William Michael Zagarino, a member of the Zagarino family of Realtors that has served the Bellmores and Merricks for over 75 years from its office on Broadway, died on May 24 in Woodside, Queens, of amyloidosis, a rare disorder in which abnormal buildup in the organs of a protein in the blood called amyloid leads to eventual organ failure. He was 84 years old.
Zagarino had maintained his active position within the family run business – which included his son William and brother Pat – until a-year-and-a-half ago.
Active within the Chamber of Commerce of the Bellmores in the 1980s, and serving as its president, he was also a member of the Bellmore Lions Club. He was also a member of the National Wresting Hall of Fame from his days as a wrestler at Mepham.
William Michael Zagarino was born December 23, 1932. “He attended St. Barnabas School through the eighth grade before attending Mepham High School” Zagarino’s son William told Your NewsMag.
After high school, Zagarino attended Millersville University in Millersville, Pennsylvania, graduating with a degree in education with the intention of teaching. Pat Zagarino, Bill’s brother, said Bill taught at an Amityville school for roughly two years after getting married and before returning to the Zagarino family business after their father died, in 1957.
“Bill was always in the office, even when he taught, so he knew the business,” said Pat.
With the Zagarinos’ father – and grandfather – coming in virtually at the ground floor during the growth of Bellmore as a place for families from Brooklyn and the city to carve lives for themselves in the wide open spaces, Pat said he remembers when he and Bill could watch men use horses to plow land for what would become foundations for their homes.
“There were a lot of farms in North Bellmore,” Pat continued, and he suggests his father – and grandfather before him – perhaps got the notion to approach the farmers with offers to purchase acres of land the farmers were no longer using so houses could be built on them – and the farmers could earn some income.
He noted it was not uncommon for farmers farther east to permit realtors and developers to purchase their lands, and then buy farms even farther out east to wait again for realtors and developers to come looking to purchase their properties.
“Farmers could become wealthy by selling their lands to realtors,” said Pat.
The Zagarinos came to specialize in selling acreage, in which they could build four bedroom houses selling for $32,000, on 60-ft. by 100 ft. plots. The …. Pond in North Bellmore, near Mepham, was an example of helping develop housing tracts in which the family sold roughly 60 plots within the tract.
It was not uncommon for the Zagarinos to be able to provide several acreage plots and even build homes to people who personally knew their grandfather – who worked in a building on Broadway in New York City, and came to Bellmore because of him.
The family also owned buildings in town. For example, they first owned the three-story building at the corner of Grand and Bedford Avenues. “It was once a hunting lodge,” he said, that had a porch that faced westward. But Bill would also come to own the Bellmore Movies building, when it still featured the grand marque. “I believe he purchased it from a gentleman by the name of Mr. Bartholomew,” said Pat.
Bill managed the movie theater for several years, where he showed first-run movies such as “The Longest Yard.” “You could see features for $1” then, said Pat.
With the real estate business one in which “After the closing, the door is still open.” Arleen Leeds, owner of ABCO Art on Sunrise Highway and whose father Ray knew Bill well, said that Bill, was “a very gentle and kind man” who was always helpful to her in getting information on where to find persons who could asphalt her driveways, or provide landscaping or how the value of a piece of property she owned could change by adding something to it.
“He never forced an opinion on me,” she said, he simply provided guidance where he thought it could help.
Bill was a powerhouse wrestler during his high school years at Mepham, and was under the tutelage of “Sprig” Gardner. “He traveled all around the eastern states,” said Pat, also a powerful wrestler who bested Bill for the Gold Medal during a Pennsylvania state wrestling championship, placing first to Bill’s second place Silver Medal.
Pat said Mepham was a perfect place to become good at wrestling because there was plenty of good competition from wrestlers from Seaford and Wantagh that also attended Mepham, before those communities built their own high schools.
Bill became an assistant high school wrestling coach under coach Joe Valla at Amityville High School after graduating Millersville. Later, he became a Long Island wrestling official and officiated dozens of high school championship wrestling matches around the state. He then became president of the Long Island Wrestling Officials Association.
Besides entering the Downstate Wrestling Hall of Fame, Bill went on to be inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016.
He is survived by his wife Ann Marie (Friedel) Zagarino; a daughter, Patti Zagarino Bradley; a son, Bill Zagarino; brother Patrick; and a granddaughter, Kara Zagarino Bradley.