by Ted Phillips
Officials dedicated a section of Route 110 as the Assemblyman James D. Conte Memorial Highway in honor of the late politician at a ceremony Saturday in downtown Huntington.
Conte, who was elected to the Assembly in 1988 as a Republican and served Huntington Station for 24 years, died of cancer a year ago this month at age 53.
"I'm honored and proud, and I'm speechless," said his tearful widow, Debra, after the unveiling of a sign on New York Avenue bearing her late husband's name. "He was a leader. He was strong. He was upfront. He told it like it was."
Police closed a section of downtown for the ceremony, which was attended by about 50 people, including Republican and Democratic politicians and family members. Earlier this year, the State Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation that named a 3.3-mile stretch of Route 110 -- from Main Street in Huntington to Jericho Turnpike -- in Conte's honor.
"He was incredibly dedicated to his family, which spilled over into how he viewed his work -- he felt like his constituents in a large part were an extension of his family," said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport). "I don't think he ever forgot his roots, which are deeply embedded in Huntington Station."
Conte, who received two kidney transplants, advocated for laws that made it easier for people to donate organs. He saw success last year with the passage of Lauren's Law, which requires those seeking driver's licenses to choose whether they want to be organ donors.
"He understood the value of organ donation and the value it gives to your life," said his brother Robert Conte, who is running as a Republican for the Suffolk County Legislature. "Without it, he would not have been able to be a 24 year assemblyman . . . it allowed him to have three wonderful children and the life that he had, as short as it was."
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