The way his wife described him, Vinny DeCerbo lived life with the volume switch turned all the way up.
A friend "once told me that when there is a death, you learn to recognize that you should turn up the volume in your own life," said Sandy DeCerbo, Vinny's wife of 42 years. "But with Vinny there was no such thing. He was born with the volume up."
DeCerbo, a Southampton resident who died Aug. 31 at age 68, taught sixth grade in the Patchogue-Medford School District for 30 years. He coached boys basketball at various levels in the district, including two terms as head coach at Patchogue High School in the 1970s.
DeCerbo also coached men's basketball at Southampton College from 1979 to 1987.
"The best piece of advice he gave me was to always have a good attitude," said Chris Meyer, 55, a New York City firefighter who played for DeCerbo at South Ocean Avenue Middle School in Patchogue and then played against DeCerbo when he coached at Southampton College.
"He always mentioned that word [attitude] . . . He was always impressed with the kids who persevered, tried hard, dove on the floor for loose balls. He loved to see that."
DeCerbo graduated in 1963 from Patchogue High School as an all-league player who led his team to the Suffolk playoffs. He graduated from Southampton College in 1967.
DeCerbo compiled a 58-25 coaching record in four seasons at Patchogue. His 1978 team won the Suffolk I championship and, along with his 1979 team, reached the Suffolk AAA championship game but did not win. At Southampton, his 1981-82 team won the Big Apple Conference regular-season title.
Steve Mallor, 66, said he and DeCerbo became best friends the day they met in 1971. "There was nobody better than Vinny," Mallor said. "He was a very special person who said 'Family is first.' "
"I really had the good fortune of getting to know him," said Bill Thieben, 78, who teaches criminal justice at Briarcliffe College in Patchogue. "He was a down-to-earth, hardworking athlete and an outstanding human being. You would be delighted to have your own kids in Vinny's classes because he was an outstanding role model."
Funeral services were held Wednesday in Patchogue. DeCerbo is also survived by his son Bret, 35.
With Andy Slawson