Eugene “Gene” Luntey passed away peacefully on Sept. 8, 2022, surrounded by his son, Kirk, and his daughter-in-law, Dorothy. He was 101.
Although his health was failing, Gene told his doctor the day before, “I’m not sick, I’m just old!”
He was predeceased by Beverly Weber Luntey, his wife of 53 years (Kirk’s mother), and his wife of 15 years, Betty Brodie Luntey. Betty had four children, 10 grandchildren and many great-grandchildren who helped make Gene’s final years even happier.
Gene was born on May 29, 1921 in Buhl, Idaho, population, 2,500. During high school, he delivered newspapers and worked in the only drugstore in town and was the salutatorian of his high school in 1939. He graduated from the University of Idaho with a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering in 1943 and received a scholarship to the Institute of Gas Technology at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago.
His studies were interrupted by World War II. He joined the Navy as an ensign, was trained as an airborne electronics officer, then proceeded to train Navy pilots in radar and electronic navigation.
He worked for the Office of Scientific Research and Development where he designed rockets to be fired from naval aircraft.
In February 1948, Gene and Beverly move to New York City where Gene had accepted a position at the Brooklyn Union Gas Company as a junior engineer; an officer at the company arranged for them to rent a friend’s guest room.
During his time with Brooklyn Union, he worked nearly every engineering job, including supervising, installing and maintaining the mains and services for the entire borough.
He helped to plan, design and install the facilities, participating in the conversion to replace the old manufactured gas — that had been in use for 100 years — with natural gas.
He became a NYS licensed engineer and worked with Brooklyn Union for 38 years, working his way up from assistant vice president, vice president, executive vice president and for the last 11 years, president and chairman. He retired at age 65, as required by the company.
Active in the natural gas industry in the United States and around the world, Gene served as chairman of the New York Gas Group and president of the Society of Gas Lighting. He was a member of the New York State Energy Development Authority, chairman of the Gas Research Institute and chairman of the American Gas Association.
An active volunteer, Gene was always eager to give back to his community. He served on the local civic association and the Port Washington Board of Education and was deputy mayor and chief police commissioner of Sands Point for 25 years. He mentored the Rockefeller Fellows of the New York City Partnership, and served on the boards of the Regional Plan Association and NYC Planning committees.
He was on the boards of the Brooklyn Museum, the Brooklyn Academy of Music and Polytechnic University and led fundraising efforts for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the Long Island College Hospital. In 1983, Gene joined the Board of Trustees of Long Island University and became the first chancellor of the Brooklyn campus, and then chairman of the university for five years.
Gene received honorary doctorate degrees from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, Polytechnic University and Long Island University. The University of Idaho recognized him as an outstanding alumnus with the Silver and Gold Award in 1983.
Gene brought his family to Shelter Island in the early 1970s and in 1979 he designed and built their house. Since 2001, Gene lived on Shelter Island and Hilton Head, S.C., where he was a member of St. Andrews by the Sea Methodist Church and an active volunteer at Hilton Head Memorial Hospital.
At age 93, he was named Volunteer of the Year at the hospital. He also loved reading, beating solitaire on his iPad and spending time with his ever-growing family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
On the Island, Gene was a member of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, Gardiner’s Bay Country Club and a longtime trustee of Union Chapel in the Grove. His fellow Chapel trustees remember Gene as a “true gentleman” whose dedication to the Chapel never wavered, even on the Zoom meetings in which he was an active participant, making wry comments.
They also remember how proud he was of his flower garden, and how he loved to show off Betty’s paintings that often featured his favorite dahlias. A trustee said: “We will always remember him fondly when we hear our bells ringing in the cadence he insisted on.” Those same bells will ring at his memorial service.
Gene’s life will be celebrated at a memorial service at Union Chapel in the Grove in Shelter Island Heights on Friday, October 7 at 2 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates donations made in Gene’s memory to the Eugene H. and Beverly W. Luntey Scholarship Fund, Long Island University, 700 Northern Boulevard, Brookville, NY 11548, or Union Chapel in the Grove, PO Box 326, Shelter Island Heights, NY 11965.