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Jack Abrams, longtime educator for whom a Huntington school is named, dies at 89

Jack Abrams in 2013.

Jack Abrams in 2013. Credit: Heather Walsh

There were nightly lessons around the dinner table, where Jack Abrams would teach his daughters all that weird science; the world map on the basement wall, where he chronicled even the smallest histories behind all those larger-than-life family travels.

There were bulletin boards around the house noting the latest news, or tracking the “Clean The Plate Club,” where he awarded stars, and prizes, to his daughters for finishing dinnertime meals. There were cross-country camping trips in the old pop-up trailer, and the summer backpacking trek through the Austrian Alps. 

No doubt, Jodi Donoher said this week, her father was always learning, always teaching, about this little-known fact, that little-known place. For Abrams, life was some great adventure — one even more wonderful if you went along for the ride.

You don't get a school named after you, after all, if you haven't managed to dig deep, make an impression.

Abrams, who lived most of his life in East Northport and spent most of his career as a teacher and educator in the Huntington Union Free School District, died June 24 in Las Vegas, after about six years in assisted living and his final days in hospice care battling the aftermath of a stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, his daughter said. He was 89.

Near the end, Donoher said, her father told her: “I’ve lived a good life. I have no regrets.”  The Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School on Lowndes Avenue in Huntington Station is named in his honor.

Born Oct. 28, 1930, in Hollis, Queens, Abrams grew up in hard times. One of four children born to Ruth and Harry Abrams, a twin brother died at age 10. 

Harry ran a hardware store in Laurelton, the family living in an apartment out back, and when the family later moved to Huntington, Jack rode his bike and took a train to get back and forth to Andrew Jackson High School in Queens, where he graduated in 1948.

He met Eileen Carozza, who was from the Bronx, when the two attended New York State Teachers College at New Paltz. Though the Korean War sideswiped their romance — Abrams enlisted on July 11, 1952, then shipped overseas with the U.S. Army 79th Engineer Construction Battalion — the two married in July 1955.

By then Eileen was a teacher in Levittown and Jack taught in Huntington, having briefly worked at the Newbridge Road School in North Bellmore.

Along the way Jack Abrams also managed advanced degrees from then-Hofstra College and Columbia University, according to biographical information from Huntington UFSD.

In Huntington, Abrams first worked as a sixth-grade teacher at Woodbury Avenue Grammar School and later became the elementary science coordinator and principal of Nathan Hale, Woodbury Avenue, Washington, Village Green, Toaz/Finley’s sixth-grade school and Woodhull, Huntington officials said. He initiated a “unique sixth grade outdoor education program” in 1975 that annually sees hundreds of students trekking through Camp Greenkill in upstate Huguenot.

A year spent teaching fifth grade in Kent, England, with the Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program in 1965-66, broadened horizons, Jodi Donoher said, the family not only hiking the Austrian Alps but also coursing through Holland, Germany, Switzerland and France. Back home, pop-up camping trips covered myriad travels across America, Donoher said.

Abrams spent the last six years of his career as principal at Jefferson Elementary School, retiring in 1987. But not one to quit so easily, he then established the district’s museum, which officials note now boasts more than 1,500 items. He retired from his last role as part-time curator in 2012.

The district named the STEM school in his honor in 2008.

“Jack’s spirit will remain alive in Huntington indefinitely,” Huntington schools Superintendent James W. Polansky said in a statement on the district website, adding: “And the district will remain ever grateful for his contributions and the memories he helped to create over the decades.”

As Polansky told Newsday: “Jack was a terrific educator and person. He will be missed.”

Predeceased by his wife, Eileen,  Abrams is survived by daughters Jodi Donoher of Las Vegas and Kathi Abrams of Boise, Idaho, and several grandchildren.

Due to current coronavirus restrictions, Abrams’ ashes will be placed at a later date in a burial plot with his wife in Northport Rural Cemetery.

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