Kenneth Ostrove was proof of what is often said about Long Beach: you can leave, but you always come back.
And Ostrove did. He was born and raised in Long Beach, served as a lifeguard and pitched for the Long Beach High School baseball team. He married, moved to Merrick and raised two children there and was an elementary school teacher for decades in Far Rockaway and in Ozone Park. But he kept returning to the barrier island.
"He loved Long Beach," his son, Rick Ostrove of Merrick, said. "I can't tell you how many times my sister and I were taken to the boardwalk. He loved to talk about Long Beach." Ostrove regaled people with tales of his youth on the beach and at the high school. Only last year, he attended a reunion of LBHS, seeing old classmates like Roy Tepper, a retired Long Beach judge.
Ostrove, 84, died April 28 at NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, of coronavirus. He had been living at the Bristal, an assisted living facility in East Meadow.
"I was happy to see him in September" at the LBHS reunion, Tepper wrote in an email. "Ken was a great guy and a terrific ballplayer in his day."
Ostrove was a starting pitcher for the LBHS team and worked as a lifeguard along with his brother, Don. When he attended C, W. Post (now LIU Post) Ostrove was the starting pitcher for the first baseball game in Post's history. He earned a bachelor's degree and a master's in education.
He served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany. Ostrove was strongly patriotic, and after he left the Army, he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
He taught in elementary schools in underprivileged areas, including Far Rockaway and Ozone Park, in Queens, He often worked second jobs to help support his family.
Ostrove was married for 50 years to his wife Zelle, who died in 2017.
"Together, they created a beautiful, loving home in Merrick for me and my sister," his son said. "They loved their children with all their hearts. They supported us in every way. They taught us to be good people and care for others. They were proud to help both of us receive post-graduate degrees and establish successful careers."
Besides his son, Ostrove is survived by his daughter, Elissa Lesser, and a granddaughter Madison Lesser. "Madison was the light of his life," his son said. "Ken is featured in many of her TikToks."
Only 10 people were permitted to attend the funeral at Mount Ararat Cemetery in Farmingdale, because of restrictions related to the coronavirus.
To honor their father and grandfather, the family is collecting money to distribute to local Long Beach businesses and hospital care workers. Rick Ostrove recalls how a nurse at Winthrop rubbed his father's neck while he lay in a hospital bed. The family has raised $7,000 and is planning on how best to distribute it.
"This way we can support the local economy while providing well-deserved meals for the health care workers who are putting their lives in jeopardy to care for the ill, " Rick Ostrove said.