Antoinette “Mama” D’Amato, the mother of former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, died peacefully Thursday night in her Island Park home at the age of 99.
The former senator, now a lobbyist with the firm Park Strategies, which he founded, and a weekly Herald columnist, tweeted this morning: “RIP Mama. You were the heart and soul of our family.”
In a statement released Friday morning, D’Amato said, “I was so blessed to have her as part of my life, both personally and professionally, for so long. Like all mothers, she always put her family first in her life. She had such a lively spirit and determination to always get things done, no matter how difficult the task. Her love of family and country will live on with us forever.”
During her 99th birthday this past February, Vice President Joseph Biden, a friend of the D’Amato family, sent her birthday wishes addressed to the same Island Park home she had lived in for 68 years.
In 1986, Mama joined the Senator on the campaign trail by handing out her personal Italian cookbook, "Recipes for the Forgotten Middle-Class."
Best known for her plain-spoken but charming appeal as she supported her son’s campaign for the Senate in 1980 — she told innumerable voters to ”vote for my son Al; he’d make a good senator” — D’Amato was remembered fondly by Island Park residents on Friday.
Island Park Mayor Michael McGinty recalled that he used to deliver the newspaper to the D’Amato family as a boy and would often be invited inside for “soup or a cup of hot chocolate” by Mama D’Amato.
“Countless people came to her door for advice or friendship or a morning cup of coffee, and no one was ever turned away,” McGinty said. “She was good to everyone in her neighborhood.
“She was always a strong supporter of Island Park,” said former Mayor Jacqueline Papatsos. “The village will miss her greatly.”
Mickey Hastava, a longtime village board trustee, has been a close friend of the D’Amato family since childhood. “Al’s mother was very supportive of him and everything he did,” Hastava recalled. “I’ll miss seeing her at the San Gennaro Feast in September.”
Sheis survived by her two sons, former United States Senator Alfonse D’Amato and his wife Katuria; Armand D’Amato and his wife Audrey; and JoAnn D’Amato. She has 13 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
A wake will be held at Sacred Heart Parish Center, at 301 Long Beach Road in Island Park, Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. A Mass is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. on Monday at Sacred Heart Church.