Lufker’s legacy: airport for sale

The decades-old East Moriches Lufker Airport has been on the market since July. Listed at $11.5 million, it’s just a small piece left behind of Lou Lufker’s legacy, who owned and operated the private airport with his wife, Dorothy, for 35 years. Lufker recently passed away, just a few days shy of his 75th birthday, on Nov. 7.

He was laid to rest the following Monday, Nov. 12, where several planes flew over his casket in tribute to him. His eldest son, Gregory Lufker, 45, who is now helping with the sale of the property, rode by his father’s side as his siblings and mother followed behind in a limo. Lufker was buried in Calverton National Cemetery after 20 years serving in the Suffolk County Police Department, four years in the United States Air Force and several decades in the Reserves.

The land, according to the listing agents for Coach Realtors, William Tarontola and Greg Folk, is a 31-acre flat parcel located at 115 Montauk Highway, with endless possibilities. The old flying field, Tarontola explained, could be used mostly by new developers, possibly as a high-end senior living facility, or will be purchased by someone who loves airplanes and wants to continue running the private airfield. The property is zoned J2 commercial with Montauk Highway exposure. Though multiple offers are on the table, he said none have been officially accepted.

“I lived at 574 Main Street in Center Moriches through my college years with my roommate and always would go down to the airport and skydive,” said Tarontola. “This is a privileged property and one of the last of its kind, with 31 acres of amazing flat property.”

In Lufker’s absence, his wife is now the sole owner of the property. They married in 1967 at the age 20 (Dorothy) and 22 (Lou). They had known each other since the young ages of 9 and 11 and together went on to have 10 children: Gregory, Deborah, Linda, Donna, James, Louis, Edward, Douglas, Kurt and Lauren. Gregory and Kurt both went on to become commercial pilots.

The Lufkers purchased the airport from Teddy Kijowski in 1984 after utilizing the grounds for private flying for several years. The field, which was originally a farm, has been operational since 1940 and is mainly used for banner towing, skydiving, glider towing and flight instruction.

According to Dorothy, when they first married he expressed an interest in aviation and mentioned that he would someday like to get his license.

“The police department offered flight instruction and, as part of the deal, my husband said he wanted to have his wife in the back of the plane,” she said, recalling his first flights.

Lufker went on to receive several licenses and ratings, and together they owned and operated a small banner-towing business.

“I would roll out the letters on my front lawn, he would pick them up, fly them and then drop them,” she said. “He loved aviation and was fascinated by Charles Lindbergh. We had so many pictures hung up, people thought we were related to the man,” she recalled, laughing.

In the ‘70s, the couple purchased land and built their family home in West Islip, where their 10 children grew up. Lufker became an entrepreneur, who collected a number of planes, artifacts and cars. However, with age, Dorothy said maintaining the airport became increasingly difficult and a liability they were willing to part with. Though the land will most likely be developed, she said the family isn’t seeking any specific type of buyer. But, she said they would keep the memories of the airport with them.

At a young age, Lufker lost his father and was then given up by his mother. His children retold the story that before leaving his mother, he ran inside the house to grab his shoeshine kit. Coming from nearly nothing, Lufker started his life’s journey by making 25 to 50 cents as a shoeshiner, before moving up the ranks to eventually become a police officer, pilot and airfield owner, and an entrepreneur and collector.

“Everything he touched turned to gold,” said Tarontola. “At my first meeting with him, I was so excited and had so many questions, but wanted to be guarded with a professional image. He was a self-made orphan that had accomplished not the sky’s limit, but footprints on the moon. It was a privilege to know him and a bigger privilege to have him choose Gregory and me to represent his life’s passion and the sale of his amazing airport.”

Tarontola and Folk represent the property globally, and it is currently being featured in the window of Mayfair International Real Estate in London, Christie’s International, Luxury Portfolio and, of course, Coach Realtors. Folk is also a flight instructor at the airport and is currently helping to keep the airport open and running. According to Folk, a total of about 15 private aircraft continue to operate out of the airfield.

A composed video of the property can be found here: https://vimeo.com/284936051. The listing can be found here: http://v3.mlsstratus.com/Live/Pages/Public/Link.aspx?Key=b7a38ae51bdc4270ac91f53a2d86bb31&App=MLSLI.

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