; six children, Tony, Kathi, Billy, Mike, Chris and Jamie; 14 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Wake services will take place Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home in Greenport, where funeral services will be held Thursday, Oct. 31, at 10 a.m.
Fly high, Captain. We love you so much.
This is a paid notice.