Port Washington resident Raymond Cona, passed from our world into the eternal on Sept. 22, nearly 104 years after he arrived. He lived in Port Washington since 1928.
He was far more than just a grandfather; he was like a second father, the ying to the yang of our grandmother who together cared for all of us like parents. Their love and support was constant and unwavering. To say that he will be missed is a huge understatement; to say that we are all beyond grateful for his amazing and long life is even more so.
He was many things in this life: a valued son, the oldest of three who joined his father here in Port Washington to live. He was a loyal and loving husband of Antoinette, 99. A father of three children, Charles 78, Paul 75, and Antoinette 71. He was a grandfather to Selena 52, Donna 49, Arthur 43 and myself, Raymond 38. Beyond that he left five wonderful great-grandchildren, Christopher, Zachary, Douglas, Emma and Julia.
My grandfather’s path started in St. Angelo dei Lombardy on the impoverished Italian countryside where he had received only basic education. Seeking a better opportunity, my great grandfather, Angelo, had already been naturalized in May of 1904 after leaving Italy in 1898. As the oldest, my grandfather would bear the responsibility of taking care of the family during his father’s extended trips to the states. Eventually, he was called over and arrived at Ellis Island on Sept. 17, 1928, on board the SS Patria. His greatest sadness in life would be the belief that he would never see his mother again. Sadly, before he had that opportunity, his mother Mariantonia, would become ill and succumb to what we assume was pneumonia.
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Upon making his way to Port Washington, my grandfather would find his way to the local Catholic church, take night classes to learn English and work hard learning multiple trades. During this time he would meet my great aunt Angelina who was the same age and both families assumed it was a romantic match. Enter my grandmother, Antoinette, four years younger and considered ineligible for courtship. She would sweep him off his feet and unintentionally thwart the family plans.
On Nov. 12, 1933, they would be married in St. Peters of Alcantara in the height of the Great Depression. Working as an apprentice to a master mason, my grandfather provided for his bride with consistent hard work and long days at multiple jobs.
By 1935, they would have their first of three children and start making regular trips to Montauk in the summers. Growing up, my grandmother would remind us that hard work was the key to success as she recounted the simple fact that by the time my mother was born in 1942 they had a new Buick, a new house at 57 Willowdale Avenue and everything they needed for a prosperous American life.
By the 1950’s grandpa would grow into a master mason and was hired as a day worker for the new planned subdivision homes in what would later be called Levittown. Building the brick facades and chimneys, his hard work and precise masonry would catch the eye of Arthur Levitt. Mr. Levitt would encourage my grandfather to start his own company and guide him through the process. By the time he won the bid for another subdivision in Sand’s Point, Cona & Curra was born.
Many buildings were built and many bricks laid while the family flourished as the decades passed and all of us were born. Eventually the family would move as their three children grew up and the “old” house was sold. A new house designed by my Uncle Paul and built by Tri-Con Construction, the new family business, would usher in the modern age. After countless drives out East, in 1970 my grandfather convinced my grandmother to buy a Leisurama in Culloden Shores, Montauk, while Port Washington remained their primary residence. It was there that would help fuel my childhood memories with family dinners and parties, surrounded by the love, support and foundation of their marriage.
Over his life he would see two World Wars, countless other wars and 17 US presidents. One can only imagine what he truly felt as he aged past a century and witnessed the world change from the early days of modern industrialization through a Great Depression and to the chaos of today.
Through every stage of our lives, every milestone, every challenge and every day in-between, he was a constant presence. His humor, grace, selflessness, generosity and compassion are unparalleled and I speak for an entire family that remains grateful for this amazing man.
If our human life is the accumulation of these memories and experiences, the wisdom we achieve by age, then I know in my heart he passes into the next world as an angel. We will love and miss him always and forever.