In eulogizing Dean LaLima during the Mass of Christian Burial in the Church of St. Aidan last Friday morning, LaLima’s friend Craig Biscone called him a “selfless man” who always focused on what he could do for others.
“He always contemplated what he could do for other people,” Biscone said of the lifelong Albertson resident who was killed in an early morning hit-and-run accident in Williston Park on Aug. 12. “Deano was a masterpiece. He cannot be replaced. Losing him was far too sudden and tragic.”
Biscone, the attorney for Grimaldai’s Pizza in Garden City, said he originally got to know LaLima as the manager of the restaurant that LaLima was devoted to serving.
“Grimaldi’s was his life. He was Grimaldi’s,” Biscone said. “Everybody got the royal treatment when they went into his place.”
The 41-year-old LaLima was struck and killed on his way home from work at Grimaldi’s. Raymond Kalenka, 45, of 86 Yale Street in Williston Park, was later arrested and charged with leaving the scene of an accident with death. Kalenka was released after posting $25,000 in cash for bail at his arraignment in 1st District Court in Hempstead on Aug. 15 and is due back in court on Oct. 18.
Father Steven Pietrowski, the pastor of St. Anne’s in Brentwood, presided at the mass. He said he had known the LaLima family from the time he spent serving in St, Aidan parish.
He recalled a night when he got ill at Grimaldi’s while LaLima was working and LaLima wanted to take him to the hospital.
“Dean was ready to drop everything and take me to the emergency room,” Pietrowski recalled.
He sought to comfort LaLima’s family in the wake of the tragedy they suffered.
“He’s just on the other side of life. He’s not that far away from us,” Pietrowski said. “God did not take Dean. But God received him.”
Friends and neighbors recalled the man who had grown up among them after the service.
Former Williston Park Village Justice Alan Reardon recalled when his sons and LaLima were altar boys together in the church where the funeral mass was held.
“He was a wonderful kid,” Reardon recalled.
Bob Mitchell, president of the Williston Park Civic Association, was the scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 200 in Williston Park when LaLima achieved the rank of Eagle Scout.
“Dean was an exceptional kid. He did a lot for the community,” Mitchell said. “He was a kid who could guide the adults.”
Ken Morgan was LaLima’s merit badge counselor and remembered the deep friendship his son David shared with LaLima as Boy Scouts.
“Dean was one of the nicest kids I ever knew. He worked awfully hard,” Morgan said. “It meant so much for him to be an Eagle Scout. He always had the time for others.”
LaLima’s sister, Robynelaine Kostulias, remembered how much her brother enjoyed scouting, something he shared with their father, John, a retired New York City firefighter who was assistant scoutmaster in his son’s troop.
“He loved everything to do with camping and scouting,” Kostulias recalled.
She said she and her older brother were very close growing up in Albertson.
“He took care of me,” she said.
He attended St. Aidan School through the eighth grade and was still attending St. Mary’s High School in Manhasset, where he eventually graduated, when he started working at the Riverbay Restaurant as a bus boy.
Kostoulias recalled that her brother worked at a succession of area restaurants, including the Ruby Room, Cold Fish and Luigi’s, before eventually becoming manager of Grimaldi’s in 2004.
“Every restaurant he was at, he was the go-to guy,” she said, describing him as a “workhorse” who had “worked more hours than he should” there after his close friend Russell Ciolli, Grimaldi’s owner, died suddenly one year ago.
“I think the restaurant business was his passion,” Kostoulias said. “If he had an ounce of influence for making a special occasion that, that made him happy.”
She recalled her brother’s way of greeting regular customers at Grimaldi’s with a hug and said, “They came back for that greeting, that love.”
LaLima was godfather for her two oldest sons, Nicholas and Jesse, and “showed up for all the things that mattered,” his sister said, recalling that he once closed Grimaldi’s to hold a baby shower for her there.
He was present for the birth of her three sons and she recalled that he would bring pizza and cannolis for the hospital staff.
“He was awesome. He’s going to leave a huge hole for a lot of people,” Kostoulias said.
Along with his sister, Robynelaine, LaLima is survived by his three nephews, Nicholas, Jesse and Steven Kelly, his parents, John and Janis, two uncles, Robert and Bob, and two cousins, Megan and Matthew.
The mass at St. Aidan was followed by an interment at Holy Rood Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested memorial donations to the North Shore Animal League.