Tim Gentzel is an East Patchogue resident and electrician who addressed traffic signals in Nassau and Suffolk counties, consistently mentored 10 and 11-year-old boys, especially those unsure of themselves or who needed a guiding hand. He has coached Bellport youth lacrosse and football as well as soccer for years. Youths were picked up personally at their homes as an incentive to get them to show up. Pancake breakfasts at his family’s breakfast table with six kids were a regular occurrence. Sometimes, the youngsters got other meals, too. And Gatorade. And snacks. Because there are parents who can’t afford those things.
Gentzel, the 2015 Long Island Advance “Man of the Year,” could use some kind largesse himself right now. He’s battling a rare form of tongue cancer and his family is struggling. A Tim Gentzel’s BBQ and Cornhole fundraiser is set for Wednesday, July 28 at Dublin Deck in Patchogue starting at 5 p.m.
The event was planned by Christine Gentzel, Kari Dallin Antos and Chris Picini.
Picini, a South Country Board of Education trustee, discussed Gentzel’s impact on him as well as his community.
“Tim was my son’s first coach,” Picini said. “I’ve known him through my boys. We coached football together for years. He’s just this full-of-life personality and is always such a welcoming, open guy who created scenarios for kids that were fun. But he is also a strong family guy; he’s all about his own kids and what he can do for them. He has two grandchildren.”
When the Advance interviewed Gentzel in 2016, he admitted to not taking regular vacations. Most of his time is devoted to coaching, but he wasn’t the only coach committed to mentoring youths, he said. (When we called him to tell him about his award, he had just climbed down from a traffic light assignment in Smithtown. He yelled, “You’re kidding!” a couple of times.)
Picini said Gentzel was always a guy who never weighed into the fray on issues. “He’d want to know what he could do regarding school board issues and make things better.”
He’s been dealing with his diagnosis for about a year now, Picini said.
“I know it got bad around the last couple of months around March,” he said. “He had dropped a lot of weight and one time, I didn’t recognize him. At the end of May, on Senior Day, he was on the field. He had his beard, glasses and his hat on and was a lot better, but he didn’t have that boom in his voice and didn’t have that energy.”
Around prom time, there was surgery; the prognosis seemed hopeful, but the cancer returned with a vengeance. “He’s home now, and I think they’re struggling with getting home health care, and he hasn’t worked in a year,” Picini said. “His wife had breast cancer, but the resources for breast cancer and what he has is like night and day.”
Picini said the owners of Dublin Deck are donating food. It’s $25 for the barbecue and $50 a team for the cornhole. There will be a cash bar.
“We’ll have a Chinese auction,” Picini said. “The amount of gifts on my dining room table have blown me away, so we’ll have that as well. His brother Brian and his wife Christine are also part of the fundraising team, as well as Kari Antos. Kari knows me a long time. We had run through some scenarios, and I called Scotty Campbell and asked, ‘How can you help us?’ This took place within three weeks. Dublin Deck makes it so much easier for us because we can promote it, get the raffles and the cornhole together.” Picini said he expects 300 to 400 people. People can just show up and pay at the door, or they can fill out a form that is on Facebook and send payment to the Tim Gentzel Family Foundation, 10 Sterling Path, Yaphank, NY.