Laurence Roberts, an educator who spent more than three decades in Farmingdale public schools, was known as the "king of the little kids" for his compassion and devotion to students, his son said Thursday.

Roberts, formerly of Dix Hills, died Wednesday at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas after a brief illness. He was 77.

Before he retired in 1990, Roberts served the Farmingdale district for 32 years -- all but one of those years at Albany Avenue Elementary School in North Massapequa, district officials said.

During his career, he held positions as a teacher, counselor, guidance department chairman, elementary and secondary assistant principal, and acting elementary principal.

Roberts was hailed at Albany Avenue for creating a "harmonious atmosphere in the building for both staff and parents," said Mary Rogers, the Farmingdale district's personnel administrator.

Born in Brooklyn, Roberts attended Tilden High School and then majored in education at SUNY Oswego. He married soon after college and earned his doctorate from New York University.

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Roberts and his wife Nancy lived in Freeport and Farmingdale before settling in Dix Hills, where they raised three children. He helped found the Dix Hills Jewish Center, his son Bruce Roberts said.

An avid Mets fan, Laurence Roberts also loved to laugh, enjoying classic comedy routines by the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello.

Roberts, who had also worked at Hofstra University and LIU Post, was always running across former students, his son said. He had split his time between Long Island and Las Vegas, eventually moving west permanently after 2001.

"As a family we could be anywhere in the world and someone will come up and say, 'You were my vice principal,' " Bruce Roberts recalled. "He was a mainstay at the school."

In addition to Bruce Roberts, survivors include his wife, Nancy, of Las Vegas; another son, Michael, of Manhattan; a daughter, Andrea Silverstein of New Hyde Park, who is an administrator in the Uniondale school district; a brother, David, who splits his time between Florida and Las Vegas; and four grandchildren.


Services will be held Friday at 10 a.m. at Star of David Chapel, 1236 N. Wellwood Ave., West Babylon. Burial will follow in Mount Ararat Cemetery in East Farmingdale. Contributions in his memory may be made to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave., New York, NY 10065.