Kenny Preuss, the man with the smile in the Dune Doggie vending truck at Indian Wells beach in Amagansett during every summer for 28 years, died at Southampton Hospital on Oct. 30. He was 75, and had been diagnosed with bladder cancer a year ago.
Mr. Preuss treated all the kids at Indian Wells, a summertime gathering spot for many local families, as his own. He not only served them hot dogs and ice cream but got to know them and watched them grow up. “He’s seen almost three generations,” said his wife, Carole Preuss. “He knew everyone’s name.”
Not only that, but, she said, he watched over them and kept them in check. He knew their favorite treats and let them charge their orders, on the honor system.
The couple worked together at first at the Dune Doggie, where Ms. Preuss’s chili became a well-known dish. About seven years after they bought the truck, an ailment made it impossible for Ms. Preuss to keep going, and so Mr. Preuss continued on alone.
Ms. Preuss said he worked closely with a series of helpers in the truck, and had grown particularly close to the young man with whom he had worked for the last five years, Matt Morales.
Born in Glendale, Queens, on Sept. 30, 1937, he was the son of Julius and Madaline Preuss. He attended college for one year and served in the Army from 1962 to 1966.
In Queens, Mr. Preuss drove a bakery truck, delivering goods to hotels. After moving to Amagansett 30 years ago, he had a Snapple delivery route, transported items for the Barefoot Contessa grocery that was on Newtown Lane in East Hampton, and did odd jobs.
Once the Dune Doggie was launched, Ms. Preuss said, “That was it; his forte.”
His warmth and affability spread across the beach to his customers, who were quickly on a first-name basis with him. When word spread of his death this week, many local residents, though still coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, took the time to share photos and remembrances of him online, on Facebook.
Mr. Preuss enjoyed football and other sports, and loved his Chesapeake Bay retriever dogs. “They were his life,” Ms. Preuss said.
Besides his wife, with whom he spent three decades, he is survived by a brother, Thomas Preuss of Seaford. A stepdaughter, Dawn Fadel of Massapequa Park, who assisted him when he was ill, and a stepson, Joseph Ronessi of Queens, also survive, as does one nephew.
Mr. Preuss was cremated. A celebration of his life will be held at a future date. In keeping with his memory, it will feature Ms. Preuss’s famous chili, and hot dogs.
Donations to the East End Hospice have been suggested. They may be sent to P.O. Box 1048, Westhampton Beach 11978.