Lattingtown Mayor Clarence Michalis in front of the village office sign. (April 9, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/Audrey C. Tiernan
Clarence Fahnestock Michalis of Locust Valley, the former Mayor of tony Lattingtown, died on March 30th. Clarence Michalis was 96 years old. Born in 1922 to Clarence G and Helen C. Michalis, he lived in New York City and Garrison, NY. He graduated from Buckley School, St. Paul’s School and Harvard College and then entered the U.S. Navy where he spent the next three years as a lieutenant and navigator on the U.S.S. Hall in the Pacific. He worked at First National City Bank, and was CFO of Bristol-Myers Co., former chairman of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Cooper Union and Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.
He was the longest-serving mayor in New York State history and emerged victorious in the last Village election in June 2013. At that time Clarence was 91, and had held the office for 44 years. He defeated Nicholas DellaFera, the 23-year-old challenger on June 18th, 2013, winning handily (376-87), and inspiring the largest voter turnout in 4 decades. Of the election Michalis noted, “It was a simple case of age and experience trumping youthful zeal.”
As a dedicated civic leader, he was mayor of the Village of Lattingtown for 48 years, past president and trustee of the Nassau County Museum of Art, active member and former president of Piping Rock Club, former commissioner of the Locust Valley Fire District, commodore of Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club, trustee of the North Shore Land Alliance and member of the Union Club, New York Yacht Club and Holland Lodge.
In his last years as Mayor, when most 90+ would be slowing down, Clarence still had his fingers on the pulse of the area. It was Clarence who first cautioned Loriann Cody about the possible closing of the Rottkamp Farm in Glen Head (the problem has fortunately been resolved and Rottkamp remains open.)
When his failing health forced him to step down as Mayor in early 2017, he maintained his sense of humor saying, “I used to see many politicians, now I see many doctors.”
Michalis was much loved and admired. At the time of the election, Diane Fagiola, wife of current Lattingtown Mayor Robert Fagiola, said of him, “Clarence knows how things work – how roads are built and how to fix them, about storms and the damage they cause. He knows about wet-lands, mosquitoes, trees and wildlife. He can fix a diesel engine – still. He knows how to cut costs but not quality, and he’s balanced thousands of budgets. He also knows a lot about people – what bothers us, what moves us, what motivates us. He’s a brilliant leader. If I were caught in a storm at sea, I’d like to be in Clarence’s boat.”
Mayor Peter Quick of the Village of Mill Neck said, “I have never met a man more dedicated to his community than Clarence. He is a sage in terms of advice and the ultimate gentleman of Lattingtown. His experience is unparalleled. If he were running against me, I would vote for him.”
Loriann Cody of the Locust Valley Leader last saw Clarence on Sunday evening, June 25th, 2017, when he was honored for his 48 years of mayoral service at the Lattingtown home of Diane and Robert Fagiola. One U.S. Congressman, one State Senator, one Assemblyperson, one Nobel laureate, six mayors, local village trustees, family members and friends were among the more than 80 who toasted Michalis.
Clarence is survived by his wife of 64 years, Cora Bush and four children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service will be held on Friday, April 13th at 1:00 PM at St. John’s Church in Lattingtown. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Merchant’s House Museum and the North Shore Land Alliance.
Until next time. Let’s keep on exploring.
Source: New York Times, Newsday and and The Locust Valley Leader, April 4, 2018 by Loriann Cody.