August 2, 1974 – April 23, 2020
Scott Salinardi, associate executive director of Lifestyles for the Disabled, who was known as “the heart and soul” of the community-based agency for developmentally disabled adults, died April 23 after suffering a heart attack in his Eltingville home, family members said. He was 45 years old.
“Scott ran Lifestyles. He was the heart and soul of Lifestyles. He knew it inside and out,” said his wife, Sherry, a licensed social worker and chief operating officer of Lifestyles, who worked alongside her husband.
“He knew every single person by name, and everyone had his cell phone number. Everyone was important to him and he made time for everyone; he never said no. He was really the nicest person -- a genuinely a good person to his core -- and everyone loved him,” she said.
Scott had worked at Lifestyles since 2004. The center, whose main campus is in Willowbrook, was established by his father, Richard, in 1994.
Scott oversaw all Lifestyles services including its greenhouse and horticulture program, and Lifestyles Cafe culinary arts programs on the Willowbrook campus, as well as its S.I. Zoo Cafe in West Brighton, and TeeStyles, its not-for-profit t-shirt business in Bulls Head.
He was at the forefront of the creation of new and innovative Lifestyles programs including a college learning partnership with Wagner College, St. John’s University and Empire State College, as well as a membership initiative with the Greenbelt Recreation Center.
One of his most recent initiatives was a partnership with the Advance/SILive and Honda of Staten Island in a program launched in the fall of 2019, that saw Lifestyles participants do feature reporting for the Advance web site and print newspaper.
Beth Fromkin, Nicholas Schopp and Nicholas Devoti, Rich Salinardi, (Scott's father) Daniel Goldberg, Scott Salinardi and Brittany Maya play a round of golf on June 29, 2010. (Courtesy of Lifestyles for the Disabled )
“At the Advance and SILive, we’ve long advocated for a culture of acceptance and inclusivity in our community We saw this opportunity to work with the journalists from Lifestyles for the Disabled as a great way to put that into action in our own organization,” said Advance Publisher Caroline Diamond Harrison.
With typical enthusiasm Scott told Advance Editor Brian Laline at the time the "unique partnership will not only serve as an important inclusion vehicle for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to have their voices heard but will also become a model for other communities to re-create in their home towns.”
Scott was active in Staten Island’s sports community, as well as a Special Olympics volunteer for over 20 years. He also played softball with the Lifestyle rec team and served on the board of the College of Staten Island Auxiliary.
Born and raised in Eltingville, Salinardi attended PS 42 and Barnes Intermediate School, I.S. 7. At Tottenville High School, where he graduated in 1992, he distinguished himself as an athlete on the basketball court and baseball field.
“You’d be hard-pressed to meet someone as genuine and warm as Scott Salinardi,’’ remembered Advance sportswriter Charlie De Biase Jr. “I had the pleasure of covering Scott when he was a student-athlete at Tottenville HS and later, I got to know him better when we played on the same men’s basketball league team together. Even as a competitor, he was extremely unselfish and I always found him to be that way as a person. It’s a terrible loss for Staten Island’s community.’’
He went on to play baseball at the University of Chicago, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in public policy. He later earned a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Wagner College.
While an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, he was introduced to the love of his life, Wisconsin native Sherry Yerkey. They dated through college. When she completed her master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, she moved to Staten Island in 1998. They were married in 2001.
For a brief time Salinardi worked as a video librarian and research assistant with the National Basketball Association (NBA) studios in Secaucus, N.J, and as a marketing research consultant with Find /SVP Inc. in Manhattan, before he joined his father at Lifestyles.
Lifestyles “was always his true calling,” according to his friends and colleagues.
“We have 450 program participants at four locations around Staten Island. Scott would visit each site, and he knew everyone by name. He was loved by everyone. As soon as he came into a room, the smiles would spread. He was welcomed openly, and he returned the love,” said Gregory Mikalauskas, director of development and facilities for Lifestyles, who worked alongside Scott. “He was a gentleman, and a gentle soul.”
Said longtime Lifestyles program participant Antonio Pabon: "Scott was a good mentor. He was a good friend for me and everybody in Lifestyles and he was just a very good guy. He was so generous and he cared about all the participants. He brought us to basketball games at the Barclay Center, baseball at the Staten Island Yankees, Kamp Kiwanis, and we had lots of parties. When it came to parties, he was the man. He was always trying to make life fun.”
“The world lost one of the most kind, gentle, and loving men that has ever walked the earth. Staten Island was lucky to claim him as their own,” said Dan Ryan, Advance/SILive advertising director.
Ryan said he first met Scott about 13 years ago. “My wife and I went to the annual Lifestyles Pumpkin & Mum sale,” Ryan related. He had his arm around my sister-in-law Kara, who is one of the participants in Lifestyles, and he had a huge smile on his face. That smile never left his face, even in hard times, he was able to see positives in the world. We instantly became friends. Over the years, we were able to partner on many community events, family outings."
"He was a family man who was dedicated to being a great husband, father, and coach. He had tremendous love for all of the participants of Lifestyles and their families and we all loved him,” Ryan said.
Salinardi was a devoted father to his four daughters, Madeline, 17; Abigail, 14; Sydney, 10, and Natalie, 6. He coached basketball and softball for Holy Child R.C. Church, and supported his daughters in all their endeavors.
“He was always there; he was their 100 percent biggest fan,” said his wife.
Helen Vitaliano, who chairs the Lifestyles board of directors, and her husband, Federal Court Justice Eric Vitaliano, were “heartbroken” by news of Salinardi’s death.
“We are profoundly saddened by the sudden and shocking loss of Scott Salinardi. For more than 25 years, Lifestyles for the Disabled prided itself on its innovative programming to bring dignity and worth to our adult developmentally disabled participants,” said Helen Vitaliano.
“Scott’s kindness and compassion knew no bounds. He was the heart and soul of Lifestyles, bringing all the tools of the new millennium to bear on the compassionate work of our agency. As difficult as it will be, we are committed to carrying on Scott’s mission and will do so in his memory," she said. "With broken hearts, we offer our deepest sympathy and support to Sherry, their four precious girls, Richie, Sue, Jackie and the entire Salinardi and Lifestyles families.”
“Some of us get an exaggerated share of the spotlight because of our job title or some other artificial reason,” said Borough President Jim Oddo. "All the while, others are doing truly good deeds in relative obscurity to the public. But they are known to those they help. They are heroes to the families touched by their compassion and goodness.
“Scott was one of those unsung warriors of Staten Island who worked on behalf of those in need,” Oddo said. “We just aren’t as good as we can be as a community without folks like Scott. Our Borough Hall team mourns this awful loss.”
Assemblyman Michael Cusick said he was “deeply saddened” by Salinardi’s death. “In my opinion there wasn’t a more genuine person than Scott. The loving husband, father and son that Scott was known to be was the same loving and dedicated advocate for the developmentally disabled at Lifestyles. Scott will be sorely missed.”
District Attorney Michael McMahon and wife, Judge Judy McMahon, were longtime friends of the Salinardi family.
“Scott was one of those truly rare individuals who was blessed with it all: He was a brilliant scholar-athlete, equally handsome, charming and engaging, who could have employed his skills to be financially successful in any endeavor," said the district attorney. "Instead, he devoted his life to serve the most vulnerable, our intellectually disabled community, through Lifestyles,” McMahon said. “He wisely understood that a man’s greatness is measured by the number of lives he positively impacts. His life was an inspiration and a reflection of the loving example set by his parents, Sue and Ritchie, and equally supported by the love of his life, wife and partner, Sherry, and their four daughters. Judy and I send them our deepest condolences.”