Neil M. Salvaggio, of Riverhead, a former community columnist and photographer at The Southampton Press, died unexpectedly on the morning of Monday, December 27 after a long struggle with leukemia. His death was due to complications from pneumonia and a suppressed immune system. He was 48 years old.
Predeceased by his father, Joseph N. Salvaggio, he is survived by his mother, Clare Salvaggio; stepfather, B. Drummond Ayres, Jr.; fiancee Nancy Anne Koltzan; an aunt and two uncles, as well as numerous cousins — along with his cat Tuxedo and dog Hudson, who were his world.
Neil grew up in Manhattan and Sag Harbor. He attended Riverdale Country School, Providence College and Southampton College. During vacations from school and on weekends, he enjoyed working at Conca D’Oro restaurant in Sag Harbor, where he learned to make pizza, discovered a love for figs and enjoyed greeting customers, nearly all of the time. But some, he said, left a lot to be desired.
He also was a classified advertising salesman for The Southampton Press newspaper, where he worked for 16 years, mostly in the Westhampton office. While there, Neil was referred to as “The Mayor,” because he seemed to know everyone.
A sensitive, generous and funny soul who loved his life and never showed anger at his illness — only a desire to get better — Neil was also a fearless cook who loved experimenting with new ingredients and concocting new recipes, mostly all delicious. His fishing trips with his cousins were the highlights of the year, with or without a successful catch. Cultivating his own vegetable patch was a new venture for him since moving to the North Fork with his fiancee Nancy, and he delighted in sharing its bounty.
Relatively new to Riverhead, Neil fell in love with the area and made a point of trying everything local, shopping local and tasting local food. He also enjoyed time on the beach and hunting for sea glass.
As an avid Yankee fan, he celebrated and suffered through their seasons, never losing faith, and was also a loyal but disappointed Jets fan.
Neil never missed an episode of Jeopardy and heaven forbid anyone should talk during the program. But along with his recent love of food and cooking, photography was his passion and he enjoyed nothing more than capturing special moments in time.
Following his death, a massive outpouring of love and loss filled Neil’s Facebook page. Messages flowed in with fond memories and prayers as the many lives he touched processed the shock of his passing.
The Mayor will be missed.
A graveside service will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, December 31, at Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor where he will be interred. Due to COVID restrictions, a larger celebration of Neil M. Salvaggio’s life will be held at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to East End Hospice (eeh.org) or a charity of your choice.