Otto Hess, who served as a village trustee in the 1990s, but is better known in Northport for serving untold thousands as owner of Otto’s Shipwreck Diner, died June 1. He was 88.
A Brooklyn boy, Hess attended PS89 in Flatbush and graduated Erasmus Hall High School as a member of the class of 1948.
Hess owned and operated the diner on Northport’s Main Street from 1972-1996, when he retired and turned it over to his son, Tim. A former rail car, the diner rolled into place on Main Street in 1924. It was during a 1990s renovation to expand the 25-foot diner that Hess discovered the original wooden wheels were still in place. He left them there.
For decades, Hess worked the counter, the grill and the cash register at the diner. While its walls – lined with historic photos of Northport’s past – chronicled the village’s history, the eatery was always at the center of current events, politics and Northport scuttlebutt.
It was a natural launching pad for Hess to enter into local politics. After giving then-Mayor Peter Nolan a run for his money in the 1990 mayoral race, Hess returned to politics a few years later and was elected a village trustee in the Good Neighbor Party sweep in 1994.
One of his running mates that year was Village Justice Paul Senzer, who still holds the post today. In a post to the condolence page of Nolan and Taylor-Howe Funeral Home’s website, Senzer wrote it was Hess who convinced him to run for office.
“Otto changed my life. Were it not for him, I would never have run for elective office and certainly wouldn’t be a judge 24 years later,” Senzer wrote. “It all started at the Shipwreck — with cigarette smoke, ’40s music and a dream to help make Northport a more neighborly place. Without question, as trustee and deputy mayor, he succeeded. And the Otto Hess legacy lives on in the village we all know and love today.”
The loving husband of Jeanne, Hess was father to Steve, Tim, Paul, the late Gary Hess, Jane Vicki Ehrich, Vito Cornacchio, Luigi Cornacchio and the late Christine Morris; grandfather of eleven; and great grandfather of four.
Services were to be held Wednesday at the funeral home. Hess was to be buried today at Pinelawn Memorial Park.