A ray of sunshine. A gentle soul. A teacher and mentor to so many.

It’s clear Gene Horton was all these things and so many more to his family, friends, students and colleagues.

Eugene T. Horton, the beloved Bayport-Blue Point historian and longtime East Moriches social studies teacher, died on Sunday. He was 77. 

In the days since Horton’s death, people fortunate enough to have been influenced by his life have taken to social media to celebrate his memory. 

“I loved the way he made history come alive,” Allison Homan-Battenberg, a former student of Horton, posted on Horton’s Facebook page. 

Tim Rowland, another former student of Horton, posted his feelings on a legacy wall dedicated to Horton on Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home’s website.

“Mr. Horton was one of the true gems of the teaching profession and a person who made a history nerd feel like less of a nerd,” Rowland wrote. “His class gave me the confidence in myself and my abilities that I was able to apply through the rest of my school career.”

Visitation is Sunday, Sept. 8, 2-4:30 p.m. and 7-9:30 p.m., at Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home, 683 Montauk Hwy. in Bayport. There will be a chapel service held at 8 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. 

Horton is survived by his husband Erich, his brother Geoffrey and his sister Kit. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Bayport-Blue Point Heritage Association at Meadow Croft, P.O. Box 4, Bayport, NY 11705 or Blue Point Cemetery, 23 Madison St., Blue Point, NY 11715 would be appreciated.

The following are excerpts from a statement the Bayport Blue Point Heritage Association (BBPHA) posted on its blog this week:

“Gene was our historian, a teacher, author, world traveler, speaker, volunteer, and friend. He loved his community and tirelessly gave of himself as he lovingly shared his knowledge of Bayport and Blue Point with all he knew …

“He went on to graduate from Providence College and began sharing his love of history in his teaching career at the East Moriches School from 1964 through his retirement in 1997,” the BBPHA statement continued. “Gene authored six historical books and was a frequent contributor to the local paper, the Bayport Blue Point Gazette. He was a member of many historical societies, an honorary member of the Blue Point Fire Department, and the Local History Room at the Bayport-Blue Point Library was named in his honor.

“Gene’s contributions to the BBPHA are endless. He has chaired events, donated items, was a featured speaker, was a docent at Meadow Croft, put his house on the Autumn House tour, and so much more. His love of history was infectious and his commitment to preserve the history of the towns he loved was admirable. 

“One of Gene’s favorite quotes was: ‘To preserve our past is to enrich our future.’ Gene has enriched the lives and hearts of many. He was a true gentleman and will be missed,” the statement concluded.