Of all of the ways in which North Shore community members described Sea Cliff’s Arthur Hubbs, “friendly curmudgeon” was the most consistent. He was always ready with a quip and a critical, yet supportive comment, his peers said, all the way up until his death on Aug. 2. Hubbs, who was age 91, died from heart failure after battling Parkinson’s for much of the past decade.
Born in the Midwest, on July 30, 1928, Hubbs served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. After he and his first wife, Jeffrey’s mother, divorced, he moved to Long Island in the early 1970s to study at Hofstra University. After graduating, he taught social studies at Bethpage High School until his retirement in the mid-1990s. While attending classes at Hofstra, he met Harriet, a widow who went back to school in her 40s to support her son. The two began dating and married not long after, settling in Sea Cliff.
Hubbs immediately made his presence known in the community, entering the Kiwanis Club of the North Shore in 1974. Doug Barnaby, who joined Kiwanis at the same time, said Hubbs quickly became one of the club’s most loyal and active members, participating in nearly every event it hosted. His ever-expanding presence in the club and community earned him the nickname “King Arthur.”
“He was just a very straight forward, honest person who knew where you’d stand when he’s your friend,” Barnaby said.
Among Hubbs’s many accomplishments with the Kiwanis was bringing Sea Cliff’s annual Mini Mart art exposition under the club’s management when he was club president. In doing so, the proceeds earned through the event were targeted to benefit local children through clothing and scholarship programs — Kamp Kiwanis and the Kiwanis Pediatric Trauma Center.
Additionally, when Hubbs won a bus in a raffle through the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation about 30 years ago, he donated it to the village’s senior citizens. This was instrumental in launching the senior luncheon program at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, which is still thriving today.
Hubbs was also extremely proactive in bringing women into the Kiwanis Club, something that was not permitted before he joined. He encouraged Kiwanian Julia Salat to join the club. She said that a big part of his motivation in helping women to join the club was his great respect for his wife.
“[Hubbs was] a man who was dedicated to making Sea Cliff a better place and he will be missed,” Salat said.
According to his friends and peers, Hubbs’s love and respect for Harriet was apparent whenever the two were together. Leslie McCarthy, another Kiwanian who was very close with Arthur and Harriet, said the two were an ideal couple. They were always participating in community events, she said, hosting parties in their home and even dedicated a bench on the Sea Cliff boardwalk.
Phil Como knew Hubbs for about 40 years, as the two were both members of the James. F. Brengel American Legion Post 456. He described Arthur and Harriet as “tremendous people, very outgoing [and] very involved.”
Hubbs always said that Harriet made him a better person. When she died of lung cancer on Dec. 29, 2007, Hubbs would say that he made the decision to keep living because Harriet would have wanted him to do.
Hubbs developed Parkinson’s disease later in life, and without Harriet to support him, his friends took on the duties of his care. McCarthy often drove Hubbs to doctors’ appointments, events and other activities. She said that he would say sometimes that he felt like a burden, but she and others were always happy to help.
“You were a wonderful, giving person,” McCarthy recalled telling him, “and now it’s time for you to get the royal treatment you deserve.”
Barnaby and his wife, Karin, also spent a great deal of time with Hubbs, taking care of most of his needs during his later years. She said he became accepting of the fact that he was growing frail and nearing death, a sort of courage and philosophical viewpoint which she admired.
During his final days, Hubbs expressed a desire to “check out” from his long life. Although he and Harriet may be gone, those who knew them made it clear that their impact on the North Shore community would not be forgotten.
“I would say that Arthur and his wife embodied the best of the community,” Karin said, adding that the couple’s devotion to Sea Cliff never wavered, even as they approached death. “They were just good people.”
Hubbs is survived by his son, Jeffrey, and grandchildren, Anthony and Blair.