Joseph Heinlein of Huntington was as skilled in the classroom as he was on the softball field.

Heinlein, 79, helped build the Commack school district from a lone school amid potato fields to the bustling suburban district it is. He also found time to play baseball and softball so well that he was inducted in 1981 into the Huntington Softball Hall of Fame.

He died July 10 of complications from a stroke at a hospice in Tavares, Florida. His funeral is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Hugh of Lincoln Roman Catholic Church in Huntington Station, followed by burial at cemetery at the Church of St. Patrick's in Lloyd Harbor.

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"He just really liked helping people; he liked working with young people," said his daughter Marlene Tumminelli of Selden. "He was a great role model, a great dad."

Heinlein grew up in Huntington, where his parents owned the well-regarded Hollis Bakery. He graduated in 1953 from St. Dominic's High School in Oyster Bay, where he met the woman he would marry, Helena Enright.

At Hofstra University, he received an undergraduate degree in education in 1957 followed by two master's in the subject there.

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He wed Enright that year and went to teach history in the Commack school district. He stayed for 35 years, moving up to assistant principal, principal and director of personnel before serving as acting superintendent from 1980 to 1982.

"Joe Heinlein was an outstanding administrator with a great sense of humor, the ability to connect with people and an ability to speak with the community that was uniquely connective," Commack Superintendent Donald James said in an email. "Joe served the District with distinction for many decades and his leadership, sincerity, and friendship helped make the district what it is today."

Heinlein was an avid Yankees fan and stayed active playing baseball and softball.

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He also admired sports cars. "As the owner of several Corvettes, he adorned each one with a New York license plate with Helena's name on it. He was very proud of that," according to the eulogy prepared by his sister-in-law Sheila Borstelmann of Milford, Connecticut.

Heinlein's wife died in 1997, and his partner of the past decade, Kay Franks, died last year.

In addition to Tumminelli, Heinlein is survived by his brother, Albert of Huntington; a son, Joseph of Smithtown; and daughters, Janet Betsch of Olathe, Kansas, and Kathleen Esperto of Tavares, Florida.