Mildred A. “Missy” Pagliaro (Ruggiero) died on Dec. 1. She was 74. Pagliaro was the beloved wife of the late Joseph R. Pagliaro, and the proud mother of Joseph, Donna, and Andrew. Loving sister to Lorraine Formont and sister-in-law to her late husband and former East Rockaway Mayor, Charles H. Formont, and cherished aunt to Christopher.
Missy was born on Dec. 15, 1932, and raised in Manhasset. When she was young, she would often accompany her mom to the local orphanage, bringing coats, blankets, food and toys to those that were less fortunate. Her experience would ignite a passion within her to help those in need, for the rest of her life. After speaking to Missy for five minutes, her effervescent personality and warm smile made you feel like you had known her your entire life.
After marriage, she settled in East Rockaway, and focused on raising her three children. Sometime in the early ‘60s, she joined the East Rockaway Democratic Club, where she quickly rose to become the executive zone leader, a position she held for more than 20 years. She worked for former State Assemblyman Arthur J. “Jerry” Kremer. One of her proudest moments came in the early 1970s at the Nassau Democratic Convention, when she cast the deciding vote for Dennis Dillon, which clinched the party’s nomination for District Attorney. She and Dillon remained friends until his death.
Anyone attending the East Rockaway Fair and fundraiser for the Grist Mill Museum, known as the Huckleberry Frolic, during the 1970s and ‘80s fondly remembers “Missy’s Meatballs.” She donated 50 pounds of meat and cooked and served meatball heroes. Her booth was always the first to sell out, and when they did, customers would ask for the bread and gravy. All proceeds went to the museum.
She semi-retired from politics in 1988 to focus on charity, and later co-founded the Georgia Wright Animal Guardian Foundation, which helped find homes for unwanted dogs and cats. She did fundraisers to promote spay-neuter programs, food drives, etc. She often fostered many unwanted animals until they found homes.
Missy returned to local politics in 1994, when her brother-in-law, Charles H. Formont, an East Rockaway Village Trustee, decided to run for mayor. He was not the party’s choice, they selected another candidate. So Missy used her political savvy and devised a strategy that won not only the primary, but the general election as well, pulling off the biggest upset in East Rockaway political history.
In 1997, after the passing of her husband, who in the days prior to his death was trying to get heat for a desperate family in need, she launched the Joseph R. Pagliaro Memorial Charity, “people helping people.” This is where she really hit her stride. She did countless food drives — especially around the holidays — cooking turkeys for needy families, donating the turkeys and all the trimmings. She opened up the local church to serve Thanksgiving dinner to those who had nowhere to go or were experiencing tough times. Missy’s warm smile made those attending feel as if they were going to a party and they were the guests of honor, not someone in need or alone.
She also ran drives for coats, blankets toys and anything anyone needed. She would often say no cause is too small or challenge too great. She received many awards and honors for the great work she did from many organizations, including, St. Raymond’s Church, Knights of Columbus, Veterans of Foreign Wars, County of Nassau, Town of Hempstead, Village of East Rockaway, and the Eckerd Corporations’ “Salute to Women.” She was one of 100 women chosen out of 58,000 entries to receive the honor, but it was more important to her to raise awareness for those less fortunate. She will be missed.
Missy died peacefully on the afternoon of Dec. 1 in the presence of her family. Her remains will be cremated, and the family received visitors on Dec. 9 at the Thomas A. Glynn Funeral Home in Rockville Centre. In lieu of flowers, the family requests making a donation to a charity of your choice, to help those less fortunate this holiday season. That would have made her happy.