Cleo Sellers | Aldo Maiorana courtesy photo
Cleo Sellers | photo courtesy Aldo Maiorana

When Greenporters first learned Tuesday that Cleo Sellers had died after coffee magnate Aldo Maiorana posted a tribute to his friend on his Facebook page, they greeted the news with disbelief.

After all, Mr. Sellers was a man of superhuman strength and gentle humor, a person who transcended time or place, but a person who made Greenport a little bit more of a caring place.

On any given day, you could walk into Aldo’s coffee shop and find Cleo fixing something in the kitchen or standing on a ladder working. He’d offer every customer a gracious smile and find you a barista to make a cup of coffee. He was always styling, even if he working on a dirty job.

Mr. Sellers died Monday night at the age of 73.

Matt Cordes started a GoFundMe page Tuesday to help pay to bury his friend, and by Thursday afternoon had raised more than $8,500.

A wake will be held this Sunday, Jan. 17 at from 3 to 7 p.m. at Horton-Mathie Funeral Home, 735 First Street in Greenport. A funeral procession will depart the funeral home at 9:30 a.m. Monday for the cemetery of the First Presbyterian Church of Southold, 53100 Main Road in Southold.

“We are raising money for our life long friend so that he could have some type of proper funeral,” said Mr. Cordes on the GoFundMe page. “Any donations for Cleo would be appreciated. We don’t know of any family members of Cleo’s because he moved north from Texas a long time ago, and didn’t really keep in contact with them. Cleo was not only a friend of ours but a community figure. Not many people can say that they haven’t heard of or seen Cleo working as hard as he did for so many different people.”

Lori Feilen, who owned a furniture shop in Southold where Mr. Sellers often worked, donated $3,000 to the cause Thursday afternoon.

“I would like to acknowledge and thank everyone who made a generous donation here and for all of you who have helped during the past year of Cleo’s illness and this sad time,” she wrote. “There were so many of us who had a very special relationship with Cleo. Anyone who was lucky enough to be his friend knew what a kind, dedicated, loyal and generous person he was. He possessed magic strength and spent unmeasurable hours every day going from one job to another. Having Cleo around to help was the equivalent of having four people. He was a very rare hardworking person.”

“Cleo was a very dear friend to me. He was very caring and I admired him,” she added. “I feel like I was the fortunate one. I know the very close relationships he had with several people in town and through out the last three to four decades we rallied around Cleo and he always rallied for each of us. It is a very special safe place you are in when Cleo was your closest friend and I know he felt the same for each of us. We are now comforted in knowing he is one of our angels in heaven.”

“Cleo was the go to guy for lots of businesses in the village,” said David Berson, captain of the Greenport electric boat Glory, on Mr. Maiorana’s Facebook page. “Always helpful and considerate and doing jobs that no one else would or could. A little more air gone from our community.”

“He was beautiful living force,” said Sonomi Obinata of Southold. “May you rest in peace. I may search for you in the air.”

“Cleo was an amazing man. He did odd jobs, for mostly women, all over the North Fork. I could never tell if he was trimming their trees or trimming their bushes,” said composer and Aldo’s regular George Cork Maul. “He would work in leather shoes and at the end of the day glue a broken heel on with hide glue. Somewhere in his past was a piece of Hatian magic. He was superstitious beyond belief. He would never walk under a ladder. He wore the same clothes to a party that he wore to take a load of debris to the dump. His sense of humor was priceless tongue-in-cheek. He never lost sight of what was important. He was a sweetheart of a man.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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