Written by Betsy Abraham Wednesday, 25 December 2013 00:00
Joseph Pascarella Sr., long-time veterans’ advocate and Westbury resident, died Monday, Dec. 16 at 80 years old.
Pascarella was best known for his work helping Long Island veterans. At the time of his passing, he was Director of the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, a position he had held since October 2011.
Past county commander Andy Booth says Pascarella made many positive changes during his short time at the agency, including increasing transportation for veterans out east and making sure Eisenhower Park’s Veteran’s Memorial was well maintained.
“It’s not easy holding that job but Joe did a good job and made a lot of good changes,” says Booth. “The veterans ask for top quality and with Joe, they got top quality.
“He treated the veterans like they were his own family,” Booth continued. “He had an open door policy and was always willing to sit down and listen to them, and lead them in the right direction.”
Scott Castillo, Deputy Director of the Nassau County Veterans Service Agency, says Pascarella helped increase the amount of veterans claims processed from two to 10 million.
“Before, they had issues with the Veteran’s Service agencies,” Castillo notes. “When he came here, he put this office in the right direction. It turned around in just two years and now it’s one of the best.”
Castillo, who is now the agency’s interim director, worked closely with Pascarella and described him as a “father figure and mentor.”
“I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to work with his unique leadership style. He was rigid, but he got a lot of things done,” said Castillo. “He served in the Korean War and then continued to serve veterans here tirelessly. He epitomizes the American hero.”
Pascarella was a lifelong Westbury resident, born in Breezy Hill in 1933 to Anthony and Angelina Pascarella. After graduating from Westbury High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps on July 11, 1950 where he reported to Parris Island, South Carolina for recruit training. In April 1953, he was sent to Korea to serve with the 1st Battalion 7th Marine Division as a forward observer, where he encountered his first battle. After the war, Pascarella was honorably discharged in June 1954 with the rank of corporal. He joined the 2nd Battalion 25th Marines 4th Marine Division in Garden City in 1957, serving as Company First Sergeant with Headquarters and Service Company at the Garden City Reserve Unit. He retired after 27 years, attaining the Rank of Company First Sergeant.
In the ‘60s, Pascarella worked for the Village of Westbury and the Long Island Lighting Company, and also owned the Esso Gas Station in Westbury on Old Country Road. In March 1971, he joined the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department as a Corrections Officer. After retiring in 1996, he was elected trustee to the Westbury School Board and served one term as president.
Pascarella was a notable member of the community, active in many veterans and civic organizations, including the Knights of Columbus, Westbury Senior Citizens, Marine Corp. League, and Nassau County Veterans Advisory Committee. He also served as past commander of the Westbury VFW, president of the Sons of Italy and president of the Maria SS. Dell’Assunta Society. Pascarella was also instrumental in organizing Westbury’s Memorial Day Parade for many years and was the Master of Ceremonies every year.
“It was just part of what he did. He liked keeping himself busy and working for the community,” said Pascarella’s son, Joseph Jr. “He just wanted to help people. He was a Marine to the end. That was what he lived for.”
Pascarella met his wife, Marion Cassidy, in 1955 at a fire department parade in Westbury. The two were married May 18, 1957 and raised their five children in Westbury.
Pascarella is survived by Marion, his wife of 56 years, his five children, Marion Buffolino (Westbury), Maureen Doody (East Meadow), Joann Fresa (Westbury), Joseph Pascarella Jr., (Westbury) and Tom Pascarella (Westbury), eight grandchildren and one great grandchild.