Ira Stewart Levine loved sports so much, friends said, that he dedicated his life to making sure the rules of the games were firmly upheld. Levine, who lived in Patchogue and spent 35 years officiating various sports throughout the area, died Monday at 62 after a short battle with cancer.
Levine was the secretary-treasurer of the Western Suffolk Baseball Officials Association. A stickler for making sure calls made on high school fields were consistently correct, friends said, Levine was recognized as "umpire of the year," and awarded the New York State Baseball Umpire Association's Tony DeVivo Award in 2009.
"I don't know what I'm going to do without him," said Western Suffolk president Joe Grady, who was friends with Levine for more than 30 years. "He did everything for us and will be remembered as one of the best at this job. Everyone knew who Ira was. His rule book was always open."
Levine, who graduated from Newfield High School in 1971, earned a bachelor's degree in physical therapy at Stony Brook and a master's degree from LIU Post, was also a longtime football official. He officiated at five Suffolk County championship games and two Long Island championships, according to Chuck DeCarbo, who worked in the same officiating crew with Levine for 12 years.
"I remember when Ira was the proctor for my baseball umpiring test and I was asked if a relief pitcher must throw a pitch upon entering a game," DeCarbo recalled. "I said no, which surprised him, because a pitcher may get hurt while warming up, and he appreciated that I thought of that. We were friends ever since."
Levine also served as a basketball referee and later as a soccer official.
Like many others, Kevin Harrington, president of the Western Basketball Officials IAABO, Board 127, will remember Levine for not only being a great official, but also as an even better friend.
"He would do anything for anybody," Harrington said. "He served the community so incredibly well and he never sought any recognition for it."
Levine, Grady said, was so humble that he initially refused to accept the prestigious Tony DeVivo Award. "Ira didn't even feel comfortable accepting it," Grady said. "I had to say, 'Ira, you earned this.' He emailed the state president asking him to give it to someone else. The president told him no. Ira never wanted to be recognized, but he was our mainstay."
Levine worked as a special-education teacher in several districts including Middle Country and Rocky Point.
Survivors include his mother, Elayne, and brother Andrew, both of Selden.
Friends and relatives gathered Wednesday morning at Raynor & D'Andrea Funeral Home in Bayport where a religious service was held. An interment followed in Patchogue Hebrew Cemetery.