Ben Krupinski, 70

Builder, Businessman, and Philanthropist, Was ‘Greater Than Life’
Ben Krupinski, 70

Bernard John Krupinski Jr., who died in a June 2 plane crash that took the lives of his wife, Bonnie Krupinski, their grandson, William Maerov, and Jon Dollard, a Hampton Bays pilot who worked for Mr. Krupinski, was described as a man who loved his family, friends, and community above all.

Mr. Krupinski, known as Ben, was perhaps best known as a house builder. His Ben Krupinski Builders counted the rich and famous among its clients. But the company also had a strong commitment to charitable acts, putting roofs on churches, completing a $14.5 million rebuilding of the Guild Hall cultural center, renovating the shops at the Ladies Village Improvement Society in East Hampton, often at no cost to the organizations. 

The exterior work and windows at the Amagansett Life-Saving and Coast Guard Station, now restored and open to the public, was another of his projects. Krupinski Builders was the general contractor at the new Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, rebuilt the fire-wrecked Scoville Hall in Amagansett, and spearheaded the major — and at one time controversial — expansion of the East Hampton Library.

Mr. Krupinski was a restaurateur as well, operating East Hampton Point on Three Mile Harbor and Cittanuova and the acclaimed 1770 House in East Hampton Village. At one time, he also owned the Asian fusion Wei Fun on Pantigo Road in East Hampton that was run as the Grill on Pantigo for a time. A share of the Red Horse Market complex in East Hampton was among his holdings, as were a number of other commercial properties, including the East Hampton Point and Shagwong Marinas. 

His Executive Air Terminal at the East Hampton Airport offers private charter aircraft from East Hampton Airlines and provides fuel and other services. Mr. Krupinski had a pilot’s license and had a great love for his aircraft. 

“His acts of kindness were shown in many ways,” Mr. Krupinski’s brother, Frank Ackley of East Hampton, said this week. “Known acts were publicly seen and many discreetly taken care of without needed attention.”

Among these were work on the Retreat’s shelter for victims of domestic violence and their families, where he made sure that any children who stayed there had a room of their own to play in. He built access ramps for disabled residents. He supported school sports teams. He provided money to the East Hampton Food Pantry and fruit for runners in the annual Katy’s Courage 5K race.

Mr. Krupinski and other members of his extended family were frequent donors to local Republican candidates. He also supported Sinn Fein, the Irish republican political party. Gerry Adams, its former longtime leader, spoke at Mr. and Mrs. Krupinski and Mr. Maerov’s funeral at the East Hampton Presbyterian Church on Friday.

One of Mr. Krupinski’s grandmothers immigrated to the United States in 1900 and found work in the East Hampton summer colony. Intrigued with his Irish roots, he visited Ireland and saw the family homestead. Later, he got to know Mr. Adams through a mutual friend.

Bernard John Krupinski Jr. was born on June 15, 1947, at Southampton Hospital to Ben Krupinski Sr. and Cecilia Howard Ackley, both of whom died before him. His father ran Benny’s delicatessen on Springs-Fireplace Road. In his teens he had a paper route in East Hampton and he would often dig for clams in Accabonac Harbor with his siblings; his mother would deliver them to customers where she worked in Riverhead. The young Mr. Krupinski used the clamming money to buy his first boat.

He attended East Hampton schools and Mercy High School, then went for a time to Suffolk County Community College in Selden, returning to work in his wife’s father’s sand and gravel mining business. From there, he moved into home building, starting G.B.D. Builders in about 1980. That led to East Hampton’s largest independent commercial enterprise, centered on Ben Krupinski Builders.

During the 2007-8 renovation at Guild Hall, Mr. Krupinski was invited to join the cultural center’s board of directors. He declined, telling an interviewer at the time, “I am a free spirit. I am a person of action. Parliamentary procedure is not my forte. It can be frustrating. I’d rather just do it.” 

He was an honorary member of the East Hampton Fire Department and a past member of many civic organizations. Mr. Ackley said that his brother’s love of fishing, hunting, card games, golf, and tennis were important but came second after his passion for work and pleasing others.

“Ben Krupinski was greater than life. His smile and eyes just light up a room,” Mr. Ackley said. Many years ago, when Mr. Krupinski appeared on his friend Martha Stewart’s Christmas television special to make a gingerbread house, even Miss Piggy, the vociferous Muppet, could not take her eyes off him, his family recalled.

In addition to Mr. Ackley, Mr. Krupinski is survived by a daughter, Laura Krupinski, and a granddaughter, Charlotte Maerov. Charlotte’s father, Lance Maerov, spoke at the Friday funeral. He lives in New York City and is a frequent visitor to East Hampton. He is also survived by a sister, Sheila Smith of East Hampton, a half brother, Kevin Ackley of East Hampton, and dozens of nieces and nephews.

In the 2007 interview, Mr. Krupinski spoke about his charitable works. “When you have lived here like I have, my whole life, you know the needs of people and you never forget that. It’s not the money. It’s the thought. The process. It makes for a better town.”