Even in the final months of his life, Nick Voelger was still teaching. The longtime Sewanhaka school district athletic director and teacher of health, physical education and driver education finished teaching his oldest granddaughter, Chelsea, to drive earlier this year.
"He went to every event our grandchildren ever had," said Carol Voelger, Nick's wife of almost 50 years. "Between teaching and camp he's been very involved with kids. Nick touched the life of hundreds of campers and staff."
Teaching was Voelger's life. Few things in his life meant more than the 34 years he spent working at Camp Ramapo, a camp for children with special needs, in upstate Rhinebeck.
The longtime Syosset resident died from internal bleeding complications while visiting friends in Orlando on March 5. He was 80. Since then, his wife said, she has received stacks of letters praising her husband as both a mentor and a friend.
One letter came from Doris Gallose, a former Elmont student who became a coach and a physical education teacher herself and credited Voelger's influence in choosing her career path.
Another, from former camp staffer Frank Maccarone, praised his teaching abilities. "The things I learned from him could fill a book," the letter said. Another letter, from camp staffer Erika Weiss, praised his "affectionate guidance." Marge Thibodeau, another staffer, called him "a hard worker with a tough exterior and a soft heart."
Voelger's impact also stemmed from his longevity. A 1949 Sewanhaka graduate, he began teaching in the district upon graduating from Syracuse University in 1953. When Elmont opened its doors in 1956, he began teaching there. In 1958 he met his wife, also a physical education teacher, at Elmont.
Voelger stayed in the district first as a football coach and teacher and later as an athletic director until 1986. In 1996 he was inducted into the Sewanhaka Sports Hall of Fame.
When he became an administrator, Voelger had to give up coaching, but it couldn't keep him away from the playing fields. He became an official for football and lacrosse, refereeing the latter for 25 years and eventually becoming president of the Nassau County Lacrosse Officials Association.
Voelger was interred at Nassau Knolls Cemetery in Port Washington.
He is also survived by his daughter Susan File of Huntington and son John of Clifton Park and four grandchildren, Chelsea, Casey, Kevin and Sean. Raised as a foster child in Bellmore, he also leaves a foster sister, Caroline Loss of Levittown.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Cardiac Fitness Center of the DeMatteis Center of St. Francis Hospital, c/o Mary Lou Murphy, 101 Northern Blvd., Greenvale, NY 11548, and to the Ramapo Camp for Children, P.O. Box 266, Rhinebeck, NY 12572.