Susan M. Vitale, Food Truck Pioneer

Dec. 28, 1958 - Dec. 01, 2017
Susan M. Vitale, Dec. 28, 1958 - Dec. 01, 2017

Susan Vitale died on Friday, surrounded by family members and close friends, at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue. She had been diagnosed with cancer approximately 18 months before her death.  

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday morning at 11. Due to the large number of family, friends, and community members expected to attend, the service will be held at St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church in Montauk, instead of the smaller Montauk Community Church, to which Ms. Vitale belonged. Bill Hoffmann, a minister at the Montauk Community Church, will officiate. 

Coming from a family of nine children, Ms. Vitale was always comfortable working with groups, and was often a galvanizing force in community projects in her adopted home town of Montauk. In 2015, she was part of a Montauk initiative called 12 Women that installed a walking-meditation labyrinth near Navy Beach; at the time, other participants referred to her as the group’s “Mother Earth.” With the Montauk Community Garden, she helped organize the sale of bouquets and vegetables at the farmers market, with profits in turn being donated to the food pantry. After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, she showed up barefoot to help the Montauk Shellfish Company salvage its damaged oyster-farming equipment.

She was born in the Bronx on Dec. 28, 1958 to Anthony and Marie Vitale and attended Saint Boniface Elementary School and then Elmont Memorial High School, after the family moved there. During a visit to Montauk in 1998, she was struck by the hamlet’s beauty and moved there soon after, securing a job at Gurney’s Inn. In 2000, she opened one of the first food trucks on the East End, the Gin Beach Wagon, which she parked in the lot off East Lake Drive in Montauk. Later, she also opened a small health food store near Gin Beach.

According to Shannon Cuppola, who said Ms. Vitale was “like a mom to me,” she was particularly passionate about gardening and loved to be around children. She made regular visits to the Montauk School in recent years to teach kindergartners and first graders about planting and nature. She also, Ms. Cuppola said, had a particular soft spot for animals, especially elephants. “It wasn’t unusual to find Susan cooking and feeding others — she was generous in sharing her knowledge, her heart, and her spirituality,” wrote Ms. Cuppola. “She was an angel on Earth and will continue to be in the afterlife.”

Ms. Vitale is survived by her mother, who lives in Jericho, as well as seven siblings: John, Maryanne, Anthony, Tommy, Theresa, Joie Marie, and Michael Vitale, all of whom live on Long Island. Her sister Geri Marie Vitale and her father died before her. 

The family has asked that donations be made to the East End Foundation, P.O. Box 1746, Montauk 11954, or to the lighting of the Lighthouse, P.O. Box 44, Montauk 11954.
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Correction: An earlier version of this obituary, which appeared in print and online, gave the incorrect date for Ms. Vitale's memorial service. It will be held on Saturday at 11 a.m.