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Leaving his Marks on DePhillips Athletic Club

After 20 years of never taking a day off, Marks is retiring from DAC this week and moving with his wife down to Florida. He has two sisters and a son who live in the Boca Raton area.His final task is to supervise a baseball playoff game Saturday, and the final out will mark the end of an era. Marks sacrificed most of his life to make sure kids in Bayside and Whitestone had a place to play. "It will probably take three people to do his job," said DAC president Tom Hubany. "That's how much effort Harold put into it. Guys like Harold come around once maybe twice in a lifetime. You don't replace someone like him. You just try and make do."Marks, 74, retired from his job as a print manufacturer 12 years ago and he took his role as the volunteer athletic director seriously. He reckons he probably attended four or five games a week and over the course of his tenure, maybe more than 1,000 athletic contests. DAC is a year-round league with seasons in basketball, baseball, softball and flag-football for kids ages five to high school, and he watched a lot of games. That was the easy part.Marks occupied most of his time doing the league's grunt work. He ordered the uniforms, applied for the field permits, made schedules for the umpires and referees, ordered trophies, and spoke to principals about using their gyms for games - all in his straightforward, succinct manner. Marks, who has a son and daughter, never minced his words. When he had a message to give, he gave it bluntly."Harold had a way of talking," Hubany said. "I remember when I was thinking of getting involved with DAC years ago. I came to a couple of meetings and then I missed a couple, and I remember getting a phone call from Harold, saying, 'I know you have missed some meetings. Are you going to be a part of this thing or not?' And I thought, 'yeah, I want to be a part of this.'"Maybe it was preordained that Marks would spend his life around sports. He grew up in an East Bronx building that was owned by the former New York Knick Ritchie Garren. Actor Danny Aiello lived in the apartment next to him and the two played stickball in the neighborhood streets. Marks was known as a three-sewer man for his ability to hit the ball past three sewers, the way kids measured distance back then."I could really hit that ball," said Marks, who moved to Bayside 37 years ago.His father worked as a baker on the Lower East Side and his mother was a homemaker. Both parents were immigrants from Poland. Over a game of paddle-ball with former Cardozo basketball coach Al Matican, Marks learned about DAC.He enrolled his son Michael with the league in 1972 and in the late '70s Marks became its first vice president. Then in 1982, when the position was vacated, Marks took over as athletic director, quickly emerging as the league's stern voice of reason whenever parents or coaches grew exasperated during the highs and lows of a game. "There were times when things got so crazy between the parents you thought, 'the heck with it,'" he said. "There were times when I thought about walking away, but you try and find a happy medium whatever you do. I was yelling and screaming too, but you take a step back and realize that you're here for the kids, and you learn to take it easy. DAC was never a job to me. It was pleasure."In his 33 years of service, he has seen coaches come and go. Ronny Seltzer, who founded the Bayside Yankees, once managed in the league. So did current Bayside Yankee coach Joe Kessler, who was a basketball coach.Marks and his wife of 48 years, Rochelle, will leave for Florida next Wednesday. Marks had open-heart surgery seven years ago and was hospitalized with breast cancer two years ago. He still receives treatment in the form of a shot once a week. Rochelle has mixed emotions about the move. On one hand, she feels guilty about pulling Marks away from DAC, but on the other, she is getting her husband back. "I feel like I'm taking his fire truck away by leaving DAC," she said. "It's something he's devoted so much energy and time in. He loves sports. I'm very understanding. I'd rather have a happy husband than someone who is bored. Is it a little excessive? Well, you have to know the man. He's a very passionate and devoted person."Reach reporter Mitch Abramson by E-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 130.

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