By Samuel Rowland
Robert Segnit, who died on March 7, 2021, was honored in a bright, sunny memorial Sunday at Charles J. Cook Pool in Cortlandt, which he had run for more than 20 summers as aquatics director.
The memorial service was held to officially dedicate a plaque and bench with Segnit’s name that have been commissioned for the pool facility, but which have not yet been finished.
The event attracted a large crowd that packed the area in front of the dais and speaker’s chairs all the way back to the new bathhouse he helped lobby for. Many of the attendees were past and present lifeguards who had worked for Segnit at the pool over the years, or who had been trained by him.
“Cook Pool was his passion,” Head Lifeguard Sarah Esposito said. “No matter what, Rob would have our back.”
Theresa Knickerbocker, the Mayor of Buchanan, where Segnit lived, spoke at the ceremony as a long-time friend of his parents. She began her speech in tears as she acknowledged the large gathering and recounted how she had first met Segnit as a child, stopping in regularly with his mother at the deli she owned at the time. She noted that the lovely smile he had back then never left him.
Other speakers talked about how much of Cook Pool’s daily procedures and consistent quality had come from Segnit’s tireless work.
“For close to four months a year, every year, Cook Pool was his home,” Cortlandt Recreation Director John Palmiottio said. “He was by far the most dedicated part-time worker… [we] ever had.”
According to Esposito, all the currently used routines, shift structure and equipment used by Cook Pool lifeguards were instituted under Segnit’s tenure. His wife, Nicole Segnit, said the ubiquitous long whistle signal to quickly empty the pool was also started by him.
Others eulogized Segnit’s accomplishments. Terry Pierce, a close colleague, spoke about how Segnit first became a lifeguard at the age of 15 and a lifeguard instructor at the age of 18. Palmiotto further noted that Segnit then went on to his first job as a pool director at 19. He also had certifications as an EMT, an EMT Lab Instructor, a Pool Operator Instructor and an OSHA instructor.
Mrs. Segnit left the event with two separate bouquets of flowers and a facsimile of the plaque that will be placed on the bench when it arrives. The bench, plaque and a separate memorial tree will be placed at the location of her choosing within the facility.