Al Krauser

Al Krauser Credit: Jack Krauser

Al Krauser was the architect of one of the most successful high school track and field programs in Long Island history.

The track coach at Uniondale High School for over 20 years, Krauser was mild-mannered and gentle, well-respected and well-decorated, with championship medals galore. Long after he retired in 1981, Uniondale remained a championship threat. Uniondale began a streak in 1972 of 23 straight indoor team Nassau County championships, a run that didn't end until after Krauser's retirement, according to current coach Dennis Kornfield.

Krauser, a father of two and an English teacher at Uniondale who retired and moved to Florida in the early 1980s, died Sept. 5 at his home in Delray Beach, Florida, his family said. The World War II veteran was 96.

“Uniondale was the University of Alabama of high school track,” said his son, Jack Krauser, 71, a dentist in Florida, comparing his father's program to the most successful modern college football program.

Shortly after retiring, Krauser helped Uniondale's  4x400 meter relay team win the Championship of America at the 1982 Penn Relays, beating powerhouse Jamaican teams in the process.

Paul Marconi, an assistant coach under Krauser, said the former coach was the strategic "mastermind" of that race, which Uniondale won in three minutes, 14.7 seconds.

“They just went out, did exactly what Al said, and ended up winning by 5-7 yards,” said Marconi, who lives in Long Beach.

The fact that Krauser could influence strategy even after his retirement spoke to how influential he was on the program.

“The kids loved him,” Marconi said. “I mean, everybody loved Al. He was like the Pied Piper. He was there for his kids and he treated them like they were his own children.”

Former athlete Joe Toles said he grew up in the foster care system and was beset by bad experiences within it. When he joined the track and field team, his life changed. Toles, through the mentorship of Krauser, became a standout who set the still-standing national high school record in the 600 yards and earned a full scholarship to Auburn.

“He paid attention to me,” said Toles, 63, of Alabama. “The nature of my upbringing, I didn't have a lot of attention and people didn't really care. He never let me go. I went from an athlete who, frankly, couldn't finish any of the races, to eventually [a national record holder].”

Toles continued: “He's just been one of those people that I check in with. His approval was important to me. His pride in the things that I did was important to me. In all essence, he was my father.”

Years later, when Toles finally told Krauser of the harsh realities of his foster care experience, the former coach was emotional but refused to take credit  for Toles' success.

“He said, ‘I only treated you the way you should have been treated,’ ” Toles said.

When Toles, a single man who adopted eight boys out of the foster care system, was featured on "The Rachael Ray Show" in 2019, Krauser and his wife, Sheila, appeared as surprise guests.

“I thought to myself at the funeral, ‘What do you do when your hero dies?' " Toles said. “That thought came to my mind because that's what he was to me. He saved me. I only hope that his example will continue to live on in me.”

Krauser was born on April 28, 1926, in Brooklyn and attended Boys High School and Brooklyn College, where he was an English literature major, a two-way lineman on the football team that went to the Tangerine Bowl (now the Citrus Bowl), and a hurdler and shotputter on the track and field team, his son said. Krauser served in the Army from 1944-45 and was stationed in Georgia.

In addition to coaching at Uniondale, where he nurtured athletes like Toles and future Olympic gold medalist Willie Smith, Krauser was a coach for the U.S. team in the Maccabiah Games, a Jewish athletic competition held in Israel, and a coach on the U.S. junior national team in dual meet contests against Russia in the 1970s. 

After coaching, Krauser was instrumental in the creation of the Palm Beach County Senior Tennis League, which grew from a small recreational league to one that boasted over 8,000 members by the end of his life. Krauser, who served on the board of the league, and as president and commissioner at various times, based the league’s layout on the Nassau County high school sports leagues in the 1970s, his son said.  

“His personality was special,” his son said. “Since his passing, people have said to me that he was always smiling and he was friendly. I never saw him get into fights. . . . He was always a diplomatic person to talk stuff through.”

In addition to his son and his wife of 72 years, Al Krauser is survived by his daughter, Jill Berlin of Florida, three granddaughters and four great-grandchildren. He is buried at Eternal Life Memorial Gardens in Florida, his son said. 


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