By Michele Justic
Cedarhurst did not simply lose a mayor. We lost a great man, a mensch, someone who embodied the ideals of the Greatest Generation. Through his strong work ethic, endless optimism, and love for people, Mayor Andrew J. Parise–a war hero, a statesman, and a beloved figure in the community–transformed Cedarhurst into the bustling, beautiful, safe, clean village it is today.
Parise was born in 1924 and was raised with his five siblings in Inwood. Andrew walked each day to the #4 school on Wanser Avenue, sharing the street with horses and trolleys. Though we think of Cedarhurst as the love of his life, after high school, Parise became engaged to his longtime sweetheart, Lillian Oliviero. World War II delayed their marriage plans until he returned home from his service in 1945.
His patriotism was evident early on as Andy served his country during World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, in France, Belgium, and Luxemburg. Mayor Parise often spoke of his experience liberating the Buchenwald concentration camp. “When we got to Buchenwald, there were no people left living .Â .Â . only open trenches and skeletons,” said Parise. “General Eisenhower wanted us soldiers to enter Buchenwald and be witnesses to the atrocities of Hitler and the Nazis .Â .Â . this way no one could say it never happened.” Parise was awarded many medals of valor, including the Purple Heart for his bravery.
Mayor Parise and his wife, Lillian, raised three children in Cedarhurst: Andrew Jr., Louise Anne, and David. He was well loved by his neighbors, including prominent leaders of the community.
Rav Binyamin Kamenetsky, shlita, enthuses, “Andy has been a neighbor and a friend for more than 57 years, ever since I moved in to the neighborhood nearly 60 years ago. He embraced me and my family and supported every endeavor that we undertook, whether it was in the Yeshiva of South Shore, the fledgling Young Israel of Woodmere and of Lawrence—Cedarhurst and the shteibel, and every good cause in the community.”
Sanitary District 1 Commissioner Irving Kaminetsky remarks on his great loss: “He was one of my biggest supporters. I will miss him very much. He brought the concerts to Cedarhurst Park and music to the entire Five Towns. He will be remembered forever, may he rest in peace. We will never have a mayor like Mayor Andy Parise. My wife Sylvia remembers his wife, Lillian, taking our kids off the bus in North Woodmere. She will now be reunited with her Andy.”
Mayor Parise began his career in public service with the Town of Hempstead, where he worked for 40 years as chief of staff under seven town supervisors. His colleagues remember him fondly for his dedication and gentle manner. Supervisor Kate Murray comments, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Parise family. He was a true American hero and an iconic figure. I was proud to call him a friend.” Senior Councilman Anthony J. Santino echoes her sentiment. “Mayor Andy Parise was a true American hero. He was a giant of a man who was beloved by his village and by the thousands of friends and colleagues whose lives he touched so deeply through countless acts of caring, generosity, and kindness. Sadly, his passing leaves a void in our hearts and in our community,” Santino said.
Town of Hempstead Councilman Bruce Blakeman also expressed his appreciation of the mayor, saying, “Cedarhurst Mayor Andy Parise radiated a love for all people and a rock-solid commitment to good government during his more than four decades in public service. I will miss Andy’s smile, kind words, and sage advice. He was a true gentleman, a strong leader, and a quintessential American patriot. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Special assistant to the Town of Hempstead Avi Fertig remarks on his “warm, fond memories of Mayor Andy Parise .Â .Â . his humility, strength, and kindness, his guidance, encouragement, and friendship. Rest in peace, Mayor. As are countless others, I’m a better person for having known you. I will truly miss you.”
Parise truly made his mark as mayor of Cedarhurst. He became mayor in 1995, serving at his desk in Village Hall until the last moments of his life. As County Legislator Howard J. Kopel notes, “As the mayor of Cedarhurst for the past two decades, Mayor Parise’s unwavering leadership was evident in the fact that he could be found behind his desk in his Cedarhurst Village Hall office virtually every day. The high quality of life enjoyed by Village of Cedarhurst residents, and that which attracts tens of thousands of annual visitors to Cedarhurst’s famed Central Avenue shopping district, is a direct result of Mayor Parise’s personal involvement in every facet of the Village of Cedarhurst’s day-to-day operations. I always appreciated Mayor Parise’s warm smile and wise words. I know I speak for multitudes when I say he will be truly missed.”
Cedarhurst Village Trustee Ari Brown comments, “Mayor Parise was so many things to me–mentor, confidant, political adviser .Â .Â . most of all, he was my dear friend. When I moved into Cedarhurst 24 years ago with my wife Sandra and baby Aliza, there were few, if any, baby carriages around town. I remember a few years later sitting with the mayor when he told me how thrilled he was to finally see mothers and fathers once again pushing strollers throughout town. This is what Andy was all about–friends and family, a close-knit community where neighbors are happy to see one another, working, playing, and raising families together as one big family. That is, after all, what Cedarhurst is all about. I will miss him more than words can express.”
Those who worked closest with the mayor enjoyed the experience greatly. Village Administrator Salvatore Evola notes, “The man was one of the kindest people to meet. Always a gentleman. It’s been a pleasure working with him all these years.”
Parise’s closest assistant, JoMarie Capone, was truly his right hand. She worked with the mayor for 20 years and saw how many people he helped. “He would come in around 9 or 10 in the morning and wouldn’t leave until 8 or 9 o’clock p.m. He came in on Saturdays and Sundays. This was his whole life. He loved Cedarhurst. It was his heart and soul. He would do anything for the village and anything for the people that reside there.”
