John Robert "Bob" Estelle was a teacher and mentor at heart, not to mention a heck of a football coach.
The longtime Port Jefferson resident led Port Jefferson High School's football team to three league championships in 14 seasons and was Newsday's Coach of the Year in 1959, when the Royals went 8-0 and won the Rutgers Trophy.
In his 34 years in the school district as a teacher, coach and administrator, he greatly affected the lives of countless students.
"He really meant a lot to so many young men over the years," said his daughter Claudia Estelle Hutton of Albany.
Estelle died on June 30 in West Palm Beach, Florida, after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
Estelle was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, and came to Long Island in August 1951 after graduating from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He later received his master's degree in education from New York University. From 1947 to 1948 he served as a corporal in the U.S. Army in Korea and was in charge of organizing athletic events to boost morale, according to his daughter.
He was the head football coach at Port Jefferson High school from 1954 to 1968 and served as the district's athletic director from 1968 to 1985.
During that time he taught science and then physical education at the high school, according to his daughter, who said that after retiring in 1985 he continued to help coach the middle school football team until 1994, when he moved with his wife to Laurel, Maryland.
His teams were among the best in Port Jefferson history. From 1956 to 1959 the Royals went 26-4, according to Newsday records.
William Scofield, a 1954 graduate of Port Jefferson who later returned to teach math, said he had a relationship with Estelle that spanned decades. To Scofield, Estelle was a coach, then a peer and also his boss for years as the athletic director. But most of all he was a friend with whom he kept in contact for years after Estelle left the district.
"He showed me respect from when I first met him as the teacher in study hall," Scofield said. "I was a senior basketball player and he was the new coach, and we often talked and he came over and started to pick my brain. I was honored that he would do that."
Estelle was a fixture in the district, also helping and filling in on various baseball and basketball teams during his tenure, according to Scofield.
Estelle's son Bob, of Hobart, Indiana, recalled the commotion and packed house that was drawn to the Elks Lodge in downtown Port Jefferson for his retirement dinner in 1985.
"He could be tough and demanding," his son said, "but he was always fair to everyone."
Estelle and his wife, Shirley, were married 63 years before her death on Feb. 23. From Laurel, Maryland, they moved to Royal Palm Beach, Florida, where they spent their last 15 years together.
Funeral services were held Wednesday in Royal Palm Beach.
Besides Claudia and Bob, Estelle's other survivors include children Leanne Cornwell, of West Palm Beach, Florida; Carol Southard, of Laurel, Maryland; and William Estelle, of upstate Highland Falls; eight grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.