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Tony Carter, assistant football coach at Wantagh High School, dies at 57

Idris Carter, left, and his father, Tony Carter,

Idris Carter, left, and his father, Tony Carter, who died at 57.   Credit: James Escher

Tony Carter was a high school football coach whose influence extended well beyond the field.

“I can’t help but think about a beautiful Jackie Robinson quote that sums up Tony’s life perfectly,”  Roosevelt High School coach Joe Vito said. “ ‘A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.’ That will be Tony’s legacy.”

Carter, of Uniondale, died early Tuesday morning from complications of COVID-19, his family said.  He was 57.

Carter was the defensive coordinator for the Wantagh High School football team for the past 18 years. He also was a healthcare worker in the dialysis unit at Winthrop Hospital in Mineola for 31 years. 

His wife, Yolanda Carter, said Carter had difficulty breathing and was hospitalized on March 28. She said he was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 30 and placed on a ventilator for the past nine days at Winthrop. She said her husband suffered for 20 years with a pre-existing condition of Sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease that mostly affects the lungs.

“My dad was an essential worker and a transporter in the dialysis unit at Winthrop where he moved patients around the hospital,” said his son, Idris Carter, an accomplished two-sport athlete at Roosevelt High School who will attend Stony Brook to play baseball. “He’s my hero. He knew he was putting himself at risk. He was always about doing things for other people, a very giving guy. Our talks were deep. He preached, 'It’s not about the result, it’s about the effort in everything you do in life.' I will live by that.”

Carter met Yolanda Baker, of Elizabeth, New Jersey, at a house party in 1989, and the two dated for nine years before being married on March 14, 1998.

“I met him at a friend's house, and he stimulated my mind,” she said. “He was a walking encyclopedia. He was a powerful-looking guy with beautiful brown eyes. He had the utmost respect for women and what drew me more to him was the relationship he had with his mom. I knew I would get that same treatment, that same love and respect.”

Born Maurice Anthony Carter in Queens, he graduated from Uniondale High School and went on to play football at Nassau Community College and the University of New Mexico.

“He was such a romantic,” Yolanda said. “He would always pick me up from work and have a beautiful song for me to wind down with after my long day. The last song he played for me was 'Still Waters Run Deep' by the Four Tops on his car radio.”

Wantagh football coach Keith Sachs said Carter is irreplaceable.

“He was like a brother to me,” Sachs said. “He loved kids. They loved him. He was a brilliant football mind who spent countless hours learning and breaking down football video to teach our players . . . It’s heartbreaking.”

As a coach at Wantagh, Carter found himself in the unusual position of having to coach against his son, Idris, who was the starting quarterback at Roosevelt.

“He was never compromised,” Sachs said. “He handled the games professionally and always put it in the proper perspective. He was respected by both communities in Roosevelt and Wantagh. It’s hard to coach against your own son and find a way to avoid any conflict. He was a man of strong convictions."

Yolanda will never forget her husband’s marriage proposal.

“I joined a women’s group and finished singing a cappella, and I turned to my left to thank everyone,” she laughed. “And when I turned to my right, Tony was down on one knee proposing. It was beautiful.”

In addition to his wife and son, he is survived by his mother, Claudette Carter; his daughter, Sabriyah; his sisters, Crystal Carter-Bond of Queens, Marcia Carter of Queens, Amber Carter of Nassau, and his brothers Darren Carter and Scott Carter of Nassau.