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Obituaries

Robert H. Chiang, 94, of Glen Cove, died on April 10, 2003. Husband of Ying Ming. Father of Amber Chiang and Charlene Chiang-Hillman. Grandfather of Lee Robert Hillman and Christina Ming Hillman. Arrangements were made by the Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home, Glen Cove. Interment private. Donations can be made to FBO Lee and Christina Hillman, PO Box 1004, Weston, CT 06883.

Helen R. Meagher, 91, of Herndon, VA, formerly of Glen Head, died on April 15, 2003. Wife of the late Niall. Mother of Mary Cohn. Aunt of Carol Schmidl. Arrangements were made by the Whitting Funeral Home.Funeral Mass at St. Mary's RC Church. Interment Nassau Knolls Cemetery. Donations may be made to Regis High School, 55 E. 84th St., New York, NY 11028.

Jeanette LaRocca, 92, lifelong resident of Locust Valley, died on April 16, 2003. Wife of the late Nick. Mother of Patti Chrzanowksi (John) and Mary Jo Rydewski (Ted). Sister of Anthony Bozella (Philomena), Samuel Bozzella (Stephanie), the late Rose Rossetti, Margaret Minicozzi, Marion Castelluccio and Filomena Murphy. Grandmother of Ronald (Mary Fran), Susan, Brian, Ted (Chris), Thomas (Maura) and Nicole (Dale). Great-grandmother of Nicholas, Caitlin, Alexandra, Robert, Zoe, Samantha, Ryan, Haley and Leanne. Arrangements were made by the Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home, Glen Cove. Blessing at the Church of St. Rocco. Interment Holy Rood Cemetery.

James W. Finlayson, 79, of Locust Valley, died on April 16, 2003. Born in Glen Cove, Mr. Finlayson attended Greenvale, Friends Academy, Brooks School and Union College. During WWII he was a first lieutenant in the Army Corps of Engineers, with service in the Philippines. He was president of Hinkle and Finlayson and Harbor Fuel Corporation. He was also for many years chairman of the Locust Valley Cemetery and chairman of the Matinecock Planning Board. Husband of the late Lynette Hotchkiss. Father of James C. and William F. Arrangements were made by the Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home, Glen Cove. Service to be held in June. Contributions can be sent to The Nature Conservancy, 250 Lawrence Hill Rd., Cold Spring Harbor, NY 11724.

Sophie Karabatos (nee Yeavasis), of Glen Head, died on April 17, 2003. Wife of Menelaos. Mother of John Karabatos (Rosalie) and Elena Skariatos (Bryan). Grandmother of Sofia, Nicolas, Helen and James. Sister of Charles Yeavasis). Arrangements were made by the Marcus L. Bianconi Funeral Home, Glen Cove. Religious services at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Resurrection. Interment Locust Valley Cemetery.

June A. Kaneti (nee Bikoff), a long time resident of Glen Cove, passed away on April 18, 2003. She was the devoted wife of Nisim Kaneti and mother of Lauren and Steven Kaneti, and is also survived by her parents, Arthur and Lenore Bikoff, and her brothers, Don and Paul.

June was born on June 19, 1952 and graduated from Locust Valley High School in 1970. Later on, she graduated with a B.A. degree in French from Boston University. During her junior year in college, she studied at the Sorbonne in Paris.

June was an avid equestrian who spent many years riding at Gold Coast Stable and the Red Barn in Brookville. She loved riding her own horses, Perfect Gentleman and Jett, and took great pleasure in helping needy children learn horsemanship. In addition, June was always glad to take care of other people's horses when the owners were not on hand, as in the case of her friend, Karen Hagarty, who died on Sept. 11.

June has many trophies and ribbons to showcase, but none greater than her two most precious - her children, Lauren and Steven.

A chapel service with interment was conducted on April 21. The family thanks their friends and neighbors for their condolences and support. In addition, the family thanks the medical community, doctors, nurses and health care aides for their devotion to her medical needs. Donations in her name can be made to Hospice Care Network and/or North Shore University Hospital Health System.

Francesco Ruperto, 78, of Glen Cove, died on April 20, 2003, Easter Sunday. Husband of Rosina. Father of Nicolina Graziosi (Angelo M.), Antoinette, Natalie, Attilio, Pina Montes (Rafael), Franca and John. Brother of Antonia Renne (Gennaro) and Giuseppe (the late Margaret). Grandfather of Rafael, Maria and Joseph. Arrangements were made by the Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home, Glen Cove. Mass at the Church of St. Rocco. Entombment Holy Rood Cemetery.

