Joseph D. Policano

Dec. 15, 1933 - Jan. 27, 2017
Joseph D. Policano, Dec. 15, 1933 - Jan. 27, 2017

Joseph D. Policano of East Hampton, a retired public relations executive, was well known to regular readers of The East Hampton Star for his near-weekly letters to the editor over many years. He wrote about the generosity of people in a small town, politics, current affairs, and local issues, often engaging in a lively back-and-forth with a fellow letter writer or critiquing the paper’s editorials and reviews.

One such letter, disagreeing with a restaurant review by Laura Donnelly, led to an ongoing correspondence and eventually landed him a seat at the table with her during a review last March. “The idea was approved years ago but temporarily forgotten,” she wrote. “I would get the occasional email from him reminding me that I had made this offer, letting me know his food preferences, when and if he would be in town, and what he thought of such-and-such restaurant that he and his wife had just had the displeasure of dining at. Pierre’s. Lunch. Too expensive.”

They met at Manna in Water Mill.

“They loved Della Femina’s (‘but not his politics!’). They adored Gordon’s in Amagansett, and miss the ambiance of John Duck’s in Southampton. Cafe Max is nice, La Parmigiana in Southampton is considered a good value, and Tweeds in Riverhead is a favorite,” Ms. Donnelly recounted.

Mr. Policano died of complications of lung and kidney disease at Southampton Hospital on Friday. He was 83.

Born in Brooklyn on Dec. 15, 1933, to Angelo Policano and the former Marie Galardi, he grew up in Brooklyn, graduating from Boys High School and Brooklyn College. It was at college that he met and fell in love with Kathleen Larregui. After serving in the Army from 1954 to 1956, he married her on June 22, 1957. At the time, his family wrote, “their interracial marriage was illegal in 17 states.”

They raised two sons and a daughter in Brooklyn and Queens.

Mr. Policano ran his New York City firm, Joseph Policano Inc. Public Relations, for three decades. He began his career promoting tourism to Eastern Europe in the 1960s, and in the 1970s and ’80s represented some of the country’s largest pharmaceutical firms, including Sterling Drug and Bristol-Myers. He was also active in Democratic political organizations in southeast Queens.

After his retirement in 1988 at the age of 55, he joined the Peace Corps and served for a year in Bamako, Mali. His children were grown. His wife stayed behind, but met up with him at the end of the year to travel around Europe before he returned to the United States.

The couple had purchased a house in East Hampton’s Northwest Woods in 1978, and after his stint in the Peace Corps they left Laurelton, Queens, to live there full time.

“His passion, intellect, and sharp sense of humor were on regular display in the letters pages of The East Hampton Star, Newsday, and The New York Times, where he weighed in on topics as diverse as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Obamacare, and the closing of Cafe Max in East Hampton,” his family wrote.

He is survived by his wife and three children, Christopher Policano of Manhattan, Matthew Policano of Dallas, and Lisa Policano Pearson of Mamaroneck, and by five grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

A brother, Patrick Policano, and two sisters, Madeline Kramer and Joan Palisi, died before him.

A wake will be held on Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in East Hampton, with Mass to be said on Monday at 11 a.m. at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church in East Hampton. Burial will follow at the church cemetery on Cedar Street.

Contributions in his memory have been suggested to the East Hampton Food Pantry, P.O. Box 505, East Hampton 11937, or East Hampton Meals on Wheels, 33 Newtown Lane, #205, East Hampton.