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Mar 23, 2016 10:37 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Michael Semkus, Sag Harbor Teacher And Coach, Dies Monday

Friends of Michael Semkus described him as an athlete who inspired all around him. This photo was taken in 2011. PRESS FILE
Mar 23, 2016 12:40 PM

Those who knew Michael Semkus will remember him as a man who loved to encourage kids to follow their dreams.Mr. Semkus, 28, who was an elementary school teacher and soccer coach in the Sag Harbor School District, died on Monday of a drug overdose, according to Southampton Town Police.

Funeral services have not yet been set, but they will take place at the Yardley and Pino Funeral Home in Sag Harbor.

“Mike is a beautiful man and he inspired a lot of kids and he inspired a lot of athletes,” said Benito Vila, the director of the Sag Harbor Coalition—a community group dedicated to preventing drug use by young people—who coached Mr. Semkus in baseball and also played softball and surfed with him. “It is a huge loss for us in the water. It’s just a huge loss.”

Mr. Vila added that Mr. Semkus even inspired those who saw him just “doing dips” to work his triceps at the beach.

The coalition will meet next week to figure out a proper way to respond to Mr. Semkus’s death, Mr. Vila said. “The problems that we read about in the paper in terms of our youth using drugs and alcohol are real,” he said. “They are real. It is not just that they exist in the rest of the world—they also exist here.”

The Sag Harbor School District administration sent out a letter to families on Tuesday mourning the loss of Mr. Semkus and informing them that counseling services are available to students if needed. “We will always remember Michael’s kind and generous spirit,” the letter states. “Michael worked closely with many of our students, as a teacher and coach, so we understand many may be struggling with this loss.”

It continues, “Sag Harbor is a strong and close-knit community that stands together during difficult times. Listening, understanding and supporting our school family and the Semkus family are our priority. Please let us know if we can be of help to you as we work together to comfort each other and the students.”

“No matter what Mike did, it was 100 percent, all the time,” said Eric Bramoff, the athletic director at the Sag Harbor schools, who was also his teacher, lifeguarded with Mr. Semkus, and considered him his favorite beach volleyball partner. “He became a mentor to young lifeguards,” Mr. Bramoff said of Mr. Semkus. “He would perform feats of strength and endurance that you didn’t know if they were real or a myth.”

He recalled a specific instance: “One time my lifeguard friend ran from Montauk to Main Beach, East Hampton, on the beach. The next day, Mike ran from Montauk to Sagg Main, six miles farther—because that was Mike.”

Alyx Tortorice, a Southampton resident who also lifeguarded with Mr. Semkus during the summers, remembered him as a “machine” in the water. “I loved watching whenever he would compete at a lifeguard tournament,” she said. “He would just win stuff all the time, and then walk away like it was nothing.”

She added, “All the kids loved him on the beach—he had a gang. The moms loved him, too.”

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So sad when the good die young and tragically. Condolences to his family and friends.
By Toma Noku (616), Southampton on Mar 23, 16 11:33 AM
My heart aches for Michael and his family. Addiction cares not who you are...ready to hurt anyone..to kill anyone...My prayers go out to Michael and all who are still struggling.
By kbones49 (3), sag harbor on Mar 23, 16 12:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
Deepest condolences to his family....my son adored him at school, loved that he knew how to play soccer, he was a true inspiration to so many students....
By klaustina (1), sag harbor on Mar 23, 16 1:11 PM
Horrible to learn of this news. Very sad. My thoughts go out to his family.
By Dayo (33), Sag Harbor on Mar 23, 16 1:45 PM
what can you say to this young mans family and friends or to the children who looked up to him...sorry and sad and a little angry.lets use this great loss to once again make the point that this can happen to any family or any one taking drugs..what are we doing out east to make people aware of the scourage that is sweeping this area of our island.chapter 18 of town code has a provesion for an advisory committee on drug use.I suggested this be appointed to Ms Scleara on Town Board but got no reply...we ...more
By watchdog1 (543), Southampton on Mar 23, 16 2:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
Wow...I didn't know Southampton P.D. conducted thier own autopsy.
By Cos54 (1), Remsenburg on Mar 23, 16 4:57 PM
I'm disappointed that 27East would not do their due diligence...SH Town PD says it is an alleged overdose. If it was accidental, it was a rush to print the cause of death by this writer. WHY? There is no toxicology report indicating anything! Stop judging! Stop sensationalizing! Journalism is defined by the standard of printing the TRUTH. Here's the TRUTH: This young man worked with young children, tutored, coached, surfed and lifeguarded. He was kind and good. He worked hard and cared about others. ...more
By jcos (3), Remsenburg on Mar 23, 16 6:47 PM
As a friend of Michael and his family I am very disappointed in this article. Toxicology has not been completed, and there has been no reason to assume this was a drug overdose. The job of the paper is to report news, not to speculate on what you think happened. Southampton police are not the medical examiner, they have no record of why Michael passed away, therefore your article is inaccurate. How dare you write something this is not true and not confirmed.
Alisha- do you think that Michael ...more
By Sag harbor soccer (1), Sag Harbor on Mar 23, 16 7:30 PM
My condolences to the family. Sag harbor soccer I support you!!! The Press absolutely should rewrite the story along with a huge apology to the family!
By toes in the water (884), southampton on Mar 24, 16 4:42 PM
How awful.
By Rich Morey (378), East Hampton on Mar 23, 16 8:53 PM
I am so sorry to read this article. My condolences to Michael's parents and family. I had Michael in Pre-K at Stella Maris a few years back ... But always remembered him as being adorable and very kind. My heart breaks for his family. Why did the article bring drugs into this announcement if it could have been natural causes? This is sick! Michael, may you rest in peace! Catch that big wave up in the sky!❤️❤️����
By beachbag50 (18), East Hampton on Mar 23, 16 8:54 PM
2 members liked this comment
I knew Mike as a fellow Southampton Town Guard and in my eyes he was never short of amazing.He was a throwback to the days when we practiced all around waterman skills,he was the proverbial fish in the water as well as amazing on land like when he ran from Sagg Main to Flying Point in twenty minutes a record in my thirtysix years of guarding.Of course we never really know anybody but this is really hard for me to accept as an overdose.Whatever the verdict is losing Mike is a huge blow,he will be ...more
By vag (13), southampton on Mar 23, 16 10:48 PM
Might it be possible there were physical circumstances present? Condolences to the family.
By East End 2 (151), Southampton on Mar 24, 16 10:59 AM
Maybe the editor should start reviewing articles. A lot of errors.
By knitter (1941), Southampton on Mar 24, 16 6:23 PM
so sad
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on Mar 24, 16 8:14 PM
Maybe everyone should take a moment and learn from the situation - that the drug epidemic on long island is out of control and a REAL problem. Use Michael as a method of healing others instead of keeping all the skeletons in the closet. if it can happen to him it can happen to any one in any family.
By LocalNotNative (5), Sag harbor on Mar 25, 16 2:42 PM
4 members liked this comment
Here's part of the problem with regard to drugs - the schools know - with regard to teachers and students - especially private schools - but they do not take action because they do not want the negative publicity. People try to relocate to the East End to get their kids out of drug schools - perhaps a drop in property values will have an effect on deterring the drug problems?
By Vikki K (490), Southampton on Mar 31, 16 2:00 PM