Great Neck lost a good friend last Tuesday morning, April 3, when long-time resident and prominent local official Andrew Imperatore died, following a long illness. A former mayor of the Village of Great Neck, Mr. Imperatore had just recently retired from over 21 years of service as a commissioner of the Great Neck Park District. And these were just two of the public service positions he held over the years.
He was a special man. ''I have known Andy Imperatore as a commissioner and public official for over two decades. During his time in public service, Andy always took the high road,'' said Richard Arenella, superintendent of the Great Neck Park District, a long time friend. ''No matter what the political consequences of his decisions, he made them with great thought and honesty. Andy Imperatore's legacy to his family, the Great Neck Park District, and all of the residents of the Great Neck peninsula will not be forgotten. He will always be loved.''
Even though Park Commissioner Ruth Tamarin served only a short time with Mr. Imperatore, she too had words of praise. ''Andrew Imperatore was a man who cared,'' she said. ''His contribution to this community will long be remembered. He was actively involved in local politics, the school district, the Elks, the Lions, and the North Shore Child and Family Association. He served as a park district commissioner from 1979 to 2000. I was privileged to serve with him for a short part of that time. His legacy to the park district is one that will last forever. His foresight and dedication were an example to all who served with him.''
Fellow commissioner William Dobkin is already missing Andy Imperatore. Mr. Dobkin stated that ''In the last few years we held fast to the hope that Andy would return and resume his leadership role on the board. Even when he made his decision to retire, we expected to benefit from his guidance, his strength, and his wisdom. Now, in making decisions, I can only ask, 'What would Andy do in this situation?' ''
On Jan. 17, Mr. Imperatore retired from his park board post, and although he was unable to attend that evening's ceremony, a large gathering of park district employees, former park commissioners, local officials, family, and friends gathered for a formal ''thank you'' to a very special man. His park board history is impressive: he was first appointed to the park commission in 1979, and then successfully ran for re-election for seven consecutive terms, serving the Great Neck Park District for a total of 21-1/2 years. During that time, Mr. Imperatore diligently provided recreation facilities and programs for the youth, families and senior citizens of Great Neck and was responsible for helping in projects involving building and improving many facilities within the park district.
His park district legacy spreads throughout the park district, from fellow park commissioners to park staff to park district members. Dorina Martakis, secretary to the board of commissioners said of her former boss, ''I will never forget his patience, knowledge, and great fortitude. For JoAnne Rosenfeld, administrative assistant to the superintendent of parks, this is a real loss: ''I thought the world of Mr. Imperatore. He was a wonderful, caring person --- a true gentleman, a class act. I will certainly miss him.''
For the Village of Great Neck, his involvement is just as impressive. First serving as a member of the village's board of zoning and appeals, he went on to join the village's board of trustees, and eventually served for four years as mayor.
The entire Great Neck community benefited from Andrew Imperatore's expertise as he extended his efforts to a diverse group of organizations: a local chairman of the N.Y. State Mayors Disaster Relief Fund; past-president of the PTA of the E.M. Baker School; United Parent/Teacher Council representative; chairman of the Adult Education Advisory Committee; past-Exalted Ruler of the Elks; past-president of the Great Neck Lions Club; past-cabinet secretary of Lions International; former director of the Great Neck United Community Fund; president of the North Shore Guidance Association; a member of the board of directors of the Great Neck Student Aid Fund; and a recipient of the Jessie Market Man-of-the Year Award.
Prior to his long years of service to his community, Mr. Imperatore served his country during World War II in the Air Force. Bravely, and proudly, he flew four combat missions, for which he received eight combat decorations.
Andrew Imperatore is survived by his wife, Linda Brown Imperatore, and his eight children and 24 grandchildren.