Surprise! Your accomplishments were distinctive


Center Moriches resident and Moriches Bay Realty owner Gerry Sapanaro will tell you she never expected to be lauded as the 3rd Legislative District’s 2024 Woman of Distinction.

But her life-journey efforts built up to that honor bestowed by Suffolk Legis. Jim Mazzarella (R,C Moriches) on May 7.

“I don’t know where they got all that information,” she said, surprised.

That would be some of the following from Mazzarella’s proclamation: Sapanaro served as the president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Moriches, now treasurer; is a member of the Downtown Beautification Committee, where you’ll see her help decorate the lampposts; she helps organize the St. Patrick’s Day parade and other events; and as former Rotary Club of the Moriches president, aids fundraising for Camp Pa-Qua-Tuck.

Well, there’s more—it would take up a whole page of the Tide, but she did provide some details.

What spurred her to dive into community involvement?

“A tragedy,” she said simply. “I lost a son, Scott, who was 21, in a car accident. People encouraged me to delve into the chamber, so I started with it at 100 percent.”

As Sapanaro said, “I didn’t start the fairs but got involved in them. I’m president of the Downtown Beautification Committee and we have 112 hanging baskets from Kurt Weiss ready to go on 56 lampposts for Memorial Day.”

Her office is in a prominent spot on Main Street, where she was interviewed. She opened Moriches Bay Realty in 1991.

“I have a much smaller office than 15 years ago when I had about 10 or 15 agents,” she said. “The pandemic also changed things. There was a frenzy with people wanting to get out of the city. The prices went up. Interest rates were very low. Now that they doubled, some don’t qualify, so the inventory is low.”

Still, there are four agents who work for her; she sells about 100 homes a year.

Role models were her hardworking parents, Julia and Nicolo Mineo.

“My dad was a head maintenance man who was good with his employees (chamber men and porters), and helped Hispanics with full-time jobs. He had a great work ethic.  My mom worked for a greeting card company collating cards; she was always first in having gatherings and helping out.”

The family was musical. “We’d gather on Sundays,” she recalled. “Mom made food, my cousins and aunts came over, played guitar and piano. I taught piano for 25 years.”

The family moved from Manhattan to Mastic in 1957.

Legis. Mazzarella commented on why Sapanaro was chosen.

“I knew Gerry’s family since before I was born,” he said.

“We grew up on the next block from each other. Then you lose touch, but three years ago when I took office, it was clear that Gerry immersed herself in the community. At that point, any time we’ve done anything with Main Street in Center Moriches, Gerry was there before it started and stayed until it finished. There’s the summer music series we sponsor, the spring fairs and the Christmas parade. I’ll take it one step further. We know she’s not a young woman, but the amount of energy that comes out of her is amazing. I’ll ask, ‘Are you tired? And she’ll say, ‘I don’t want to sit home.’”

There have been major losses in her life, Mazzarella pointed out, but painful as they are, Sapanaro puts her head down and keeps going.

“I see her at Mass every Sunday,” Mazzarella continued. “Not many people volunteer nowadays and when you see someone like her, it’s a gift.”

Sapanaro currently lives with her son John and two grandsons, Johnny and Joey. Her husband, John Sapanaro, is deceased.

What does she do to wind down?

“I’m not a big TV person, but I live with men and watch sports, especially Mets games,” she said.

Was there a big champagne celebration with family and friends that night after the county proclamation?

Nope, it was life as usual.

“We had a luncheon at the legislature. And then I came back to work,” she said.

Spoken like a truly distinctive woman. 


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