William W. Shelbourne Jr. and his wife, Eileen, had seven girls over a 17-year period and the family joke was that they were still waiting for a boy.
When they finally had one, Shelbourne nailed a large sign to his front porch in Sayville declaring “It’s a boy!” The child was named William W. Shelbourne III.
Shelbourne Jr., a longtime executive for the Long Island Lighting Co., or LILCO, was a pillar of the community, serving in numerous roles at St. Lawrence the Martyr Roman Catholic Church and gaining a legion of friends. He died Monday of pneumonia at age 92.
“He was magical,” said his eldest child, Patricia Francfort of Islip. “He led a charmed life. He worked hard, he volunteered, he taught us about faith, family and friends.”
In fact, Shelbourne and his wife were such devoted Catholics they insisted their entire brood attend the weekly Sunday 9 a.m. Mass at St. Lawrence without fail — and more than promptly.
“He had us at the 9 o’clock Mass at St. Lawrence and 8 o’clock Mass was still giving out Communion,” Francfort said.
Longtime friend Bob Fay said, “Mr. Shelbourne was really Mr. Sayville,” known for his numerous contacts and activities in the community and his efforts to improve it.
Shelbourne was a longtime trustee, Eucharistic minister and usher at St. Lawrence, where his wife worked in the religious education department and parish office for 35 years — finally retiring at age 80.
Shelbourne was also the oldest living past commodore of the Sayville Yacht Club in Blue Point, which he joined in 1957 and where he was a major influence for decades. “He volunteered so much of his life because he loved the Sayville Yacht Club, he loved the people there, he loved the bay and sailing,” Francfort said.
Shelbourne was born in Nutley, New Jersey, where he grew up, and his family summered in Blue Point. He attended the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he participated in the ROTC program and graduated with a degree in accounting. He later earned an MBA from Dowling College.
After college, Shelbourne served in the Navy, assigned to a small minesweeping vessel that crossed the Pacific twice, his daughter said. He was also part of the team that swept the harbors of Japan for mines when the war ended.
“He was never afraid of the mines, but one time they got caught in a typhoon and he thought, ‘That’s it, I’m done,’ ” his daughter said. “He said that was the scariest part of WWII, being on this small minesweeper in the middle of a typhoon.”
After the war, he landed a job at LILCO, where he rose through the ranks as an accountant. Matthew Cordaro, a former senior vice president at LILCO, called him a “solid citizen, a utility professional, great attitude, hardworking guy.”
At LILCO, Shelbourne met his future wife, a secretary. Their first date was New Year’s Eve 1952. They wed five months later — and remained married for 64 years. They would have celebrated 65 years on May 2.
While Shelbourne was a prominent member of the community, his greatest joy and pride was his large family, which included 19 grandchildren, relatives said.
“He was never happier than when we were all around,” Francfort said.
Shelbourne is also survived by his daughters Ellen Harrington of Brownsville, Vermont, Deirdre Acierno of Patchogue, Maureen Wahl of Greenport, Mimi Shelbourne of Sparta, New Jersey, Claire Kujawski of Southold and Amy Frederick of Blue Point; and his son, William Shelbourne III of Patchogue.
A wake is scheduled for Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home in West Sayville. A funeral Mass is to be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. at St. Lawrence.
In lieu of flowers the family requests donations be made to the College of the Holy Cross, P.O. Box DEV, 1 College St., Worcester, Massachusetts 01610.