Robert Seewaldt was the unofficial mayor of Mineola, Mayor Scott Strauss said.
“Nothing went on without Robert knowing about it or being involved in making it happen,” Strauss said.
Seewaldt owned and operated Robert’s Mens and Boys Wear in Mineola – which Strauss called the focal point of Jericho Turnpike in Mineola – for 64 years.
He died last Monday at 87.
Seewaldt, originally from Queens Village, came to Mineola in the 1950s, his daughter Cathy Lou Whitley said.
He worked in different men’s clothing stores before opening his own in 1954, Whitley said.
Seewaldt hired 15-year-old Strauss to work at the store, where he stayed for five years before going to the Police Academy.
“I learned a great deal from Robert, things I still use to this day,” Strauss said. “I watched how he interacted with people, how he listened to people and learned how to run a successful business.”
The store was more of a social club than a business – a testament to Seewaldt’s “remarkable charisma,” Whitley said.
“He took a lot of pride in his customers and they became more friends than customers,” Whitley said.
One regular customer turned friend was Walker Crosby, a former member of the Mineola Fire Department who now lives in Florida, Whitley said.
Seewaldt had often joked that he wanted Crosby to give the eulogy at his wake, Whitley said.
When Crosby heard about Seewaldt’s death, Whitley said, he reached out to Whitley to honor Seewaldt’s wishes.
But Crosby is unable to travel and instead sent a note for Whitley to read.
The eulogy was entitled “Friendship,” Whitley said.
“I’d found Robert to be a great man of integrity and honest, with a very strong devotion to his family,” Whitley said the eulogy read.
Those words couldn’t be more true, she said.
Her father added value to anyone who knew him, whether it was a meaningful bond or just a touch on the arm, she said.
“My father was magical,” Whitley said. “He was my best friend.”
Seewaldt’s other daughter, Lou Ann Bonomi, said he took pride in everything he set out to do, adding that he taught her to have a strong work ethic.
Whitley said she worked by her father’s side from the time she was a little girl.
“My father thought I had this tremendous work ethic,” Whitley said. “It was just that I wanted to be with him, I just enjoyed his company so much.”
Whitley took time away from the store recently to help care for her father.
But although she was taking care of him physically, she said he was the one taking care of her.
His wife, Catherine, died two years ago. In addition to his two daughters, he is survived by four grandchildren, Christopher Robert, Catie, Vincent and Victor.
Seewaldt’s visitation was held last Thursday at Cassidy Funeral Home in Mineola. The funeral was last Friday.