Frank Salvatore LaBarbera of Springs, who was diagnosed with leukemia eight years ago, died at Stony Brook University Hospital on Saturday at the age of 48.
Mr. LaBarbera kept his sense of humor and positive spirit, his family said, despite his health issues. He had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a child and astounding resiliency throughout several remissions. In fact, said the family, his almost miraculous recoveries led hospital staff to nickname him Wonder Boy.
A family man, Mr. LaBarbera was a devoted father to his only child, Kaitlyn Haley LaBarbera. “His unflagging commitment to his daughter and nephews was a huge driving factor in his being reborn into manageable good health time and again,” the family wrote. “He was known for his strength of spirit, emotional buoyancy, unconquerable sense of humor, and ability to laugh instead of cry. He was a shining light to those who knew him, and a role model to his loved ones.”
Born on April 29, 1966, in Brooklyn, to Maria E. DelVecchio and the late Robert S. LaBarbera, Mr. LaBarbera grew up in Dix Hills and graduated from Half Hollow Hills High School West there.
After vacationing in Montauk with his parents, he moved to the South Fork with his wife and daughter 20 years ago. “He just loved family,” his mother said. “He was that old soul that always wanted to have a family. He was just that guy that everybody loved.”
For the past decade, he lived on Gardiner Avenue in Springs.
A car enthusiast, Mr. LaBarbera used to work in the parts department at Plitt Ford in Wainscott. For the past five yeas, he worked as a warranty claims specialist at the Mercedes Benz dealership in Southampton. In his spare time, he liked to go to Riverhead Raceway. He belonged to national car clubs.
In addition to his mother and daughter, both of whom live in Springs, he is survived by two sisters, Amy Davis and Grace Ann LaBarbera, also of Springs, and by three nephews to whom he was close. They are Thomas Davis of Manorville, Michael Davis of East Hampton, and Joseph Viola of Pottsdam, N.Y. A grandson, Dominic Salvatore LaBarbera, was born just five weeks ago.
A Mass and memorial service will be held at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton on Saturday at noon. Mr. LaBarbera will be cremated and his ashes distributed among his immediate family. His parting wish, the family said, was that “I want to always be there when everybody has dinner together.”
Memorial donations have been suggested for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, P.O. Box 4072, Pittsfield, Mass., 01202.