ST. JAMES, NY — Joe Winters, co-founder of Winter Bros. Waste Systems, died Tuesday at the age of 54.

Winters, of St. James, died after fighting the coronavirus, which he was diagnosed with just before Christmas, Long Island Business News reported. Winters was hospitalized for two weeks before his death.

He is survived by his wife, Michelle, and sons, Patrick and Sean.

Joe and his brothers drew inspiration to launch Winter Bros. Waste Systems from the small trash-hauling business started on Long Island by their parents, “Big” Jim and Brigid, and uncle, Joe, in the 1950s, according to the Winter Bros. website. Big Jim retired in the late 1980s and left the business to his sons.

Sean operated the Long Island business while Joe and his brothers purchased a small waste removal company in Burlington, Vermont. Despite the three-year growth of the Vermont business, the Winters brothers’ love of Long Island prevailed. They all returned to the island to run the business.

Currently, more than 100,000 customers use Winter Bros. services. The company employs more than 525 people.

“The Winters brothers are proud to call St. James their home,” its website reads. “The Winters brothers have deep ties to the St. James community and each brother (and all of their children) attended Smithtown schools.”

Joe founded the Winter Center for Autism, which opened in August. The nonprofit helps adults with autism find and train for jobs, as well as assists Long Island businesses to develop and implement programs to employ adults who have autism.

“What I would say is that there is a job for every person,” Winters said of his nonprofit. “We are going to find the right fit for the right person at the right company. We will keep that relationship going and you will see that over a period of time people are going to flourish and the company will better for it.”

Joe’s family asked in lieu of flowers, donations honoring him can be made to the Winters Center for Autism.

Visitation for Joe is scheduled for 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday at St. James Funeral Home at 829 Middle Country Road. Winters’ funeral mass is scheduled for 11:45 a.m. Friday at Sts. Philip & James RC Church at 454 N. Country Road in St. James.

This article originally appeared on the Smithtown Patch

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