WWII mechanic Elliot H. Seagraves dies at 96
Elliott H. Seagraves served his country as an aircraft mechanic during World War II and later worked for the Grumman Corp., where he helped assemble fighter planes and the lunar module.
Seagraves, a longtime Long Islander, died Wednesday of pneumonia and congenital heart failure. He was 96.
He was born in Brooklyn on May 25, 1917, to Elliott and Marie Seagraves, and grew up near the Brooklyn Navy Yard with a younger brother and three older sisters.
The family moved to Long Island, and Seagraves graduated from Oceanside High School, where he played football.
During the Great Depression, he worked as an elevator operator and cabana boy at the Lido Beach Country Club, his family said.
While doing construction work for his father, Seagraves helped rebuild the Long Beach boardwalk in 1934 following a major fire, said his son, William Seagraves, 55, of West Babylon.
"That was something that he watched in the news after the Sandy storm very closely," Seagraves said. "He always wanted to go back to Long Beach to look at the boardwalk and the jetties that they built. . . . He wanted to see what was left."
A talented tenor, Elliott Seagraves sang at weddings and bar mitzvahs, and auditioned for Broadway plays as a young man.
But he turned to more practical work as a career, starting as an assembler and riveter for former Farmingdale-based aircraft manufacturer Fairchild Republic in 1938. He was hired by Grumman in April 1941.
During World War II, he was an aircraft structural mechanic stationed in Venosa, Italy, and rose to the rank of staff sergeant.
After the war, he met Blanche Berka, the Bay Shore woman who would become his wife and mother of his five children. They married in 1951 and built a house in West Islip.
"They had a wonderful relationship. It was a very quiet love," William Seagraves said. "They loved nothing more than to just blow a whole Sunday doing all the crossword puzzles."
At Grumman, Elliott Seagraves worked in assembly on a long list of aircraft and aerospace projects, including the Apollo lunar exploration module, his son said.
He retired in 1977 and spent his free time camping and doing woodworking projects with Blanche until her death in 1979. In the early 1990s, he remarried and became a snowbird, splitting his time between Florida and Long Island.
Other survivors include his brother, Donald, 87, of Manorville; his children, Elliott, 60, of Virginia Beach, Va.; Robert, 58, of West Islip; Donald, 57, of Upper Montclair, N.J.; and Adele Rodriguez, 53, of Bohemia; and six grandchildren.
He was predeceased by his second wife, Felipa Mirasola, and sisters Grace Gay, Flossie Rennert and Adele Luning.
A funeral service will be held Monday at Grant Funeral Home in Brentwood at 10:30 a.m. Burial will be at Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale.