In his 14-year career as Amityville High School football coach, he was known as “Uncle Lou” and never varied from his signature game-day garb — a white hat and black sweater.
The man who wore that hat, Lou Howard, 92, the coach with the highest winning percentage in Suffolk history — 82 victories and 15 losses — died Monday.
He had influenced generations of students, and had a half-century-long public career in which he touched the lives of politicians from Hauppauge to Albany. Later, he created the aerospace program at Farmingdale State College.
Howard, a lifelong Amityville resident, died at St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage after several months of declining health. He had remained active almost to the end, showing up nearly daily to gas up planes and talk to students as a professor emeritus at Farmingdale.
“He was a renaissance man of Suffolk County,” said County Executive Steve Bellone. “He was a legendary football coach, a government leader, a pilot and educator. He was at the top of his game in everything he did.”
Howard served as an Amityville mayor and trustee for five years, and was a founding member of the Suffolk County Legislature, where he served for a decade. He was elected to the State Assembly, only to return two years later to the county legislature, where he served another six years, including three as presiding officer.
Howard also was publisher of the weekly Amityville Record and served two terms as a member of the State University’s board of trustees.
“He always considered himself a teacher no matter what he did,” said his son Tom of Amityville, who later followed as the high school’s football coach. “He said teachers can affect eternity because you never know where your influence begins or ends.”
Lou Howard’s teams in Amityville won nine consecutive league championships and six Rutgers trophies for most outstanding Suffolk team, including four in a row from 1954 to 1957
He was so widely regarded that he gave pregame motivational talks to the Washington Redskins, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys, where one of his former players, John Niland, was a tackle.
In his public career, Howard touched people with his genuine concern.
“He was like a second father to me,” said Anthony Pancella, Babylon GOP chairman and vice president of Suffolk Regional Off Track Betting Corp. “He was not only my political mentor, but my life mentor.”
Pancella, who often runs late, said he often was the recipient of “Howard-isms,” adages the coach was known for. “He told me that ‘If you take a 10 bucks from me I can always make another $10, but if you take 10 minutes it’s gone forever,” Pancella recalled.
“He was a giant of local government,” said Richard Schaffer, Babylon Supervisor and Suffolk Democratic chairman. “He was never looking to make a big name for himself but he was a work horse you could always rely on to protect our community.”Survivors include his wife of 67 years, Margaret; his other sons, Patrick of Amityville, Bruce of Montauk, and Louis Jr. of West Islip; his daughters, Maureen Eustace of Lee, New Hampshire, Jane Schmitt of Amityville and Margaret Ostermann of Plano, Texas, 20 grandchildren nine great-grandchildren.
A wake will be held at Powell Funeral Home in Amityville, Friday from 7 to 9:30 p.m., and Saturday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. Services will be held at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Amityville, Sunday at 2 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 147 Park Ave., Amityville.