The North Fork says goodbye to John Romanelli

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Family members carry out Mr. Romanelli's casket after the Saturday morning service.

Continuing an outpouring of love and concern one local clergyman said he’s never before seen, Southold friends and family said goodbye to businessman and former councilman John Romanelli during a Saturday morning service at the filled-to-overflowing First Presbyterian Church in Southold.

Mr. Romanelli died early Tuesday morning, four days after suffering extensive burns in a flash fire that sparked while a truck was delivering a load of heating oil to his business, Burt’s Reliable in Southold on Friday, Dec. 30. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center and treated in the facility’s burn unit , where he passed away early Tuesday morning.

He was 47.

Mr. Romanelli was remembered Saturday for his love of family, driving work ethic and infectious grin. His brother, Paul, added that the family has been overwhelmed by community’s reaction to John’s death.

About 700 people paid their respects at the Costner-Heppner Funeral Home in Cutchogue Friday afternoon, and on Thursday the line of those waiting to get in stretched out the door and down the block.

“Strangers waited in line in the cold for 90 minutes just to say good-bye,” Paul Romanelli said. “We will never forget how the community came together.”

Rev. Peter Kelley of the First Presbyterian Church, who was joined in the service by Father Peter Gary of St. Patrick’s R.C. Church of Southold, said he’s never before witnessed such community support.

“It’s an amazing outpouring that began this week,” Rev. Kelley said.

Speaking to the sudden end of Mr. Romanelli’s life, he told those in mourning that “questions are many. Anger is allowed.”

The community’s coming together following the tragedy is a gift and a blessing, Rev. Kelley added. “And I think it is a partial answer to your questions.”

[email protected]