During his short 15 years Eli Mollineaux captured the hearts of his classmates and teachers. The Huntington High School sophomore lost his very public and inspiring battle with Pearson Syndrome, a rare mitochondrial disease early Monday morning, passing away while surrounded by his loved ones.
The teenager was honored earlier this fall when the Blue Devil and Smithtown West football teams joined together on the field for a second half play that saw Mr. Mollineaux dart 50 yards in his wheelchair and score a touchdown before a capacity crowd on a Saturday afternoon.
“This has been a challenging day for all of us at Huntington High School,” said Principal Brenden Cusack on Monday. “So many of us were impacted by our favorite Blue Devil as he truly brought out the best in all of us and taught us to ‘bELIeve.’ Eli helped us all come together in amazing ways and his spirit will live on with us. It is a tribute to his memory to see so many students and staff supporting each other today. Our thoughts and prayers are with the wonderful Mollineaux family.”
Huntington sophomore Eli Mollineaux.
Despite his rare ailment, Mr. Mollineaux lived life to the fullest. He was known for seeing the bright side of any situation and keeping a cheery frame of mind. When the Homecoming Day parade made its way down Main Street in October, Mr. Mollineaux was positioned along the north side of the street, eagerly watching the event unfold.
A winter basketball game known as Eli’s March Madness pits Woodhull Intermediate School teachers and staff members against faculty colleagues from elsewhere in the district. The teenager presided over last year’s affair to the delight of the large crowd.
“Eli’s positive attitude, kindness, compassion and perennial smile were infectious,” Huntington Superintendent James W. Polansky said. “He had the rare ability to bring an entire community together and to promote a culture of caring and respect, which was evidenced on so many occasions. He loved Huntington and all in Huntington loved him right back.”
Mr. Mollineaux made his mark in each of the schools he attended, from Washington Primary School and Woodhull to J. Taylor Finley Middle School and most recently, Huntington High School.
“Eli had such a profound impact on my life and all of the people he inspired,” Woodhull Assistant Principal Jarrett Stein said. “He put up such a valiant fight and we’re all so proud of him. He will be missed here at Woodhull, but he will never be forgotten. I will miss him every day. He truly is my hero.”
Woodhull School Assistant Principal Jarrett Stein
with Eli Mollineaux. (Ilene Messina photo.)
Eli’s March Madness game will continue to be held with proceeds earmarked for a scholarship given to a senior in Mr. Mollineaux’s memory.
“Eli reminded us routinely to ‘bELIieve;’ to believe in ourselves and in what we can accomplish together,” Mr. Polansky said. “His spirit and legacy will live on in all of us.”
The teenager’s classmates took his passing hard. “He was such an inspiration to all and his laugh could brighten up the worst of days,” said sophomore Phoebe Walther, one of Mr. Mollineaux’s close friends. “Whenever you made him laugh it just made you feel really good.”
Huntington faculty members enjoyed meaningful relationships with Mr. Mollineaux, including high school art teacher Kristin Singer. “I’m having a hard time right now finding words to describe Eli’s influence on me,” she said. “I have just been so blessed to have worked with him for the past year. He had a profound effect on me as a teacher and person. He inspired everyone he met with his ceaseless positivity.”
Chris Engle is one of the legions of high school students that is going to miss Mr. Mollineaux. “Eli was always there to cheer me up,” the sophomore said. “Every time I was with him he taught me something new about life and appreciating what you have because you don’t know how long you’ll have it. Eli was the strongest, happiest and funniest person I knew. He was able to change every person he met just by being himself.”
Mr. Mollineaux is survived by his parents, Ellen and Jeff and brothers, Joshua and Samuel.
(Huntington High School sophomore Katherine DeGennaro, an intern in the district’s Office of Public Information, contributed to this story.)