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Longtime educator and lifeguard Patrick W. Howard, 61, dies

Patrick W. Howard of Massapequa.

Patrick W. Howard of Massapequa. Credit: Margaret (Peggy) Ostermann

Patrick W. Howard, a former dean of students at Massapequa High School and a lifeguard for decades at Gilgo and Overlook beaches, died April 20 of a heart attack at his home, only days before his 62nd birthday, his family said.

Howard, of Massapequa, served as the school’s dean for 21 years before retiring in 2017. He was known for his compassionate approach to the job, and sense of fairness and commitment to his students, said his wife, Anette Sturmann. 

“The thing about Patrick is he really, truly, cared,” Sturmann said. “I think he took his job to heart.”

Howard was born in Amityville on April 26, 1957, and knew early on he wanted to work in education, said his brother, Tom Howard, 70, of Amityville.

He graduated from Amityville High School in 1975, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Springfield College in Massachusetts, a master’s degree from Hofstra University and a professional diploma in educational administration from the College of New Rochelle.

He began teaching social studies in 1986 at John Adams High School in Howard Beach, Queens. He then became dean of discipline at the school before moving to Massapequa High School.

Howard had a wild streak himself as the middle child of seven kids, his brother Tom said, and quickly found he had an easy way of connecting with students, particularly the “troublemakers."

As an adult, he was full of energy and channeled that into his work. When he noticed a student was missing class, he would take the extra step of visiting the student’s home and sitting down with the parents to come up with a plan to get him or her back to school, Sturmann said.  

“He was very loud, very fast — always in and out,” Tom Howard said. “He was in your face one minute and at your back the next minute.”

Sturmann loved how Howard seemed to buzz through life, always moving and excited for what the day had to offer, she said.

They also connected over their shared love of the water. Howard was a Town of Babylon lifeguard for more than 40 years, watching over Gilgo and Overlook beaches.

The couple married in August 1989 and rode water skis to their reception, held in Sturmann’s parents’ backyard in Massapequa, which looks out onto the bay. They were planning to repeat the performance for their 30th wedding anniversary and Howard already had purchased a new set of water skis before he died.

It was the “ultimate Irish exit,” said his daughter, Margot Howard, 27. Her father had a habit of breezing in and out of conversations, moving from student to student to make sure everyone was heard, she said.

“He entered heaven the same way he entered everywhere else, his chest before the rest of him,” she said.

In addition to his wife, daughter and brother, Howard is survived by his mother, Margaret Howard, 94, of Amityville; and siblings Mikey Howard, 68, of Lee, New Hampshire; Bruce Howard, 65, of Montauk; Margaret Ostermann, 58, of Amityville; Jane Schmitt, 56, of Amityville; and Lou Howard Jr., 55, of West Islip.  

A funeral Mass was  said in St. Martin of Tours Roman Catholic Church in Amityville on April 26. Family members said they plan to set a date to spread his ashes at Gilgo and Overlook beaches.

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