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Valley Stream mourns former mayor

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Ralph Greco’s life was about service. A veteran of the Ninth Air Force during World War II, he was on the Village of Valley Stream board of trustees before serving as mayor, from 1983 to 1987.

After a lifetime of service, Greco died on Sept. 21 in Framingham, Mass. He was 97.

“He served his country, his community and his family well,” said former Mayor John DeGrace. “Ralph Greco happened to be a very good person.”

Greco was born in Brooklyn on Dec. 11, 1921, and attended New Utrecht High School in Brooklyn before enlisting in the U.S. Army Air Force. He lived most of his life in Valley Stream, where he and his wife, Adele, raised five children. They were active members of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, played sports and attended picnics at the Valley Stream State Park. Greco was also the president and a longtime board member of the Valley Stream Mail League, and a member of the Knights of Columbus, St. Therese the Little Flower Council 2622.

He worked at Gulf Oil, Metropolitan Life and Independence Bank. In his free time, he supported the Association for the Help of Retarded Children, an organization that is “committed to ensuring people with intellectual and developmental disabilities lead self-directed lives and reach their full potential,” according to the nonprofit organization’s website. Greco got involved in the organization after the birth of his daughter, Diane, who had Down syndrome and was nonverbal, his son Ralph Jr. said

“That’s what he did primarily, was support that organization and everything it stood for,” the younger Greco said. He added that Diane attended Camp Anchor in Lido Beach, and that his father supported that organization as well. The camp is an initiative of the Town of Hempstead’s ANCHOR program (Answering the Needs of Citizens with Handicaps through Organized Recreation), which offers programs for the town’s special-needs children and adults.

“He was supportive of each and every one of those organizations,” Ralph Jr. said.

In 1979, Greco ran for village trustee, along with former Trustee John Mastromarino. DeGrace, who knew Greco from the Knights of Columbus and the Mail League, supported his campaign because he “thought he would be an outstanding elected official in the village,” he said.

Greco served on the board of trustees until his election as mayor in 1983. He served as mayor until 1987, when he left public office, but he continued to be active in the community until his retirement in 2003. According to Mastromarino, Greco’s outstanding qualities as a public servant included his willingness to listen to everyone’s problems and his efforts to help resolve them.

“He was a family figure that just made you feel very comfortable,” Mastromarino said. “He was kind of a loving, fatherly kind of person.”

Mastromarino added that as mayor, Greco continued to “be concerned about the village and doing the best for the residents.”

During his tenure as mayor, Greco was the focus of controversy for his support for turning Carl Hopple’s Restaurant on Merrick Road into a senior housing facility.

He also hired current Mayor Edwin Fare to work part-time in the Building Department. Fare said he remembered Greco as “a very honorable man.”

In 2003, Greco moved to Framingham, Mass., where he lived in a managed care facility. Despite his distance from Valley Stream, he talked politics with the staff.

“He was always a politician, even up there,” his son joked.

His wife, Adele, and daughter, Diane, predeceased him. He is survived by four children, Gail Barbaro, Lynn Werheim, Wayne Greco and Ralph Greco Jr.; 11 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren.

A burial service was scheduled for Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Pinelawn Cemetery in Farmingdale.