Antonio DeGrasse, former Riverhead principal, dies at 81


Antonio DeGrasse will be remembered for many things.

He was a Riverhead school administrator for nearly 30 years. He and his wife, Ann, were the co-founders of the North Fork Breast Health Coalition, and he helped organize an annual 5K walk at Tanger Outlets to benefit that coalition. He was a member of the Riverhead Rotary Club and a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellow medallion in honor of his contributions to Rotary. The list goes on.

Mr. DeGrasse, a longtime Jamesport resident, died on April 14 of heart disease at Peconic Bay Medical Center. He was 81.

“Even after being retired for many years, Antonio’s love for the Riverhead School District and our students never stopped,” said Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney. “He volunteered on numerous committees and tutored students who needed extra support. He will be greatly missed by us all.”

The son of Austin and Constance Tyson DeGrasse, he was born Feb. 21, 1935 at Kings County Hospital in Queens.

He graduated from Flushing High School, received his Bachelor of Science degree and a graduate degree from Howard University in 1981. He worked for the Riverhead Central School District for 29 years.

He worked as a biologist at Bellevue Hospital and as a social worker for New York City before joining the Riverhead School District in 1969.

At Riverhead he worked as an administrative assistant, assistant high school principal, an assistant middle school principal and a director of student services.

Mr. DeGrasse married Ann Cotten, a teacher, on June 16, 1983.

“We began the annual North Fork Breast Health Coalition 5K walk with Ann and Antonio almost 20 years ago,” said Tanger Outlets general manager Janine Nebons. “I bumped into he and Ann at the Cooperage Inn and we were looking to do an event to raise awareness for breast cancer. I said we need to talk. That was the beginning of our nearly 20-year relationship with the DeGrasses and the North Fork Breast Cancer Coalition.”

She said she was saddened to hear of his death.

“Antonio really left the world a much better place,” she said. “He brought such energy to any endeavor. There was no such thing as not being able to do something. He was determined to figure something out.

“And he was all about the kids and including them and everything that we did. We’re gonna miss him terribly.”

Mr. DeGrasse ran for Riverhead Town Board once and was briefly involved with the Riverhead Charter School. He was also a founder of a group called Riverhead African-American Historical and Cultural Society.

He had a degree in zoology and his hobbies included gardening and picture framing. He was a founder of the Peconic Rowing Club and a member of the board at the East End Arts Council.

Predeceased by his brother, Alfonse, in 1997 and his first wife, Marva, in 1979, Mr. DeGrasse is survived by his wife, Ann Cotten-DeGrasse; his son, Antonio Jr., of St. Albans, N.Y.; his daughter, Kendra Morgan of Red Lodge, Mont. and three grandchildren.

A memorial service and reception will be held Friday, May 6, from 4 to 6 p.m. at First Congregational Church of Riverhead.

Memorial donations may be sent to “Diamonds in the Rough,” a scholarship fund and can be mailed to P.O. Box 124, South Jamesport, N.Y. 11970.

Arrangements were in the care of McLaughlin Heppner Funeral Home in Riverhead.

Photo Caption: Antonio DeGrasse of Jamesport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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