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Former Mayor Left A Legacy In Glen Cove

Joseph M. Reilly, 85, former mayor and assemblyman, passed away last month

Last month, Glen Cove lost a man who helped make the city what it is today. Joseph M. Reilly, former assemblyman and mayor of Glen Cove, devoted a large part of his life to improving Glen Cove and preserving most of the green spaces residents now cherish. He died on Sept. 23, at the age of 85, after battling an illness.

“He loved Glen Cove, was born and raised here, and utilized everything it has to offer, from the parks to the golf course to the beaches,” said daughter Nassau Supreme Court Justice Margaret Reilly.

She said her father was instrumental in securing the 204-acre Welwyn Preserve, establishing the Glen Cove Golf Course, and having Garvies Point purchased by the county.

Her father was a teacher for the North Shore School District for 10 years, and was elected mayor to the City of Glen Cove in 1961. He served from 1962-1966, when he was elected to the New York State Assembly, where he served for 16 years, until 1982. He then became commissioner of general services for Nassau County, a position he held for 10 years, until his retirement in 1992. Until 2003, Reilly was the chairman of the Glen Cove Republican Party.

Reilly enlisted in the U.S. Navy while a senior in high school, and then returned to graduate from Glen Cove High School after a short stint. A man who excelled in athletics, Reilly lettered in varsity football, basketball and track while at Glen Cove High School and then played for the Glen Cove A.A. semi-pro football team. He was inducted into the Glen Cove Sports Hall of Fame.

Reilly attended Rider College in New Jersey on a football scholarship, receiving a bachelor of science degree in education, then returned to Glen Cove and enrolled at Hofstra University, graduating with a master’s degree in administration in 1953. While at North Shore, Reilly organized the district’s first football team and became its coach in 1955. Around the same time, he also helped organize the first Midget football league in the City of Glen Cove.

Justice Reilly stressed that, despite the notoriety he gained in his role as a politician, her father never lost sight of the importance of making his hometown a better place and making sure his four children also took full advantage of Glen Cove’s amenities.

“He never belonged to a private club, and he made us take advantage of what the city had to offer, from swimming lessons at Pryibil Beach to tennis lessons at Stanco Park…he made sure we utilized services just like everybody else,” Justice Reilly said.

She said her father was very proud to see her become a Nassau County Supreme Court Justice.

“He was a big influence in my life,” she reflected, adding, “He helped me get involved in politics, and never thought that just because I am a woman it should stop me from succeeding.”