Capone continues, “He got along with everybody. The village will never be the same. He would go out every night and see what lights are out. He would ride through the park and the playground and check on the equipment. In snowstorms, he would be on the trucks with the guys to make sure every street was salted.”
Capone appreciated the transformation of Cedarhurst under his leadership. “Back in 1995, Cedarhurst Park [now named in the mayor’s honor] was nothing but a few benches and ball fields. The first thing he did was put up the gazebo. The concert program came next. Everyone in Cedarhurst would come together as one. No matter what nationality. Young to old. He wanted everyone to enjoy.” All of the community has benefited from the equipment, water park, swings, and other features of the park, the centerpiece of the Village of Cedarhurst.
Parise also paid particular attention to the beautification of Central Avenue. In this, he worked closely with Cedarhurst Business Improvement District director Teri Schure, who comments, “It was a great privilege over the years to work with Mayor Parise on behalf of the BID and the Cedarhurst business community. Mayor Parise understood the importance of having a vital retail business sector in the Village, and he was always devoted to making Cedarhurst the best that it could be. On a personal level, he had an incredible wealth of knowledge, and I was fascinated by the stories he told, including those related to his World War II experience and about the rich history of the Village of Cedarhurst. Mayor Parise has left behind a rich harvest of memories to cherish, honor, and emulate.”
Another vital partner in enhancing the quality of life is the Auxiliary Police. Commanding officer of the Fourth Precinct, Deputy Inspector Danny Gluck, proudly recalls, “I not only worked with him; I’ve known the mayor for a good 30 years. We became very close on a personal, business, and professional level. I’ve owned businesses in Cedarhurst and I’ve worked with him with the Police Department. The mayor has been very good to us over the years. He’s supported us on everything we’ve done. If not for him, our unit wouldn’t be where it is today.” Gluck continues, “He wasn’t just the mayor of Cedarhurst. He was the Five Towns mayor. I’ve been in the Five Towns over half a century. I’ve seen how the neighborhood has changed over the years. He gets all the credit for that.”
Anessa Cohen, a well-known realtor in town for 20 years and a popular columnist for the Five Towns Jewish Times comments, “He is not going to be easy to replace. He was a guy who got along with everyone.”
It is unique to find someone about whom only more goodness is uncovered with each encounter. Religious leaders concur that Mayor Parise was a gift to the community.
Five Towns Jewish Times columnist and rav of the Chofetz Chaim Center, Rabbi Aryeh Ginzberg, notes, “I always found him to be very respectful of rabbis. One time I went to his office to meet with him and the chairs in his office were temporarily replaced with folding chairs during renovations. He insisted on carrying in a more comfortable chair for me to sit on despite my objections. He said, ‘My rabbi doesn’t sit in a folding chair if I can do anything about it.’”
Director of Chabad of the Five Towns and one of the founders of the Levi Yitzchak Library, Rabbi Zalman Wolowik worked with Parise on many occasions over the years and is truly grief-stricken over the great loss. He remarks, “For 20 years, he was my friend and advocate, and everyone in the community feels the same way. He respected everyone. No one has a negative word to say about him.” Rabbi Wolowik continues, “The mayor’s favorite thing to say was, ‘Some people in authority express power by saying no. I express it by saying yes.’ Anything that benefited the community, he encouraged. He always stuck to the law but did whatever he could to help. He lived and breathed public service.”
Mayor Parise helped Rabbi Wolowik in every way–the opening of the Chabad house, the opening of the Levi Yitzchak Library, the many events held in the park, and the placement of a public menorah in the park. The mayor came to the rabbi’s sukkah many times and even visited him every day when he was sitting shivah for his son, Levi. Rabbi Wolowik notes he offered to honor the mayor at the Chabad dinner but he did not accept honors. He continues, “He is the furthest thing from a politician; he never cared about himself.”
Rabbi Wolowik concludes that as an expression of hakaras ha’tov, the community should come out to pay respects at the upcoming wake at the Perry Funeral Home, Union Avenue in Lynbrook, on Wednesday, February 11, and Thursday, February 12 2:00—4:00 p.m. and 7:00—9:00 p.m. The funeral will take place at St. Joachim’s Church in Cedarhurst on Friday, February 13 at 10:00 a.m. Arrangements are being made to possibly offer a live broadcast from the nearby Kulanu building.
Rabbi Wolowik notes that you didn’t have to “know somebody” to get something done in Cedarhurst. Mayor Parise helped everyone, as can be seen from this letter to the editor from Israel Root: “The mayor was the kindest, warmest, and friendliest person I ever met. Mayor Parise was a gentle soul who received everyone with open arms. I came to his office several times asking questions about WWII since my dad was a vet, too. We shared stories. He never said ‘I have to go,’ ‘I have no time,’ or ‘Come back later.’ He made time. We lost a legend! We lost an honest and sincere public official who cared for everybody. The mayor is going to be sorely missed.”
Everyone who has memories to share of the mayor is encouraged to eâ€‘mail firstname.lastname@example.org so the Five Towns Jewish Times can compile them into a fitting tribute to the legacy of this great man.
It should be noted the village is still in capable hands. Acting Mayor Ben Weinstock is working closely with village trustees Ron Lanzilotta, Ari Brown, and Myrna Zisman and members of the administration Sal Evola, Jerry Levenberg, and JoMarie Capone to keep the village running smoothly. Elections are planned for March. However, although we can vote for a new mayor, Andrew Parise will never be replaced.