Farewell, Joseph Janoski, shaper of Riverhead Town

04/15/2010 12:00 AM |

Joe Janoski partaking in Election Day festivities in 1999.

Former Riverhead Town Supervisor Joe Janoski died Saturday at the age of 68.

Mr. Janoski, who died at his home in Wading River, served as town supervisor from 1980 to 1995, believed to be one of the longest tenures of any Riverhead supervisor.

A Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Friday at St. John the Baptist R.C. Church in Wading River. There will be no visiting hours and interment is private, according to longtime friend John Galla, who is serving as a spokesman for the Janoski family.

“He lived for his job as supervisor,” Mr. Galla said.

Mr. Janoski was born in Old Forge, Pa., on Dec. 28, 1941, and worked as an art teacher at Newfield High School in Selden, where he met Kenneth LaValle. Both men later worked as aides for state Senator Leon Giuffrida, and when Mr. LaValle was elected to the state Senate himself, Mr. Janoski served as an aide for him.

In 1979, Mr. Janoski ran for Riverhead Town supervisor as a Republican, defeating then-incumbent Democrat Allen Smith. He was re-elected many times afterward, although some of those elections were close.

He remained in office until 1995, and signed the state Pine Barrens Act, which needed town approval, as one of his last acts as supervisor. During his last few years as supervisor, he had several heart attacks and eventually stepped down on Jan. 15, 1995.

Mr. Janoski loved vintage cars and old-time music. He often drove his 1960 Mercury convertible, with its “Kennedy/Johnson” bumper sticker, in parades and at other events. He loved doo-wop music and Buddy Holly, and used to host a Holly tribute show on WLNG radio each year around the anniversary of the singer’s death, Mr. Galla said.

“He was a consummate politician,” said Vic Prusinowski, who was elected to the Town Board with Mr. Janoski in 1979 and served with him for all but four years of his tenure as supervisor. “He was very much part of the community.”

Mr. Janoski’s administrations were responsible for extending public water to much of the town in the 1980s after a Temik problem was reported in some private wells, Mr. Prusinowski said. Forever an artist, he was especially proud of designing the town seal, which is still in use. The former supervisor also was largely responsible for bringing businesses like Tanger Outlet Center to the town.

“People criticize us now, but when Grumman was moving out of town, the taxes would have gone up about 25 to 30 percent if we didn’t have Tanger to replace it,” Mr. Prusinowski said.

“He dedicated his life to the residents of Riverhead,” said Jim Stark, who served with Mr. Janoski as a councilman from 1990 to 1995 and later replaced him as supervisor.

“He was everywhere, and he liked people and, as a result, people liked him and re-elected him many times,” Mr. Stark said.

Mr. Janoski was instrumental in getting the federal government to turn over the former Grumman site in Calverton to Riverhead Town and, Mr. Stark said, was determined to clean up blighted sections of town.

At one point, Mr. Janoski operated a bulldozer himself to tear down a derelict building at 414 E. Main St. For years afterward, a toy bulldozer bearing the words “414 East Main” sat on his desk at Town Hall.

His health worsened in recent years, and he had been in and out of the hospital in the last few months.

Mr. Janoski is survived by his son, Jay, of Wading River, and a granddaughter. His mother, Genevieve, died Dec. 6 at the age of 91, and his father, Alex, died in 1963. Another son, Jared, was killed in a car accident in 1998.

Cards or remembrances can be sent to the Janoski family at 67 Leonard St., Wading River, NY 11792.

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