***This story was updated on Aug. 6 at 10:45 a.m. ***
William J. Ost spent more than 60 years recruiting members to the Elmont American Legion Post 1033 and nearly half that time organizing and running the town’s Memorial Day and Veterans Day parades.
“He was 100 percent Legionnaire,” said Ralph Esposito, another long-time member of the veterans’ organization. “You couldn’t find a better man than him.”
Ost, who served as a Navy fireman aboard the USS Coral Sea during the Korean War, died of Alzheimer’s Disease on July 24 at the age of 89.
He was born and raised in St. Albans, Queens in the 1930s, and grew up with two brothers, George and Kenny, and a sister, Carol. The trio never fought — according to Ost’s grandson, William E. Ost (who goes by Billy) — and even kept in touch later in life, holding family reunions with his family and Carol’s.
Upon returning home from the war, he met Mary Hannnaway, and the two were married in 1954. Three years later they moved to Elmont, where Mary gave birth to their first child, William M. Ost, and the elder Ost became involved in the the St. Vincent de Paul parish and the American Legion.
There, he “did everything he could to help veterans,” Esposito said, including knocking on residents’ doors to collect membership dues. He even convinced Ralph Esposito to join the group when he saw him wearing a Navy t-shirt, and went on to serve as a five-time commander at the Legion.
In 1980, he founded the Post’s Law and Order Night to honor local teachers, veterans, police officers and students who have performed outside of their normal duties. The annual event was later named in his honor.
He was also very involved at the church, and served as a president of the parish’s Catholic Youth Organization.
Professionally, Ost worked at Rheingold Brewery before getting a job on the maintenance staff at Belmont Park. He retired in the mid-1990s, after which he worked part-time for the Village of South Floral Park.
But Ost was also a family man. He often took his son to Mets games, and collected a lot of Mets paraphernalia over the years. “I didn’t find out until later that he was a Yankees fan,” William recalled, explaining that his father just did not like to park at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
He also spent his free time building rabbit cages and pools for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and would often tell Billy and his sister stories about his childhood while tinkering on some projects in his garage.
“Everything was done to a ‘T,’” William said of his father’s work. “All you had to do was ask.”
A funeral ceremony was held at the Elmont Funeral Home on July 27, and Ost was buried at the Calverton National Cemetery the next day. He is survived by his wife, Mary; his children, William M. Ost, James Ost and Mary Ost Fasano; nine grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.