Family, community and tennis were passionately intertwined for Daniel Burgess. Northeast Park, across the street from his home in Freeport, was like an extension of his living room. It was there that he taught the game of tennis for the better part of three decades.
He was there again Sunday morning with his son, Daniel Jr., giving lessons to the kids.
"We’ve been teaching group drills at the park on Saturday and Sunday for years," said Daniel Jr. "We were out there together on Sunday. We were both teaching together."
Daniel Burgess passed away in his sleep early Monday morning. He was 66.
Burgess was all things tennis in Nassau County. He was senior staff instructor at Carefree Racquet Club in North Merrick, where he ran the PAL program. He was director of tennis at Freeport Indoor Tennis, Point Set Racquet Club (Oceanside) and Hempstead Lake Indoor Tennis Club (West Hempstead) as well as a number of other facilities in the metro area.
He ran the Freeport PAL tennis program. He was a U.S. Professional Tennis Association national certified tester and was a past president of the USTA’s Eastern Section Long Island Region.
"He had a heart of gold and was the epitome of what the word volunteer means," said Kathy Miller, club manager at Carefree Racquet Club. "It meant the world to him to just get people out on the tennis courts. I knew he touched a lot of lives, but the response I’m seeing since he passed, he touched way more lives than I realized."
"He was a personal friend," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. "He has given me lessons, he taught my daughter, Claire, who went on to be the captain of her varsity team at Baldwin High School. He was an excellent tennis coach, down to earth, very funny, very encouraging. He had a wonderful way with kids. I recently visited his summer camp. The kids just loved him."
Burgess was born in Colon, Panama, in 1953, and followed his brother, Gordon, to Long Island University, where he earned a bachelor of science in sociology. He played tennis at LIU and attempted to play professionally, but settled on teaching as his lifework and ran his own academy in Freeport for several years.
Burgess founded the nonprofit Learning Institute of Tennis, Life Skills & Sportsmanship in Freeport to provide enrichment opportunities for children through tennis and educational programs, and to bolster self-respect and foster leadership.
"It operated from his heart," said Jacki Binder, who was a board member of the organization. "He was in the process of finding a location for it. The tennis part of it took place at the park across the street. He was very big-hearted, full of ideas, loved by everybody. He was a true volunteer, the first to help when anybody needed help of any kind."
"No matter what anybody was running, no matter what anybody was doing he would drop everything and be there to volunteer," said Sunny Fishkind, long a fixture of the Long Island tennis community. "I’ve never heard him say no. He was a remarkable human being. He was the best, just the best."
Burgess is survived by his wife of 32 years, Agnes; sons Shawn, Daniel Jr. and Kevin; brothers Gordon, Pedro and Jorge; and sisters Maria Green, Evangeline Featherson and Deborah Burgess.
Visiting hours with limited accessibility due to pandemic restrictions will be Thursday from noon to 2 p.m. at the Hungerford and Clark Funeral Home in Freeport. At 3 p.m., a memorial will be held at Bishop Frank O. White Park (formerly Northeast Park) at 100 Parsons Ave. in Freeport.