Joseph Radlhammer, a quiet, gentle linguist who taught at St. Anthony's High School in South Huntington, died Monday after a series of long illnesses. He was 79.

Radlhammer was born on May 1, 1931, in the Bronx, and moved to Ronkonkoma in 1959. He studied languages at Columbia University and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa honor society there.

"He had a wonderful knack for languages," said his brother, Alfred Radlhammer of Ronkonkoma. In addition to English, Joseph Radlhammer spoke fluent German, Spanish and French, Alfred Radlhammer said.

Joseph Radlhammer was drafted into the Marines during the Korean War and served for two years, his brother said, but teaching was Joseph Radlhammer's real passion.

"He loved teaching," Alfred Radlhammer said. "To him, it came easy."

While Joseph Radlhammer taught for a short time in the Connetquot school district, most of his 47-year career was spent at the former Holy Family Diocesan High School in South Huntington, which in 1984 became St. Anthony's High School. He retired from St. Anthony's in 2006 after his health began to decline.

School spokeswoman Christina Buehler said Radlhammer served as chair of the foreign language department at Holy Family, and was a beloved member of the faculty. "He was just a very dedicated teacher," Buehler said. "He was always very organized. He was very dedicated to the school. He loved his students."

When he wasn't planning lessons or grading papers, Radlhammer enjoyed listening to classical music and reading mystery novels.

Alfred Radlhammer said his brother kept an impressive library at the home the two shared.

"The library at home is unbelievable," he said. "Books on Chinese, Japanese, Urdu. Medicine. Books on travel. And of course we had our mystery books."

Overall, Joseph Radlhammer was a modest man who didn't brag about his abilities, Alfred Radlhammer said.

"He enjoyed life, he worked hard, he never complained about work," he said. "His pension was very small compared to public school, but he loved to teach in Catholic school. Every time I saw a picture of him in the yearbook, he's smiling."

In addition to his brother, Radlhammer is survived by nieces Maggie Brown of Massachusetts, Mary Kiang of Hawaii and Katy Bills of Massachusetts and nephews Michael G. Radlhammer of Maine and Alan Paolillo of Rye, N.Y.

He is predeceased by brothers, George Radlhammer and Michael Radlhammer; and sisters, Mary Rogers, Wilma Radlhammer, and Adele Paolillo, along with his parents.

A wake will be held from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday at Moloney's Lake Funeral Home in Lake Ronkonkoma. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at noon at St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Lake Ronkonkoma. Burial will follow at St. Patrick's Cemetery in Smithtown.

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