John “Jack” Rist Sr., the owner of the Herbert & Rist Liquor Store on Jobs Lane and a former Southampton fire chief, died at Southampton Hospital after a short illness on Thursday, March 14. He was 86.
Mr. Rist, dubbed the “Mayor of Jobs Lane” by former Southampton Village Mayor Joseph Romanosky Jr., tended to his liquor store for nearly 60 years and was an integral part of the village, according to family and friends.
“This was a town meeting place and he became so embedded in the community,” said Herbert & Rist Manager John Noonan, who worked with Mr. Rist for about 25 years. “His old-time customers for 50 years were his friends. The tough part [about his death] will be for the people who pop their head in to see if he’s at his desk, and he’s not there. That’s going to be very difficult.”
Mr. Rist became a familiar face with whom friends and customers would exchange stories, and could read a person very quickly, according to his son, Mark Rist.
“He had such an outgoing and strong personality,” he said. “He’d get everything out of you, like who you’re seeing or dating, just to have fun with you.”
Of course, Mr. Rist was a hard worker. He logged hours at the liquor store every single day, and worked overtime on holidays.
“For July 4, 15 or 16 hour days weren’t a big deal, but he always bought breakfast, lunch and dinner,” Mr. Noonan said. “He expected a tremendous amount out of you, but never thought twice about giving back.”
Mr. Noonan said that as a firefighter, when the alarm sounded, Mr. Rist would often run out the front door, not without locking it of course, and not return to the shop for hours. He said people would wait outside the store until he got back so they could chat with him.
“He went to every single call,” his son Mark said. “I would always hear him at night rumbling around and getting out when we lived on Corrigan Street.”
Mr. Rist served 58 years with the Southampton Fire Department and began as a firefighter and moved up the ranks of the department beginning in the early 1960s and became fire chief in the mid-1970s.
According to his sons, he responded to calls until just a few years ago.
Born in 1926 to Fredrick G. Rist and Frances C. Vaughn in Greenfield, Massachusetts, Mr. Rist attended the Lawrence Academy Preparatory School and then joined the U.S. Navy during World War II. Later he attended Becker Junior College, also in Massachusetts, where he met his wife, Nancy Winters. They married in 1951 and moved to Southampton in 1954.
When he wasn’t tending the store or running to fires, Mr. Rist was an avid outdoorsman, who went fishing, hunting and golfing frequently.
When he was a boy in Massachusetts, he appeared in a newspaper article for catching a record number of trout. He didn’t reveal which river he caught them in, however, saying he wouldn’t tell everyone where his favorite fishing hole was.
Even though he wasn’t eager to share his fishing secrets, Mr. Rist was generous when it really mattered. Aside from always giving to local organizations, he would often help those around him, such as a struggling young man who needed help paying rent.
“He was more than happy to give him the rent money and extra, I’m sure,” his son John said. “If he got a good feeling about you, he was more than willing to help you out if he could.”
Mr. Rist is survived by his children, John Rist Jr. and his wife Margaret of North Sea, Mark Rist and his wife Patricia of East Quogue, and Sandra Dombkowski and her husband Tom of Sagaponack; his grandchildren John Ross Rist, Holly Martin and Kurt Rist, Brandon, Katie and Matthew, Courtney, Samantha, and Meghan; a great-granddaughter, Winter; and a host of nieces and nephews.
He was predeceased by his wife of 53 years, Nancy, and two brothers, Francis and Ted.
A funeral Mass was held on Wednesday at the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts in Southampton. Interment followed at Southampton Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind, 371 East Jericho Turnpike, Smithtown, NY 11787.