When Jim Stewart and Brigid Collins founded Katy’s Courage, a Sag Harbor-based organization created in memory of their daughter, Katy, it was Ben Krupinski who provided the financing to get the non-profit off the ground.
“He came forward immediately — I didn’t seek him out and that was the way it was with him,” said Mr. Stewart, a teacher at East Hampton High School and a resident of North Haven. “He was incredible in terms of his support. He was a sponsor and any time we needed anything he would come forward. We started because of him with that financial piece, and we have continued with his support and the support of others.”
For many non-profits, educational organizations and residents on the South Fork this is a familiar tale: there was a need, and Ben and Bonnie Krupinski stepped in, often quietly and behind the scenes, to ensure that need was met.
On Saturday, Ben and Bonnie Krupinski, both 70, died in a plane crash off Indian Wells Beach in Amagansett along with their grandson, William Maerov, 22, and pilot Jon Dollard, 47, of Hampton Bays.
Mr. Krupinski was a well-known builder and the owner of Ben Krupinski Builder on Newtown Lane in East Hampton. The celebrated East Hampton couple also owned several restaurants including 1770 House on Main Street, Cittanuova on Newtown Lane and East Hampton Point on Three Mile Harbor Road in Springs. They were also co-owners of the East Hampton Golf Club with Ms. Krupinski’s family, the Bistrians.
“We are heartbroken to announce the tragic loss of Ben and Bonnie, their grandson, Will, and our colleague Jon,” the families said in a statement posted on their various business websites and social media. “The Krupinski, Bistrian, Maerov and Dollard families are grateful for the sincere outpouring of support from so many who knew and loved them.”
A wake will be held for Mr. and Ms. Krupinski and Mr. Maerov at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home on Pantigo Road in East Hampton on Thursday, June 7, from 4 to 8 p.m. A funeral service will take place on Friday, June 8, at the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street in East Hampton at 10 a.m.
David Lys, a longtime friend of Ms. Krupinski, an East Hampton Town Councilman and President of the Amagansett Life-Saving Station, said both Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski and Mr. Maerov were active supporters of the initiative to restore and preserve the station on Atlantic Avenue in Amagansett.
“Ben donated a lot of his services pro bono and even bought some of the materials on his own dime, but he also put us in touch with a lot of vendors who donated to the project,” Mr. Lys said on Monday. “Ben, Bonnie and Will showed up in 2011 at the first reenactment of the Nazi saboteurs landing, and Ben committed then and there. I think it was their love of hometown first, and Amagansett is where Bonnie grew up.”
Mr. Lys noted the Krupinskis were often behind important town projects, including the rebuilding of Scoville Hall in Amagansett.
Anne Thomas, President of the East Hampton Ladies Village Improvement Society, said it was Ms. Krupinski’s idea to move the organization’s annual fair to the lawn of the Gardiner “Brown” House on Main Street from its original location at Mulford Farm. The event has been held there, with much fanfare, every year since. Ms. Krupinski was a member of the LVIS since 1981.
When the LVIS chose to renovate the 1740 structure again, Ms. Krupinski suggested Ms. Thomas pay a visit to her husband.
“He was the only person I would have trusted to get it done on time,” said Ms. Thomas. “We sat in his office and I started to pull out the plans and he said, ‘Don’t show it to me. I’ll do it for free.’ And I did the most professional thing I could do and burst into tears.”
The six-week project was completed in five-and-a-half weeks, Ms. Thomas said. A plaque, ordered long before Saturday, is expected to arrive next week thanking the Krupinski family for the restoration. It will hang in the front hall of the Gardiner “Brown” House.
“Ben and Bonnie Krupinski, who passed away yesterday, were two of the greatest silent contributors to the East End community,” read a statement posted on social media from Guild Hall in East Hampton. “For decades, every repair, construction job or museum installation, on a monthly basis, was attended to by BK Builder as a contribution to Guild Hall. Ben never wanted acknowledgement, and my understanding is he did this for many non-profits beyond ours. More stories of their generosity are emerging from individuals with sick children to other charities. This is an unfathomable loss for our community.”
The Krupinskis were also founding members of the Greater East Hampton Education Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to enhancing educational opportunities for students. President Nancy McMullan remembered Mr. Krupinski successfully fundraising for a new playground for John Marshall Elementary School in East Hampton — a playground that was completely accessible for handicapped children.
“It is just another example of there was an issue, a problem, and they solved it,” said Debbie Mansir, a member of the non-profit, which Ms. Mansir said benefited tremendously from the generosity of the Krupinski family, which would host the non-profit’s gala and golf outing fundraisers.
“Their extreme generosity has enabled us to keep going and do the programming we do for the educational community from Montauk to Sagaponack,” Ms. Mansir said.
That generosity also came in the form of college scholarships, granted to local students without desire for acknowledgment, said Mr. Stewart, and funding for local sports teams to travel to tournaments and special events. The Krupinskis were generous to their employees as well.
“Ben and Bonnie came to our wedding and met my entire family,” remembered Massimo Pappetti, a former manager of Cittanuova, whose wife, Carolyn, also managed that restaurant. “One month after Carolyn and I got married, my father was unexpectedly diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ben offered to send his jet to Italy and bring my father to Sloan Kettering. Unfortunately, he was too far along with his cancer, but Ben was like that, the guy you went to in times of need. He wouldn’t just say he’d help you, he’d actually help you and not expect or want anything in return.”
Kevin Kruel, a Sag Harbor resident who has worked as head chef at the East Hampton Golf Club for 14 years, often shared breakfast with Mr. Krupinski. In 2015, it was discovered that Mr. Kruel’s son, Nick, needed to undergo open heart surgery. It was the generosity of the Krupinski family that enabled the Kruels to bring Nick to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston for treatment, where Nick’s mother, Sandi, felt he would receive the best care. “It was just going to be a lot to get there, and Ben found out and said, ‘If that is where you want to go, the plane is at your disposal, and if you don’t take it, I am going to get very upset.’”
Ms. Kruel said the family flew to Boston close to 20 times on the Krupinski jet and was often met by a driver who would ferry them to appointments, pushing tips away with the statement, “Ben’s got this.”
“I think our small town of East Hampton is extremely blessed to have a husband and wife couple so in love with their town that they gave back as much as they did,” Mr. Lys said. “It will be interesting to see if there is anyone who can step up and fill their incredibly big shoes. For all the stories out there, I bet there are a lot we don’t know about.”