Bernadette S. Costanzo

April 17, 1945 - Sept. 25, 2018
Bernadette S. Costanzo, April 17, 1945 -  Sept. 25, 2018

Bernadette Sullivan Costanzo of Montauk, the owner of the former Montauk Beach Store on Main Street, died of a stroke on Sept. 25 at Stony Brook University Hospital, where she had been hospitalized for about six weeks. She was 73. 

Ms. Costanzo was diagnosed in 2000 with hemochromatosis, a condition that causes the body to absorb too much iron. She was hoping that Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan would put her on a waiting list for a liver transplant and the Montauk community rallied in her support. More than 50 residents attended a hearing of the hospital’s medical board and more than 100 faxed letters. A transplant was approved; it was said to have given her an additional 18 years of life. 

Born on April 17, 1945, in Jersey City to the former Sara McCarthy and Edward Thomas Sullivan, she spent her childhood in the towns of Union and Maplewood in New Jersey. She first attended Marymount University and then Boston University, from which she received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also earned a master’s in early childhood special education from the Bank Street College of Education in New York. She became a Montessori schoolteacher and taught English as a second language in Mexico. 

In 1970, she married Conrad J. Costanzo, who introduced her to Montauk. The couple, who got engaged in the hamlet, bought an oceanfront summer house on Surfside Avenue in 1972. Ms. Costanzo had been a Pan American Airlines flight attendant in the 1960s and ’70s, based in Miami and New York, and the chief purser for her crew. She retired upon the arrival of her first child, but retained a fondness for travel. She especially enjoyed spending winters in Playas del Coco, Costa Rica. 

Ms. Costanzo and her husband moved to Montauk full time in 1993, and she bought the Montauk Beach Store from her friend Paulette Ehrenberg three years later. Her son, Kai, who worked with her, launched the Kai-Kai sandal brand, for which the store is now named. 

In Montauk, Ms. Costanzo was the scholarship director of the Montauk Village Association, an active officer of the Surfside Estates Association, and a parishioner of St. Therese of Lisieux Catholic Church. She also was an inaugural member of the Friends of Montauk Library. In her free time, she loved to cook, do needlepoint, and read. 

She is survived by her husband and son, who both live in Montauk, and her daughter, Gabrielle Costanzo Long of East Hampton as well as two grandchildren. Her son, J. Kai Costanzo, also lives on Block Island.

A wake was held at her oceanfront residence on Sunday. On Monday, the Rev. Tom Murray of St. Therese of Lisieux officiated at a funeral Mass, with burial following at Fort Hill Cemetery in Montauk. The family has suggested donations to and has urged friends to become organ donors.