Jennie Ceriello (nee DeAngelis), formerly of Glen Cove, died on April 20, 2003. She is survived by her daughter Michelle Martinez and son-in-law Tony; grandsons, Robert (Paola), Daniel (Janice) and Fred Damiano; great-grandchildren, Robert Jr., Joseph and Kristen. Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. on April 26 at the Church of St. Rocco. Interment Holy Rood Cemetery.

William Willett joined the Nassau County Police Department in the 1950s, serving first as a beat cop for a predominately white community. Over the course of his nearly 50-year career, Mr. Willett moved up the ranks, becoming the first African-American to hold several top positions, including inspector, deputy commissioner and in 2000, he was appointed police commissioner - the department's highest post.

To those who worked with him, Mr. Willett was a fair, compassionate and dedicated officer, a great friend and the perfect boss. "As he went through ranks, he was always looking out for others," said Ernest J. Cipullo, commissioner of the Garden City Police Department and president of the Nassau County Municipal Police Chiefs Association. "He was never looking for attention or the limelight. As long as I knew him that is the way he did things and that definitely says something about the man."

On April 16, hundreds of county officials and law enforcement officers from throughout Nassau lined Post Avenue to pay their final respects to Commissioner Willett. Mr. Willett, who retired from the police department in 2002, lost his battle with lung cancer and died on April 12. He was 71 years old.

Mr. Willett was born in Glen Cove on May 4, 1931. After graduating from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and served a four-year term during the Korean Conflict. Upon his return, Mr. Willett pursued a career in law enforcement and, in 1953, worked as one of the first African-American beat cops in Garden City Park.

In 1957, he married his wife, Floretta, and by the early 1960s the couple moved to Westbury. Over the years, as their family grew to include seven children, so did Mr. Willett's career with the department. He spent a great deal of the 1960s and 1970s working with the department's Community Relations Bureau. In 1981 he was named deputy chief of patrol and 11 years later, in 1992, was one of three candidates considered for commissioner, but was passed over. In 1994, Mr. Willett was named first deputy commissioner of police and in 2000, then-County Executive Thomas Gulotta named him commissioner.

"I thought I would stall out at first deputy commissioner, which was quite an achievement," Mr. Willett said during a March 2000 interview with Anton Community Newspapers. "However, for my last years in the police department, it is great to be able to undertake the ultimate challenge."

"He loved cops, loved police work," said Inspector Patrick O'Connor, commanding officer of the 1st Precinct. "He was very protective of his cops, always looking out for their welfare and was always concerned. If he knew you had a problem he would ask about it and was there to listen and, if asked, lend advice."

O'Connor added, "He was probably the fairest man I know. I can't say enough nice things about him."

Inspector Peter Matuza, commanding officer of the 6th Precinct, agreed, saying, "He was like a father figure, always looking out for us. He was a cop's cop."

Matuza worked with Mr. Willett several times throughout his career, beginning in 1973 when as a police officer, Matuza was assigned to the 5th Precinct under Inspector Willett and again in 2000 when, as commissioner, Mr. Willett drafted Matuza to be his public relations officer. "He was a wonderful man and extremely fair boss," said Matuza. "He remembered everybody. If you worked with him 20, 25 years ago he remembered your name, and not just your last name, he remembered your first name too."

According to Gary DelaRaba, president of the Police Benevolent Association (PBA), Mr. Willett was "A class act. A perfect gentleman, good leader and probably one of the wisest men I have ever met on this job. He always remembered where he came from and where he was going."

County Executive Thomas Suozzi, who had the pleasure of working with Mr. Willett for the first four months of his term, said the late police commissioner will be remembered fondly for, "His commitment to the force and his ability as a leader [to] help shape the department into one of the premier police forces in the country."

Suozzi also said, "William Willett's legacy of professionalism, fairness and determination will serve as a model for Nassau County police for generations to come. With a distinguished career that spanned 30 years, Commissioner Willett witnessed firsthand Nassau's transformation from a sleepy community into a modern suburb, complete with many of the problems inherent in an urban city."

Nassau County Legislator Joseph Scannell, chair of the Public Safety Commission, said, "I had the highest respect for him as a person and it was an honor to work with him. [His death] is a tremendous loss for Nassau County."

Commissioner Cipullo added, "He was a true professional and a good friend who will be sorely missed."

Mr. Willett is survived by his wife, Floretta; sons Blake Willett of West Babylon and Daniel Willett of Westbury; daughters Theresa Willett and Rachell Willett, both of Westbury; brothers, George of Winston-Salem, NC, and John; and sister Elsie Drewery of Glen Cove.


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