Joseph Winters, owner of Winter Bros. Waste Systems of Long Island, died on Tuesday after a short battle with Covid-19. He was 54.
Winters was a lifelong part of the family business, founded by his father and then owned by Winters and his brothers, Sean, Jimmy Michael, and Andrew. He championed providing opportunities to individuals with autism, which his son, Sean, now in his 20s, was diagnosed with at age 2.
“Our family has lost a loving, caring and dedicated husband, father, brother and uncle,” the Winters family wrote in a statement. “Long Island has lost a true icon and philanthropist.”
“Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Joe have lost a dear friend and source of inspiration,” they continued. “Joe leaves behind a company and a team that only he could have built with such determination and direction of excellence that would make anyone proud.”
Winters learned all about the family’s local garbage-hauling business on Long Island as a child. Eventually, he and his brothers joined the growing company and took it over when his father, “Big Jim,” retired.
The five brothers grew the business to other states in the northeast, but kept their focus on Long Island. Winters Bros. employs more than 500 people and has 400 collection vehicles, 14 transfer stations, and 12 recycling centers.
When Winters’ son, Sean, was diagnosed with autism in 1996, the family was living in Vermont. They drove all the way to Smithtown for treatment and later decided to move there. The experience with his son encouraged Winters to hire people with developmental disabilities at Winters Bros. The company soon became known for its strong support of people with autism.
“We have lost a true visionary’” Steve Soucy, Chief Financial Officer of Winters Bros, said in a statement. “Joe was always focused on making Long Island a great place to live and work. He wanted to keep Long Island green and enhance society through his efforts to help people with autism.”
Last year, Winters embarked on the next step in helping the autistic community. He and his family, joined by local elected officials, broke ground on the Winters Center for Autism in West Babylon in August 2020. The nonprofit will help those on the autism spectrum with job creation, training, and placement programs.
“Joe’s spirit and vision will continue to guide us,” the Winters family wrote. “No words can adequately express our sadness and loss associated with Joe’s passing or our gratitude for the opportunity to work with him. We will honor his memory by dedicating ourselves to continuing the work he loved so much.”
Winters is survived by his wife, Michelle, and two sons, Patrick and Sean.
In remembrance of Joe Winters’ life and legacy of helping people with autism, the family asks that charitable donations be made to the Winters Center for Autism.
Visitation will be held Wednesday, Jan. 6 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Thursday, Jan. 7 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. James Funeral Home, 829 Middle Country Rd.
A funeral mass will be held Friday, Jan. 8 at 11:30 a.m. at St. Phillip and James RC Church in St. James.