He was a dedicated public servant – nearly 40 years as a police officer – and a gifted draftsman and artist — natural abilities that he passed on to his children.
Michael P. Rizzo led a life rich in family, sports and civic duty. The Inwood native and Cedarhurst resident died on Dec. 30. He was 89.
Born April 11, 1928, Rizzo loved sports and during his high school years, he was tremendously active playing baseball, basketball, golf and was a boxer. A third baseman, his skills caught the eye of a Giants scout, when they still played in New York.
After graduating high school and engulfed in post-World War II patriotic sentiment, Rizzo enlisted in the Navy in June 1946. He served on the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt aircraft carrier and the USS Macomb destroyer/mine sweeper. Rizzo was awarded a victory medal and given an honorable discharge in May 1948.
Three years later, he began a 38-year career with the Nassau County Police Department In 1988, he retired as the most senior detective in the county. In a Nassau Herald retirement announcement, it was reported that the highlight of his career was serving as a personal escort to Prince Philip and Princess Margaret of Great Britain in 1965.
A love of golf became a lifelong passion, and he was good, winning local tournaments and collecting trophies, according to his son, Michael Rizzo. He lived a lifelong dream when he visited Scotland and played several memorable rounds of golf at the historic St. Andrews course in Scotland, regarded as the home of that sport.
Michael was a principled man’s man, a hard-working, respected Italian-American patriarch, and a man of few words, his son said. He lived his life as a moral example to everyone he met, and inspired the same. God’s speed, Michael. You are loved and missed.
He is survived by his wife, Janet Rathgeber, his three children, Jane Kivel, Deborah Rizzo and Michael Rizzo and his two step-daughters, Gale Zimmerman and Rosel Caruso. Six grandchildren and five great grandchildren who lovingly called him “Poppy.” He was pre-deceased by his first wife, Edith Greco, and youngest son, Paul Rizzo.