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John R. Saxe dies; sailboat racer, ex-Grumman engineer was 90

John R. Saxe of Islip was 90. He

John R. Saxe of Islip was 90. He served as president of the Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association. Credit: Family photo

John R. Saxe, a seasoned sailboat racer who competed successfully on the South and North Shores and forged a successful career at the former Grumman Corp., has died after complications from a fall this summer.

The Islip resident, who died Aug. 24, was 90. Saxe, known to friends and family as Jack, was born in Manhattan and grew up in Bay Shore and Brightwaters, attending Bay Shore schools and graduating from Bay Shore High School.

He did a stint as captain of the Fire Island Miss ferryboat and spent his early years with a succession of sailboats, said his wife, Kathleen Saxe. The two met in Bay Shore.

Upon graduation, Saxe received a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology after scoring high in a scholarship test offered by Grumman. He received a bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering in 1949 and worked at Grumman for more than 40 years, retiring as proposal manager for new business.

His love of sailing blossomed in the waterfront communities from high school through adulthood. He served as president of the Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association and commodore of the Bay Shore Yacht Club, and he had a successful racing record with the Off Soundings Club on the Long Island Sound, his wife said. “He did well racing.”

He loved to race his small Penguin sailboat in winter and owned various sailboats over the years — a 22-foot Star racing boat, a 26-foot Auxiliary cruising boat, and a 30-foot sailboat from 1970 to 1998. The family took cruises up the New England coast.

“We used to go every year, to places such as Block Island or Nantucket,” Kathleen Saxe said. In later years the couple graduated to a cruising powerboat, taking it as far as the Florida Keys.

Daughter Susan Saxe of Manhattan remembered her father as “tough and somewhat demanding” through her childhood, but also that the years changed him. “As he got older he softened a lot,” she said. He grew to be “much more loving, much more able to say I love you.”

In addition to his wife and daughter, Saxe is survived by two other daughters, Kathy Damon of Portland, Maine, and Christine Easton of Farmingdale, New Jersey; a son, John Saxe Jr. of Waltham, Massachusetts; and seven grandchildren.

He was predeceased by a brother, Fabyan Saxe.

A celebration was held in John Saxe’s honor at the Bay Shore Yacht Club. He was cremated and the ashes will be spread on the Great South Bay, the family said.

Donations in his memory can be made to Southside Hospital, 301 E. Main St., Bay Shore, NY, 11706.

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