More than 250 people packed Roxbury Central School on Saturday to mourn together, the loss of Michael “Reidy” Riedlinger, a beloved teacher, coach and mentor to all in the community. Reidlinger who succumbed last week after a long battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) was remembered by current and former students, by colleagues and by friends as a great role model and an “overall amazing person.”
Rev. Richard Dykstra presided over the Celebration of Reidlinger’s life, which was delayed in starting as those present waited until lifelong friends and life-guarding colleagues from Montauk could arrive to participate. It was the second time in just six months that the Roxbury community gathered in the school to honor a beloved teacher and as was true in November when Dora Fowler was so honored, the school was packed and tears flowed freely.
RCS Superintendent Tom O’Brien, whose children all studied with and adored Reidlinger, told the News he was overcome with emotion several times during the day honoring someone who was as much friend as colleague.
He echoed the words of his daughter Molly who said “he helped me learn to think, to feel and to do things in ways I never thought I could.” Reidlinger had been honored just two weeks ago at an event in the Roxbury Fire House, according to O’Brien.
In addition to O’Brien and Dykstra, Reidlinger’s wife Dawn and son Brendan, shared memories with those attending as did lifeguards from Long Island and other friends present. Reidingler was remembers as a musician, though he was always modest about his prowess in that discipline, and for soccer as well as the art, which was his teaching discipline, and his lifeguarding. He had, according to many, a great sense of humor and was an incredible inspiration to his students.
O’Brien told the News that though Reidlinger has not been an active teacher for some time, his “art room” remained very much his classroom, and still contained a lot of “Reidy’s” work, projects and artifacts. “We opened that space up too on Saturday,” said O’Brien because for many of his students, that was the best place to go to remember him, to talk about him and to tell their favorite stories.
O’Brien said that Reidlinger will be forever remembered in the school through two major art works hanging.
One work is a mosaic of Kirkside Park and one is a painting right outside my office.