Donald Hugh Fingar had a lifelong interest in education. For 26 continuous and unopposed years, he served the students of Longwood, including four of his own, as a member of the district's school board.
"He started working on the schools before I was even born and he worked on it until I was finished with high school and then some," said Fingar's youngest child, James, 52, of Burlington, Vt.
Fingar, 81, died on Feb. 12 of cancer at his Coram home. He had been battling multiple illnesses for several years, his family said.
Fingar came to Long Island at the age of 11 after Depression-era economics forced his family to leave their farm in Poughkeepsie for a community store in Coram. The small town store, which included the post office, quickly became the center of the town.
People would come to watch the only television and washing machine in town and use the telephone. Fingar liked to interact with the people who came in and often knew what they needed before they asked.
After graduating from Port Jefferson High School in 1940, Fingar studied chemical engineering at Pratt Institute. He met his future wife, Gladys, at the school in 1942. Two years later, they married. She died in 1984.
Fingar served in the Navy from 1942 to 1946 and though he never saw active duty he was proud to have been a cadet in the Naval flight school. As he lay ill in recent weeks, his daughter said he asked her to locate his discharge papers so that he could be buried with the flag on his coffin.
Having continued his studies while in the Navy, Fingar was one semester away from earning his bachelor's degree when his eldest son was born.
He then went to work for a New Jersey telephone company. But when his father had a heart attack, Fingar moved back to Coram to rejoin the family business. He worked many hours in the store but always came home for dinner.
At the table, each of his four children would take turns telling him about the school day. "My father was the biggest cheerleader I ever had," said his daughter, Donna Smosky, 57, of Coram. With his children in the schools, Fingar became involved in education as a school board member. When the district was building Longwood High School, now Longwood Junior High, Fingar visited the construction site only to find that the auditorium seats appeared to be improperly installed. He made the contractors reposition the seats.
A number of organizations, from John T. Mather Memorial Hospital to the Masons, know Fingar to be a dedicated member and volunteer. He also was active in the Methodist churches in Coram and Port Jefferson.
But as much as Fingar was devoted to serving others, he also was devoted to making sure they were having a good time, Smosky said. He would tell stories and make them laugh.
A service for Fingar was held Wednesday at the First United Methodist Church in Port Jefferson. Burial followed at Washington Memorial Park in Coram. Fingar is also survived by his second wife, Eleanor of Coram; son Tom Fingar of Falls Church, Va.; and daughters Kate Scott of Guilford, Conn., Ginny Stackman of Holbrook, and Marjorie Stackman of Massapequa.
Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc