Phil Karstadt made a lasting impression on people he’d meet, and those impressions were usually of themselves. A devoted graduate of Connetquot High School in Bohemia, Karstadt was an avid sports photographer, and high school athletes were the beneficiaries of his efforts.
Former Connetquot High School athletic director Mary Lou Assante said Karstadt would shoot pictures at many Thunderbirds sporting events and give the photos to his subjects.
“His mark with just the pictures was immense,” Assante said. “But, he befriended kids. He always supported every kid. They knew they could talk to him. He gave great life advice.”
Karstadt, who grew up in Bohemia and lived in Ronkonkoma, died Sunday of injuries suffered in a Jan. 27 car crash. He was 59.
Connetquot athletes looked forward to receiving an envelope of photos from Karstadt at end-of-season award presentations, Assante said. Coaches also received an envelope from him.
Karstadt worked in quality control for Welding Metallurgy in Hauppauge, but the bonds he created and the memories he immortalized with his photography hobby were everlasting.
“He was a constant,” Connetquot athletic director Mark Dellecave said. “He was one of those things that you could always count on. You could always count on Phil to be on the sidelines, or somewhere in the gym, taking pictures of the kids and cheering the kids on. He knew all the kids by name.”
“He was a wonderful man,” said his sister, Freida Marresse, now residing in Arizona. “He had a heart of gold. He would give you the shirt off his back, if he could. He loved sarcastic humor and was very intelligent.”
Born Aug. 4, 1958, Karstadt graduated from Connetquot in 1976, as senior class president and valedictorian. He attended Stony Brook University, graduating in 1980 with a degree in political science. After Stony Brook, he skipped a chance to go to law school to stay on Long Island and care for his elderly aunts, according to his close friend Anthony Cannella, of Smithtown.
“He was always there for you,” Cannella said. “He was very committed.”
Karstadt was an avid reader who enjoyed attending book signings and had a fiery interest in politics and social causes.
“He was a big, jovial guy,” Cannella said. “He had a conservative bent and could argue and debate like crazy.”
Karstadt also enjoyed hiking and nature. But, most of all, Connetquot High School was his home.
“He bonded with a lot of the players and their parents,” Cannella said. “It was like another family for him.”
Karstadt is survived by Marresse, niece Victoria and nephew Mark. Funeral arrangements were pending as of Thursday afternoon. He will be buried at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.