Henry "Harry" Aretakis of Selden, a 40-year volunteer in the Suffolk County Police Athletic League and longtime commissioner of the Middle Country District Youth Association, died Wednesday at his home. He was 80.
Aretakis was dedicated to his family and youth sports. He served as vice president for football at the athletic league from 1975 to 2000, briefly retired and then returned as a standing board member.
"He had a genuine love for kids and was a symbol of what the PAL is all about," said the league's former president John Palumbo. "He was a very committed man.We couldn't figure out how he managed his life with his commitment to his children and their endeavors and his volunteer work in the community."
When Aretakis wasn't coordinating sports events, he was working three jobs to support his blossoming family.
"My dad never stopped. He was always running around, getting things done," Henry Aretakis said of his father. "He coached every one of my youth teams and never missed any of my wrestling matches in high school."
Aretakis was also an early proponent of girls in sports. His daughter Doreen was the first female baseball player in the Middle Country youth sports league in 1974 when she was 13.
When the elder Aretakis was the league's commissioner, "people would grab him at the field after practice or a game and he'd accommodate every question, and address every issue," Henry Aretakis said.
"Harry" Aretakis, who was born in the Inwood section of Manhattan, moved to Long Island in 1960 after having lived in Cambria Heights, Queens. He graduated from Roosevelt High School in the Bronx.
He met his future wife of 58 years, Mary, on June 16, 1950, her 13th birthday. He married her on her 19th birthday at Our Lady of Angels Church in the Bronx.
"He liked to dance and that's what attracted me to him," Mary laughed. "He was a very good dancer."
Mary Aretakis said her husband's legacy was helping others. He joined the Knights of Columbus in l963, becoming the grand knight of Sacred Heart Council 4402 in Centereach. He was a lifetime member of the council and a fourth-degree member of the John J. Shea Assembly. He was in the Army during the Korean War.
Aretakis played Santa Claus for eight years at St. Isidore's Elementary School in Riverhead and served as a security officer at football games at Mercy High School in Riverhead. He was a member of the Father's Guild at St. Anthony's High School, regularly chaperoning the Friars school dances.
Aretakis worked construction for 41 years, including on the 1964 World's Fair and Long Island Expressway in the 1960s.
"Our children attended parochial school and money was tight," Mary Aretakis said. "So Harry delivered newspapers or fliers in the a.m., then he'd go to construction work and then in the evenings and on Saturday he worked in the produce department at the local supermarket."
Another son, Gerard, said his father loved St. Anthony's High School football, and fishing.
"We go fishing every Father's Day," he said. "And we attended the St. Anthony's golf outing every August for the past 15 years. He loved being around the guys."
Aretakis is survived by his six children, Mary Ellen Guild of Southold, Henry of Centereach, Robert of Selden, Doreen of West Babylon, Gerard of Pasadena, Maryland, and Peter of Port Jefferson Station; and eight grandchildren.
Visiting hours are from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Giove Funeral Home, 1000 Middle Country Rd., Selden. A funeral Mass is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Monday at St. Margaret of Scotland R.C. Church on College Road, Selden. Interment will follow at Calverton National Cemetery.