Joseph J. Lucey Jr. cherished his role as a high school football coach.
For 27 years, he roamed the sidelines at Huntington High School, winning games with a calm demeanor and earning the respect of all who came in contact with him.
"He once said to me, ‘Remember one thing: We’re in the Town of Huntington. There are tons of lawyers, tons of doctors, but the town only has one head football coach,’ " said former assistant John Paci Jr., 74, of Huntington. "Which was a good point because in a town like Huntington, as the head football coach, everybody knew him."
And they liked him, too.
"He was so well-loved and kind," said daughter Heather Prodromakis, 57, of Commack.
Lucey, a father of three daughters, died Sept. 22 at his East Quogue condo, his family said. He was 91.
Lucey taught physical education at Huntington High School for 33 years, and he coached the varsity football team from 1961 to 1987. He went 125-95-9 and won the Suffolk Conference II playoff title in 1978. That season, the 8-1 Blue Devils outscored opponents 273-85. His teams won 10 league titles and were conference playoff finalists four times, according to Newsday records.
"Joe was the ultimate coach," Paci said. "Like all other coaches, he certainly knew how to prepare for ballgames. But, as one of the members of his coaching staff, he allowed us to coach. ... I called the plays and ran the offense. Certainly, when he saw something that he thought would work, he’d come over and say something and we’d discuss.
"So many coaches are control freaks and want to do everything," he said. "Joe wasn’t that kind of guy. He ran the show, there was no doubt about it. But he did allow us to coach."
Lucey, who lived in Commack for 35 years, coached several NFL players, including wide receiver Kurt Sohn, who played seven seasons with the Jets in the 1980s.
"He taught me the game," said former player John Paci III, 48, who won the 1989 Hansen Award, given by Newsday to Suffolk’s most outstanding football player, and spent time with the Jets in 1996-1997. "I think the best experience I had was when I was pulled up on the team as a sophomore. I played some secondary and backed up at quarterback. He taught me about the defense, about coverages and where to attack zones. I learned quarterback playing defense."
Born July 3, 1929, in Brooklyn, Lucey’s family moved to Baldwin when he was in the third grade. He attended St. Christopher’s School in Baldwin and Chaminade High School in Mineola. After graduating from Chaminade in 1947, Lucey went to Cortland State Teachers College, where he studied to be a physical education teacher and played college football and baseball.
Lucey’s teaching career was put on hold in 1952 when he was drafted into the Army. He served for two years as a military police officer at the Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe in France during the Korean War, his family said.
After his military discharge in 1954, Lucey earned a master’s degree from Hofstra University and began teaching in the Huntington school district in 1955. After retiring from teaching in 1988, Lucey worked as a representative for Wolff’s Sport Shop in Rockville Centre, which supplied athletic equipment to Long Island high schools, his family said. He was predeceased by his wife of 46 years, Joyce, and sister, Patricia.
In retirement, Lucey lived in Water Mill for 10 years, then East Quogue for 15. He was a staple at local restaurants, eating at the Stone Creek Inn, Tony’s Asian Fusion and New Moon Café, all in East Quogue, on a weekly basis, his family said.
"They used to call him the mayor of the town because every time he walked anywhere, everybody knew him," said daughter Deirdre Blanco, 59, of Port Jefferson. "He was really an outgoing, friendly personality."
A talented artist, Lucey loved to paint for family and friends. He was an avid golfer and a longtime member of the Southampton Golf Club. He also was a huge Yankees fan.
Never one to yell — at his players or his daughters — Lucey was an easy conversationalist who was seldom seen without a smile.
"I can’t find one picture where he isn’t smiling," said daughter Jill Lau, 61, of Smithtown. "You don’t really realize that until you look back. He seemed to make friends everywhere he went."
Lucey also is survived by his brothers James, of upstate Bemus Point, and Robert, of upstate Canandaigua; eight grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. He was buried at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale.