Street renamed for a teacher who loved Freeport, mentored its kids
To those who knew him in Freeport, Ernie Kight was a Red Devil for life.
The longtime teacher, principal and school board president regularly wore red with pride, to represent Freeport High School, its mascot and the girls basketball team he coached.
Following his death Feb. 28 at age 68 after a heart attack, local officials in Freeport and Nassau County said his name should be remembered forever outside Freeport High School.
With a bright red sign unveiled Thursday renaming that stretch of Brookside Avenue as Ernest Kight Jr. Way, his legacy will be hard to miss.
"Ernie would be so proud, humbled and honored having this particular street named for him as he spent many years up and down Ernest J. Kight Jr. Way," his wife, Diane Caruso, said at the ceremony. "It is an everlasting tribute to all his work and love of Freeport and it ensures his legacy will not be forgotten."
Kight was a graduate of Freeport High School and returned to start his first job there as a social studies teacher nearly 40 years ago. He rose to assistant principal, principal and school board president while coaching basketball for 30 years.
"We have a saying here in Freeport, we bleed red. It has additional meaning for us because it signifies our community pride," said Nassau County Legis. Debra Mulé (D-Freeport). "He spent his life in service of his community, a life well lived and much appreciated by all who knew him. We all have our memories and stories of Mr. Kight."
Mulé described Kight driving around in his red sports car after announcing football games, chaperoning class trips to Europe, and memories of him mentoring and guiding students with a gentle hand.
"He was a take-charge person that at the same time was a calming presence. That’s a rare gift," Mulé said.
Freeport Superintendent Kishore Kuncham said Kight’s discipline and devotion turned the girls basketball team into a powerhouse while nurturing his students.
"His value as a mentor to hundreds of young girls far surpassed anything that happened on the court," Kuncham said. "Mr. Kight truly cared about people and gave everything to his students. He made them better. He made a positive impact on generations of students and their families along with all those who had the pleasure working with them. He was certainly an inspiration to all of us."
Dozens of former students, friends, colleagues and family members of Kight watched the unveiling of the bright red sign across the street from Freeport High School. County officials said there was bipartisan support shortly after his death to rename the street in his honor.
Officials including Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams, Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy and other village and school board members were on hand.
"When kids go to school, they’ll look up and always remember Ernie Kight, and so will the rest of the community," Curran said.