Longtime Long Island schools superintendent Robert F. Savitt was a man who relished the moment.
His life's mantra was "the best of times is now," the title of a Broadway musical song that family sang to him and his wife at their 70th wedding anniversary, relatives said.
Savitt, formerly of Huntington and more recently of North Fort Myers, Florida, died there Nov. 17 of pneumonia and other complications, his daughter said. He was 93.
"He loved his family, his country, his community -- he was a loving and giving person," said his daughter, Susan Savitt of Greenport and North Fort Myers, Florida.
As superintendent of the Plainview-Old Bethpage district for 21 years, Savitt was an early proponent of what were then innovations such as team teaching, the interrelationship of subject matter and the development of middle schools for grades six, seven and eight.
"The sixth-grade child in today's society has a greater social relationship with the seventh and eighth grades than he does with kindergarten through fifth," he said in a 1960 Newsday story.
Born in 1921 in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, Savitt interrupted his studies at Syracuse University in 1942 to enlist in the Army, serving as a technical sergeant in the Philippines, where U.S. forces were commanded by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, his daughter said.
Following his discharge in 1945, he picked up his studies, went on to receive a doctor of education degree from Boston University and did further graduate studies in education at Harvard and Columbia universities, his daughter said.
He met his future wife of 73 years, the former Rae Briggs, at a dance in Massachusetts when they were both teenagers, his daughter said. Savitt started out as a teacher and at age 26 was named superintendent of the Hadley, Massachusetts, schools, later moving to that position in Farmingdale during the 1950s, said his daughter, herself a former Roosevelt and North Babylon superintendent of schools.
During his tenure in Plainview-Old Bethpage, the district also saw the first districtwide teachers strike on Long Island in March 1966, Newsday reports show.
Savitt retired in 1979 and opened a recruiting firm that helped place educational leaders in executive positions in schools in Europe and the United States. He and his wife made their home in Florida for the past 12 or 13 years, his daughter said.
Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by sons, Steven Savitt of North Fort Myers and Scott Savitt of Huntington, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass was held Nov. 24 at St. Therese Catholic Church, North Fort Myers, with burial at Sarasota National Cemetery.