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Joseph T. Pillittere, former assemblyman from Lewiston

June 26, 1932 – June 24, 2016

Joseph T. Pillittere of Lewiston, who served 22 years in the Assembly, died Friday in the Hospice Care Unit of Northgate Health Care Facility in North Tonawanda. He was 83.

Born in Buffalo, he was a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School and afterward served stateside in the Navy before earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Detroit University. Prior to serving in the Assembly as the 138th District representative, Mr. Pillittere was employed for 25 years as an aerospace engineer at Bell Aerospace in Wheatfield, where he was instrumental in the development of the Minuteman Missile.

He was first elected to the Assembly in 1978 and went on to serve 11 consecutive terms representing Niagara Falls and Lewiston. The beginning of his term in office coincided with the start of the Love Canal environmental crisis in Niagara Falls, prompting Mr. Pillittere to respond with some strong legislation, such as the state’s Right to Know Law, which his longtime aide and eventual successor, Francine DelMonte, described as Pillittere’s crowning achievement during his time in the Assembly.

“It had a major effect on how a lot of industries operate today in terms of protecting and safeguarding employee health,” DelMonte said.

“The Right to Know Law really dealt with requiring any business dealing with toxic elements to, upon request of the employee, provide information about the potential health effects of exposure to these particular chemicals. Up until that time, that information wasn’t freely exchanged,” she added.

DelMonte described the law as groundbreaking, noting that other states across the nation were prompted to adopt similar legislation.

“The Right to Know Law and his work on the Superfund was really a reflection of what was going on in Joe’s district, particularly in Niagara Falls, but it also had national consequences,” DelMonte said.

Mr. Pillittere was a longtime member of St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Lewiston, where he also served as an usher.

He served as chairman of the New York State Tourism Board and on the board of directors at Artpark. He also was a member of the Lewiston Kiwanis Club and the Knights of Columbus, and he served as a Boy Scout Leader.

His wife of 57 years, the former Joan A. Bella, died in 2012.

Survivors include two sons, Donald and Joseph Jr.; two daughters, Michelle George and Jennifer Korzelius; a sister, Marida Peters; 12 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday in St. Peter’s Church, 620 Center St., Lewiston.