Politicians from across Long Island and New York State paid their respects Saturday to Nassau County presiding officer Peter Schmitt during an afternoon wake for the veteran Republican legislator who died earlier this week.
Local officials from both sides of the aisle gathered inside Massapequa Funeral Home in Massapequa Park for the 2 p.m. wake under a graying sky that also gave way to a few raindrops.
Many of Schmitt’s former colleagues in the legislature slowly made their way in, as did some state officials who grew to know the man who became presiding officer in 2010 when Republicans took over control of the legislature.
“God took him too soon,” said New York State Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach). “He still had work to do here on Long Island.”
Outside the funeral home, the longtime assemblyman said he had no problem entertaining phone calls from Schmitt about issues dealing with his constituents.
Schmitt was “always an advocate for the people,” he said.
Stopping to talk to other local officials outside was Levittown Republican Dennis Dunne who remembered going to Schmitt’s office one day to discuss a bill he wanted to propose that would give volunteer firefighters free tuition at local colleges.
Schmitt told him: “run with it,” Dunne recalled.
“Absolutely one of the kindest guys,” Dunne said of his colleague.
Nassau County Civil Service Employees Association Local 830 president Jerry Laricchiuta said he respected Schmitt despite the battles they had over the years.
“Not a good day for me,” he said, adding that he knew Schmitt for more than two decades.
He remembered Schmitt being a “funny guy,” with a “dry sense of humor,” a sight not many people got to see from the outspoken lawmaker.
Other notable officials that took time out to pay respect to Schmitt was New York Senator Charles Schumer, former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, and his successor, County Executive Ed Mangano.
Schmitt died suddenly Wednesday after he collapsed entering a meeting with Mangano and County Comptroller George Maragos.
Schmitt was a member of Nassau’s governing body since its inception in 1996, serving the 12th district, which encompasses Massapequa, Massapequa Park, some of Seaford, and parts of North Massapequa.
He served as the deputy presiding officer from 1996 through 1999 and as minority leader for the decade that followed when Democrats had the majority.
A funeral mass is scheduled for Monday morning at Saint Rose of Lima on Bayview Avenue in Massapequa.