You always knew when Norm Maisel was in a room, whether it was at a wrestling meet or in a crowded celebration.
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The longtime Amityville High School wrestling coach and veteran Marine was only 5-foot-5 but had an oversized personality, quick wit and a big heart, his family and friends said. . He touched countless lives as an educator at two Long Island schools and as beachmaster of the Amityville Village beach during summer months.
Maisel died April 12 after a battle with prostate cancer at his home in Sarasota, Florida, where he and his wife lived since 1996. He was 79.
“He was pretty unforgettable,” said Janet Maisel, 67, his wife of 20 years. “He was broad-shouldered and tough, but he had a great sense of humor and there was a tender part of him. He could relate to the kids very naturally, especially kids who came from less fortunate homes.”
The Marine veteran might have looked stern when you saw him around the mat, she said, but he was smiling otherwise, spending time with family, playing with his three beloved dogs, Sheldon, Lily and Charlie, or watching reruns of his favorite television show, “Everybody Loves Raymond.”
Maisel coached wrestling at Amityville for 25 years beginning in 1967 and accumulated a dual-meet record of 263-84-2. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, as a coach in 2013 and the Amityville Sports Hall of Fame a year prior.
Maisel led Amityville to 11 league dual-meet and 10 tournament team titles. He also produced 84 individual league champions and 10 individual Suffolk County champions.
“When you were on the other team, you knew it was going to be a tough match,” said son Billy, 45, a former wrestling standout who still lives in Amityville. “We were always in the hunt for county titles and back in the day that was kind of unheard of for a small school. His intensity and his compassion . . . he brought the community together through his coaching and his teaching.”
Born Dec. 9, 1936, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, and raised in the nearby suburbs of Camp Hill, Maisel graduated and lettered in wrestling, football, and track and field at West Shore High School.
He continued the three at Gettysburg College, where he graduated with a degree in psychology and English after taking a two-year leave to serve in the Marine Corps, stationed in Japan, Janet said.
Maisel previously coached wrestling at Gettysburg under legendary Mepham coach Frank “Sprig” Gardner and at a high school in Pennsylvania and, from 1963 to ’66 at East Meadow High School.
After Amityville High, he worked as an athletic academic coordinator at Michigan State University from 1991 to ’96 and rubbed elbows with basketball coach Tom Izzo and football coach Nick Saban.
“I learned a lot from Norm; he was a great mentor,” said Jerry Pollock of Amityville, a former wrestler and assistant wrestling coach under Maisel. “I learned wrestling and all the terminology, but the biggest thing I learned from him is how to make wrestling a family.”
Besides his wife and son, Maisel is survived by another son Kenny, 48, and a daughter Stephanie, 43, both of Morgantown, West Virginia; two stepsons, Brent, 46, and Andy, 37, and a stepdaughter Amy, 43; a sister, Lois, 73; four grandchildren, and eight stepgrandchildren.
Maisel’s remains were cremated. A memorial will be held Saturday at the Powell Funeral Home in Amityville from 3 to 5:30 p.m., and a celebration of his life will follow at the Bulldog Grille in Amityville. The family has asked that donations be made to the UnderDog Rescue of Florida, P.O. Box 351, Bradenton, FL 34206, in lieu of flowers.