Politicians across the borough expressed sadness this week following the passing of Queens GOP Chairman Phil Ragusa, who died Tuesday night after a battle with leukemia, the party said.
The 74-year-old accountant, who lived in Whitestone, had headed the Republican party in the borough since 2007, according to party spokesman Robert Hornak. He was re-elected as party leader in 2013 following a heated race in which he bested former U.S. Rep. Bob Turner by about 3,500 votes.
Hornak said Ragusa was a friend and mentor to many people across Queens and would be remembered for his integrity and commitment to the democratic process.
Former Bayside City Councilman Dan Halloran, who was charged last year with trying to get state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) on the Republican mayoral ticket through a bribery scheme and is now on trial in federal court in White Plains, N.Y., posted his remembrances about Ragusa on his Facebook page.
“He was a great man and devoted to the GOP and his community,” Halloran wrote. “The stress the government put on him in his last few days was unconscionable. I’m sorry that my circumstances contributed to that stress.”
Federal prosecutors had wanted Ragusa to testify in the corruption case in which Vincent Tabone, former chairman of the Queens Republican Party, was also charged and on trial with Halloran and Smith. But Tabone’s and Smith’s cases ended in a mistrial earlier this month, while Halloran went back on trial alone Wednesday.
Tabone called Ragusa “a genuine civic leader who volunteered countless hours of his time and energy and by his example inspired many young people to do likewise.”
“In short, he rolled up his sleeves and led by example and was truly the proverbial unsung hero,” Tabone said in a message. “He will be sorely missed and remembered with deep admiration and affection by all who really knew him. My thoughts and prayers go out to all his family and friends.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside) mourned Ragusa in a statement in which she said she was saddened to learn of his death.
“He was a decent and honorable man who for many years worked tirelessly to help improve his community and his party,” she said.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who last year joined an insurgency within the GOP that tried to oust Ragusa as party leader following a severe split within the borough’s Republican ranks, called Ragusa a “stalwart Republican who dedicated many years of service to the Republican Party in Queens County.”
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), who originally ran for Council as a member of the Republican Party, extended his condolences to Ragusa’s family and said he would be missed sorely.
“The world has now lost a true gentleman, and I have personally lost a loyal friend,” Koo said. “I hope that we can take solace in the fact that Phil is in a better place.”