Longtime Five Towns resident Phil Mistero is being remembered as a strong and loving man who cared deeply about his family and his community. Mistero died on Feb. 5, at age 77, of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
“He was a tough guy with a heart of gold, who was never tough with us at home,” said his daughter, Laura Mistero. “Growing up in Cedarhurst, he was the best dad ever. He was generous, and taught us to be fair and understand every side of a situation.”
Phil grew up in Inwood and was very sports-oriented, said his younger brother, Frank, the current Inwood Republican leader. Another brother, Jesse, who died in 2009, was the previous local GOP leader. “Phil played softball, he played football at Lawrence High School and he was a Golden Gloves boxer,” Frank said. “He trained with Hurricane Jackson” — a heavyweight who fought from 1951 to 1961.
Mistero was a featherweight when he boxed as a 17- and 18-year-old. “He was a tough guy,” Frank said. “He would fight at the Cedarhurst arena — the whole family would watch him box. He was very physical.”
After graduating from high school, Phil worked in the family’s landscaping business, Mistero and Sons. Later on he owned the now closed Side Street Café in Cedarhurst.
The community-oriented Mistero was a longtime member of Peninsula Kiwanis. “He was a very dedicated Kiwanian — I can’t tell you how much work he put into it,” said Frank Basile, a past president of the club. “He was a great guy who did a lot of work clearing property for the child center in Inwood. He was unbelievable.”
In the 1970s and ’80s, Mistero served a number of terms as a fire commissioner of the Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire District. “He always looked out for the interests of the Fire Department and the public,” said LCFD Chief John McHugh. “He did an outstanding job each and every time.”
Eighteen years ago, Mistero became a commissioner of Sanitary District No. 1, which is responsible for collecting trash and recyclables in the Five Towns. For the past 10 years he was the district superintendent.
“I have known him all my life,” Cedarhurst Mayor Andrew Parise said of Mistero, who was a cousin of his. Parise also praised Mistero’s work as a Republican committeeman. “He was interested in the community he lived in,” he said, “and he will be missed by me.”
Mistero was living in Atlantic Beach when he died. And despite what Laura described as her father’s “terrible battle with ALS,” he continued to see the sunny side of life, she said, and doted on his grandchildren. “He would still say something to make you laugh and he enjoyed his grandchildren, who he saw every day,” she said.
In addition to his daughter and brother, Mistero is survived by his wife, Patricia, another daughter, Felicia Mistero-Sarnelli, and grandchildren Isabella and Vincent.
A funeral mass was held at St. Joachim R.C. Church in Cedarhurst on Feb 8. Mistero was interred at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.
“He was a very generous, loving husband and a very warm human being,” said Frank. “He will be sorely missed by all of us.”