Worldly Changemaker William J. Corbett Sr. Dies
William J. Corbett Sr., a well-traveled Cold War veteran, attorney, advocate, and prominent publicist from Floral Park who met many world leaders, died on Jan. 30, his family said. He was 85.
Corbett leaves a legacy of making a lasting impact on the village he called home for 77 years, be it through small acts such as officiating weddings or successfully fighting for a 50% decrease in residents’ water bills by taking on utility companies as the head of a group called Water Bill Watchdogs.
“Bill’s patriotic spirit, civic pride, and charitable service threaded through his entire being,” wrote his son, William J. Corbett Jr., head of the eponymous Corbett Public Relations firm that Corbett Sr. founded. “Never forgetting his humble roots, he had an unceasing drive to help others and often did so behind the scenes without desire of recognition. He was always willing to provide advice, support, and brainstorm solutions to problems.
Born in Brooklyn on March 15, 1937 to John Corbett and Mildred (Bauer) Corbett, William J. Corbett Sr. was raised in Astoria until age 8, when he moved to Floral Park. After graduating from Sewanhaka High School, then Hobart College in 1959, he joined the U.S. Air Force, serving three years abroad and another seven years in the U.S. Air Force Reserve. He attended Albany Law School and graduated from Fordham School of Law.
His career included serving as a Nassau County assistant district attorney, Floral Park associate village justice, New York State Senate staffer, and leader or member of multiple nonprofits, trade, and civic groups. He served as the top spokesman for Avon, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to serve as a member of the Communications Advisory Committee of the United States Information Agency. He met more than 20 U.S. presidents, vice presidents, presidential hopefuls, Queen Elizabeth — twice — and won countless awards and military honors throughout his career.
He and his wife of 56 years, Ann Corbett — the first woman elected mayor of Floral Park — traveled to more than 70 countries. He visited every continent, including Antarctica.
“They did everything together,” Corbett Jr. said of his parents. “On their life journey, they were truly soulmates … What he loved the most was my mother and his family.”
Besides his wife and son, Corbett is also survived by his son Spencer T. Corbett, daughter Sally Ann Corbett-Turco and four grandchildren. He is predeceased by his twin sisters Elaine Peterson and Elizabeth Anderson.
Wake services will be held at 2-4 p.m. and 6-9 p.m. Friday at Dalton Funeral Home, 29 Atlantic Ave. in Floral Park. Funeral services are set for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church at 6 Commonwealth Blvd. in Bellerose.
In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to be made to the New York DeMolay, a youth leadership organization that played an important role in his life. Donations can be made to 2150 Bleecker St., Utica, NY 13501 or via nydemolay.net