Steve Haweeli, Founding President of WordHampton Public Relations, Dies at 68

WordHampton founder Steve Haweeli
Steve Haweeli
Eric Striffler

Steve Haweeli of East Hampton died on August 23. He was a devoted father, dedicated business owner and mentor, and a great friend to many from all circles of life. He was 68.

Born in White Plains, NY to Eleanor and Norman Haweeli in 1954, he moved to the East End in 1991 when he was hired by Jeff Salaway as the lead bartender at Nick & Toni’s restaurant. The founder and president of WordHampton Public Relations, Haweeli launched the company from behind the bar at Nick & Toni’s in 1992.

The charismatic bartender, always networking with customers, transitioned his skills into promoting restaurants and other businesses, thus creating the foundation for WordHampton. Built from the ground up, WordHampton became one of the first and most successful public relations firms in the Hamptons and subsequently throughout Long Island.

In 1997, Haweeli brought on Nicole Castillo as a full time employee and the business continued to grow over the next 30 years under the duo’s management. 

“Steve has been an incredible mentor to me over the years, teaching me everything from how to write a press release to running a business,” Castillo said. “I value each and every piece of advice he has given me. I am honored to continue his legacy as the owner of WordHampton and only hope to continue the successful groundwork he has laid.”  

With hundreds of clients over the last 30 years in business, Haweeli was a huge influence on the East End community. 

“Steve was a passionate man whose passions knew no boundaries when it came to business, sports, his biological family, his work family and to those he considered a friend. Steve will be missed by so many people for so many different reasons,” Honest Man Restaurants owner Mark Smith says. “Steve was a lover of life and fought until he could not fight anymore. A life well lived. Rest easy, my friend.”

Known as one of Long Island’s most successful and recognizable agency principals, Haweeli was honored with several awards including the prestigious Jack Rettaliata Lifetime Achievement Award from the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island, Long Island Business News’ Fifty or so Around 50 Class of 2010 business leaders; and as an honoree at the Long Island Hospitality Ball for his industry contributions.

Haweeli was also a founding member of The Croft Society, a professional group of public relations and communications firms across the country dedicated to sharing business management practices and developing future agency leaders.

He was a former board member of the East Hampton Chamber of Commerce, the Suffolk County Community College’s Culinary Arts program, and the Family Service League, and he served as a vestry member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. Haweeli also hosted the LTV series foodTALK for three seasons which featured many East End chefs, growers and other food-lovers, and always included lots of laughs.

With an interest in many cultures, Haweeli traveled to more than 30 countries in his lifetime. He was an avid reader and lover of all genres of music, in particular he loved jazz and went to live performances whenever he could. His love for music trickled down to his son Ned. 

His love for vibrant, expressive music wholly matched his personality as did his insatiable love for travel,” Ned says. “He showed me some of my favorite music that turned me into the musician I am today and I would not be the man I am today without his parenting and love.”

Haweeli loved to cook and appreciated the abundance of locally grown, fresh produce available on the East End. A favorite summer meal was fresh grilled fish (that he caught), local corn and homegrown tomato and basil salad.

A traditional dish he enjoyed making and sharing was his ham salad, a family recipe. Made fresh and always a crowd pleaser, he delighted in sharing it with his family and friends.  

In 2007, Haweeli found his calling as an artist, creating vibrant contemporary abstract works in oil and acrylic. The East End appeared ad a theme in many of his works, representing the feeling and beauty of the region’s sublime environment. His works have been shown in local galleries and exhibitions and are in several private collections.

Haweeli was a lifelong Yankees fan (referring to them as The Stankees when on a losing streak and doing a spot-on imitation of stadium announcer Bob Sheppard for anyone willing to listen). He was a graduate of Hamilton College and lived in East Hampton for more than 30 years. When weather permitted, he swam daily at Maidstone Beach, one of his favorite places in the world.  

“Steve was a lover of everything beautiful, colorful and exciting in the world,” said Ellen Watson, former wife and good friend. “His extensive travel and love of different cultures opened his mind to all that the world has to offer. He loved life and lived it to the fullest each day. A bright light has gone out and he will be greatly missed.”

Haweeli is survived by his son Ned Haweeli, his cousins Ellen and John Haweeli, his dedicated staff at WordHampton, including his longtime business partner Nicole Castillo and a huge circle of extended family, friends and colleagues from around the world.

Donations may be made in Steve’s memory to The Springs Food Pantry (springsfoodpantry.com) or 5 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton, 11937.

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