The Krupinskis Loved East Hampton

Generosity and community spirit were embedded characteristics
Norman Peck, the late Parrish Art Museum trustee, with Ben Krupinski during the construction of the new museum building in Water Mill. Philip Schmerbeck

The deaths in Saturday’s small-plane accident of Ben and Bonnie Krupinski, their grandson, William Maerov, and Jon Dollard, a pilot who worked for Mr. Krupinski, claimed headlines as a harrowing tragedy. Yet beyond the raw shock for a relatively small town, the Krupinskis’ sudden absence resonated among a broad swath of intersecting communities.

The four were aboard a twin-engine Piper aircraft, headed to East Hampton Airport from Newport, R.I., when it crashed into the Atlantic off Amagansett’s Indian Wells Beach. Bodies of two of the victims were recovered quickly; those of the two others had not been found as of yesterday.

Less than a year ago, Mr. Maerov planned a joint surprise 70th birthday party for the Krupinskis. The ruse to get them there was an invitation to dinner at Martha Stewart’s Lily Pond Lane house, which Mr. Krupinski had renovated. It worked.

Like his future wife, Bernard Krupinski grew up here, a son of a shopkeeper whose store on Springs-Fireplace Road in East Hampton as far back as the 1940s was known as Benny’s. 

Mrs. Krupinski was a daughter of Peter and Mary Bistrian, one of seven siblings in an Amagansett family that had the great foresight to buy up land in East Hampton, Amagansett, and on Napeague early on. They met, according to local lore, in high school and became sweethearts. 

After a few years of college, Mr. Krupinski worked in Pete Bistrian’s sand and gravel business before going into the construction of houses. 

Mrs. Krupinski attended college briefly, then returned to have her first child and help her mom with her younger siblings. She then worked in the family business, over time becoming the family’s no-nonsense force who could simply get things done. Her sister Barbara Borg of East Hampton said that of all the children it was Bonnie who was most like her father.

The first Bistrians in East Hampton, Mrs. Borg said, were her grandparents, who came as farmers in the early 20th century, buying land on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. Their house remains in the family.

Mrs. Krupinski drifted into keeping an eye on local government in the late 1970s, as her father battled to open a golf course designed by Ben Crenshaw on land he owned on high ground north of Amagansett.

Over the years, she was a frequent presence at East Hampton Town meetings, sometimes articulating positions at odds with officials. She never contemplated seeking elected office, Mrs. Borg said, though at the time of her death she was a member of the town’s airport management advisory committee.

With her help, her husband built his business into a multifaceted company, with enterprises including an aircraft services company and restaurants such as the highly acclaimed 1770 House and Cittanuova in East Hampton and East Hampton Point, a restaurant, hotel, and marina on Three Mile Harbor.

As their companies prospered, the Krupinskis became philanthropists, donating the labor and often the materials for a range of projects. These included the Parsons House in Springs, which houses the hamlet’s library, the Amagansett Life-Saving Station, a major renovation of Guild Hall in East Hampton, and the reconstruction of the Amagansett Presbyterian Church’s Scoville Hall after it was destroyed in a fire.

Perhaps Ben Krupinski Builder’s most visible project was the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, designed by Herzog and de Meuron Architects and completed in 2012. In a statement, Terrie Sultan, the museum’s director, said, “We could not have succeeded without Ben’s principled guidance, and more important, his commitment and friendship in seeing this beautiful and complex project through to completion.”

“Ben Krupinski and the team at BKB worked so closely with the architects at Herzog and de Meuron and the Parrish staff and trustees, that the entire project was like one big family,” she said.

Richard Plotkin, one of Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski’s many East Hampton friends, said, “They are two of the most outstanding people I have ever had the privilege of associating with. They will surely be missed by all.” They were, he said, early supporters of the Max Cure Foundation, Mr. Plotkin’s family’s childhood cancer foundation.

Mr. Plotkin recalled a story told to him by Jim Stewart, the former East Hampton High School soccer coach, about what happened when the team was invited to participate in a tournament in Florida. 

Word got out that the parents of the players would have to pay for travel, room, and board, which was well beyond the means of most of the families.  Mr. Krupinski, after learning of the situation, reached out to Coach Stewart and asked how much was needed to cover the costs. He then wrote a check for the full amount, allowing the team to participate.

Among Mr. Krupinski’s lesser-known recent efforts was donating his services for the restoration of the George Fowler house, a Montaukett Indian’s home near where he had grown up on Springs-Fireplace Road.

Lona Rubenstein, a longtime East Hampton political consultant, remembered the Krupinkis as “the finest kind,” a localism for people and things held in high esteem.

“I am in shock and filled with great sadness at the loss of Ben and Bonnie Krupinski, their grandson William Maerov, and pilot Jon Dollard in yesterday’s tragic accident,” East Hampton Town Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said. “Ben and Bonnie’s influence and generosity reached every corner of our community. They were fully committed to East Hampton, and they will be sorely missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with them, their friends, and family.”

Kathleen M. Doyle, a part-time East Hampton resident who is the chairwoman of the auction house Doyle New York, said that her family was devastated by the news of their deaths and those of Mr. Maerov and Mr. Dollard.

“They were good friends and such charitable and honorable people. Ben built two houses for our family. We are heartbroken at East Hampton’s loss. Ben was not just a builder of houses, he was a builder of our community,” she said.

Ruth Appelhof, who was the director of Guild Hall during the renovation, mourned what she called a terrible loss and said she was thankful for what Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski had done to make East Hampton vibrant and beautiful for years to come.

Ben and Bonnie Krupinski, both 70, were flying from Newport, R.I., to East Hampton with their grandson, William Maerov, when the plane crashed off Amagansett. Durell Godfrey