George Reh, a longtime educator who touched the lives of thousands of students as a physical education teacher and sports coach in Selden, died Monday. He was 69.
Reh, an institution in his Rocky Point community as a coach, teacher and neighbor, died unexpectedly at Mather Memorial Hospital.
"It is a sudden and tragic end to a wonderful life," said Scott Reh of Rocky Point, the oldest of his three sons.
"This was a man who was a great all-around guy, and an excellent role model as a father, husband, friend and teacher."
George Reh could be defined by his training of athletes such as the late Randy Smith of Bellport High School, an NBA player with the Knicks, Buffalo, San Diego and Atlanta, or New York Jets wide receiver Nick Bruckner of Newfield High School.
But he was so much more than that, family and friends said. His passion for high school track and the life lessons he taught left an indelible mark on the Long Island running community during a lengthy career.
"As a kid in school, he was my favorite teacher and I wasn't even in his class," former student and fellow teacher and coach Jerry Vessichio said.
"He saw the good in every kid he encountered. He just knew how to talk to kids."
Reh was born in New Hyde Park in 1943 and spent his childhood in Massapequa with his parents, George and Lena Reh, and sister, Susie. Summers found the family enjoying sun and surf at his aunt's bungalow in Shoreham.
The young Reh had fond memories of these idyllic days and spoke often of them. As a young man, he attended Massapequa High School in 1961, where he played a variety of sports and met the love of his life, his wife, Valerie.
On their first date at a drive-in movie, he told her she was the girl he was going to marry.
He recounted to his high school buddies that the first time he saw Val, there was a "big light" and he knew that she was the girl for him.
After completing his undergraduate degree at Brockport University in 1965, the sweethearts married that year and moved to Bloomington, Ind., so George Reh could complete graduate studies at Indiana University.
They welcomed the first of three sons, Scott, and moved to Rocky Point in 1967.
Reh and his wife even shared a birthday, and would have celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary in July.
He began teaching at Bellport High School in 1968 before a lengthy career at Newfield High School, teaching and coaching for 33 years.
"We were so lucky; every kid should have had a father like ours," said son Jeff Reh of Sound Beach. "He was even a dad to our friends."
More recently, George Reh could be found on the sidelines watching some of his eight grandchildren carrying on the Reh lacrosse legacy.
"I wanted to be a father like my father," said another son, Gary Reh of Medford. "He taught us how to love and how to teach our children."
Survivors include his wife, Valerie Reh of Rocky Point, his three sons and his sister, Susie Mallon of Lake Ronkonkoma.
Visitation is 7 to 9 p.m. today and 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. tomorrow at O.B. Davis Funeral Home of Port Jefferson Station. Services will be held on Friday at St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church in Rocky Point, with burial to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, 3442 Route 112, Coram.
In lieu of flowers, the family requested donations be made to the George Reh Memorial Lacrosse Scholarship Fund. Checks should be made payable to Rocky Point Schools and sent to 16 Fairway Dr., Rocky Point, NY 11778.