Most college-bound kids can't wait to leave home, but Lisa Margaritis was different. An only child, she took care of her parents, studied psychology and nursing, fields she was passionate about, and in her 20s, earned a gold medal in judo as a first-degree black belt in the Empire State Games, her family said.
She even flipped her opponent on their back during a Muay Thai spar, her husband Peter Margaritis of Albertson recalled, but he said her hallmark quality was her soothing hugs.
"It didn't matter how old you were or how young you were, you got a hug," he said. "She was the warmest person and the toughest person at the same time."
Margaritis, 49, of Albertson, drowned in a Southold pond a week ago Friday after her paddleboard got stuck on a bridge piling and she fell into the strong current while trying to help a fellow member of a paddleboarding class.
Margaritis, born in Queens, worked as a registered nurse at Northwell Health, was a certified personal trainer, certified yoga instructor and a mixed martial arts specialist, her mother Jean Weber of Southold said. Margaritis met her husband in April of 1998 when they were both volunteer EMTs for the Mineola Volunteer Ambulance Corps. After work the two went to St. James, a bar in town, where they sat and talked until it closed.
"A month later, I was telling my friends this is the woman I'm going to marry," her husband said. They were engaged seven months later and lived in Greenport Village.
The adventurous couple relished mountain biking on the steep hills of Moab, Utah, and Vermont's Kingdom Trails. That was their special thing, her husband said, including her 15-year-old son Andrew, a sophomore at Chaminade High School.
To celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary the couple planned a trip to Aruba in November and were preparing to move into a Southold house that they would share with her parents, Jean and John Weber, her husband said. She and her father also planned a trip to Greece next July to celebrate her 50th birthday and his 75th birthday.
"Our whole life was her," her father said. "Her whole life was helping people."
Margaritis graduated from Adelphi University with a nursing degree in 1996. She also worked as a trainer for disabled children and adults at two locations of LifeTime Athletic in Garden City, where she greeted everybody with a big hug, her mother recounted fondly.
Her empowering spirit and giving heart were qualities her husband admired most, he said, remembering how she would enthusiastically invite people to train with her for free.
"She'd be holding pads for people in wheelchairs, he said. "People would come by and watch just amazed."
Margaritis loved training, but she also enjoyed kickboxing, snowboarding and running, her husband said. The two were in the midst of preparing for the Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim Run. Previously, Margaritis participated in the Spartan Race and Tough Mudder.
Margaritis said his wife "loved life and loved keeping people fit and happy."
In addition to her parents and husband, Margaritis is survived by her son Andrew Margaritis.
Her funeral was held Monday at the Church of St. Aidan in Williston Park and her burial was the day after, in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.