Written by Joe Rizza Friday, 27 November 2009 10:40
Elmont School Board President Frank Ragona died suddenly of an apparent heart attack on Wednesday, Nov. 18. Ragona was a proud father and loving husband and was deeply dedicated to education in the Elmont community.
“The loss to the community I don’t think can accurately be put into words. You always hear stories of how somebody loved the community and was for the kids. That doesn’t even come close to describing the passion that Frank had for the students and the community of Elmont,” said fellow Elmont School Board member Anthony S. Maffea, Sr.
Ragona grew up in Floral Park and graduated from Martin Van Buren High School, after which he became an emergency medical technician (EMT), and a phlebotomist at Long Island Jewish Hospital. For the past several years he has worked for New York Blood Services.
In 1986, Ragona and his wife Rosalie moved to Elmont. He and Rosalie had a daughter Francesca and a son Matthew. Ragona had a deep caring for all the children in the Elmont community. He also believed in community involvement.
In the school community, Ragona served as president of the Covert Avenue School PTA and the Sewanhaka High School PTA. He was also a member of the Elmont Dad’s Club and an active parishioner at the St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church.
In his involvement in the community, Ragona attended numerous community functions and always seemed to greet people with a smile on his face. “We’ll remember his sense of humor, his generosity of spirit and his kindness,” said longtime Elmont School Board attorney Colum Nugent. “One of the remarkable things about him was the fact that he was happy. It’s strange; you don’t run into that many happy people. He first loved his family. He loved his children. He loved his wife. He loved his job and he loved the community.”
Ragona’s dedication to the school community can be traced back to times well before he became a school board member. In 1999, for example, the Elmont School Board and administration felt they needed more space in the schools to alleviate overcrowding. A bond referendum was formulated and Ragona was there to push the referendum, which was ultimately successful, to add more space to the Elmont schools.
In 2006, Ragona decided to run for the Elmont Board of Education and was successful. He served on the board ever since and was just re-elected this past May. In 2008, his colleagues on the board elected him president of the board of education.
“Mr. Ragona was a born leader. He dedicated his life to the Elmont community. His infectious smile and “can do” attitude warmed the hearts of all who knew him and who had the privilege to serve with him,” wrote Elmont Superintendent of Schools Al Harper in “A Message From Al Harper” on the district’s website.
Friend Patrick Nicolosi, who serves on the Elmont Library Board, said he talked to Ragona on the morning he died. The two friends hung up the phone the way they always did by saying, “Keep me posted.”
“He just had so much energy and so much enthusiasm for this community. It was beyond belief,” Nicolosi said. “It’s a great loss to the community. I don’t know how we’re going to continue. I know we will in his honor, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Ragona’s loss leaves a big hole in the Elmont community. “I feel like I’ve been kicked in the gut,” said Maffea.
“Liz and I are deeply saddened to learn of Frank Ragona’s passing. Frank was one of the good guys. He believed in Elmont and worked tirelessly on behalf of his community and its children,” said New York State Senator Craig Johnson of his wife Elizabeth Kase and himself. “The Elmont School Board, Elmont’s civic community, and Nassau County as a whole lost a true champion who I will miss very much. The entire Ragona family will be in our thoughts and prayers during this very trying time.”
While those who knew Ragona the best are feeling the effects of his loss, they believe he is still watching over Elmont. Said Nicolosi, “I know what he’s doing right now; he’s in heaven and he’s at a committee meeting with a bunch of angels. That’s Frank.”