From Training Pilots to Owning Racehorses to a Refurbished Hospital Chapel, the Mancusos Lived Life to the Fullest

Photo of Louis M. Mancuso Sr.

Louis M. Mancuso Sr. trained British air force pilots during World War II and after the war founded an air service on Long Island that his family still operates. As he and his wife Connie aged, they were frequently patients at Peconic Bay Medical Center—and eventually decided to include the Hospital in their charitable trust. When Connie Mancuso was in palliative care at the Medical Center in 2017, daughters Gail and Gloria would go to the Hospital chapel in search of solace. Now the chapel sports new furniture and stained glass artwork provided by their parents’ estate gift.

“We feel that the Hospital treated our parents very well, from the ER to the surgery floors to the rehabilitation department—and especially in palliative care,” says Gail Mancuso.

As a young boy growing up on Long Island, Louis saw Lindberg fly overhead on his famous flight to Paris in 1927. Louis took his first flight lesson at 15 and dreamed of opening his own airport and flight school. In 1942 he moved to Florida as a civilian trainer of pilots for the British Royal Air Force (RAF).

“He taught British and Scottish soldiers how to fly,” Gail says proudly. “They could not train in England because of the war, so soldiers were sent to the States to be trained. Dad was inducted into the RAF in order to train them.”

While Louis was training pilots, Connie—who had dropped out of high school to work in her parents’ grocery store—was among the many women who filled Rosie the Riveter positions. They married in 1943 in Florida then moved back to Long Island after the war and eventually opened Deer Park Airport and the Mid Island Flight School. The airport has since closed, but the family still runs Mid Island Air Service. They raised four children, including Juanita Coolidge and Louis Mancuso Jr. in addition to Gloria and Gail.

During his career, Louis flew many horse trainers to race tracks and became so interested in racing that he and Connie began investing in horses. Eventually he traded a plane for a half-interest in Rum Customer, a 2-year-old Standardbred pacer. In 1968 the racehorse won the Standardbred Triple Crown, putting Louis and Connie in the record books.

“They had a great life,” Gail says. “They had the business and the horses, and they traveled a lot. My Dad always said, ‘I have no regrets; I did everything I wanted to do.’ ”

Louis died in 2008, a month short of their 65th wedding anniversary. Connie turned 95 in February 2017 and went into palliative care at the Medical Center shortly thereafter. A plaque on the wall outside the chapel identifies the Mancusos as funding the new décor. The original stained glass artwork in the chapel features three panels: a lighthouse, a sailboat, and a sunset.

“We wanted to do something to honor our parents and to help other people,” Gail explains. “When you are upset or losing a loved one, you may need a place to cry or just to sit and be quiet. Now the chapel is more spiritual, comforting, and serene.”

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