Natalie Katz-Rogers 1919-2023

BORN AS NATALIE PROBSTEIN, she came to a world reeling from a global pandemic. Approximately 103 years and six-and-a-half months later, Natalie Katz-Rogers left this earth under similar circumstances in the first weekend of May. She accomplished much over the span of her long life.

Photo of Natalie Katz-Rogers standing beside her portrait taken by Nancy Ney in the Ocean Beach Historical Society by Rita Silver, circa 2010.

In Fire Island circles she will be remembered as the first elected female mayor of the Incorporated Village of Ocean Beach. The Ocean Beach minutes reflect that sometimes female village trustees would step in as acting mayor for short spans of time in a village mayor’s absence, but Natalie became the first woman to run for and win that office in her own right in 1998 and held her mayoral role for eight years. After eight years, she stepped down in 2006 after deciding not to run for a third term. To date she remains the only female mayor of Ocean Beach Village.

Yet Fire Island was only one facet of her life. She graduated from Evander Childs High School early, at the age of 16, attended Hunter College on a part-time basis as she had to work to put herself through school during the Great Depression. She married Leon Katz in 1942 and together they had three daughters: Ronnie, Sandy, and Gail. Prior to raising her family, she worked at TWA Interconti- nental Division, starting as an assistant weight and balance engineer and working her way up to the position of chief aerodynamic engineer – becoming one of only two female aeronautical engineers in the country at that time.

In 1976, her husband Leon died, leaving her widowed at the age of 56. However, years of dis- tinctive community service with the Queens Cen- ters for Progress (then known as United Cerebral Palsy of Queens) had caught the attention of New York City Mayor Abraham Beam who appointed her as chairman of the newly formed New York City Civil Service Commission that same year.

Natalie would find love again, and married Chuck Rogers in 1981. Together they worked as developers on Fire Island, including Bay View Con- dominiums in Ocean Beach and Dehnhoff Walk where the Albatross restaurant resides, as well as the Fire Island Hotel in Ocean Bay Park, which they later sold to other investors.

However, in spite of all her accomplishments, Natalie was often a controversial figure during her mayoral tenure. Her style of governance was not for everyone and she won her second mayoral term in 2002 by a historically narrow margin.

“I sought, but couldn’t always achieve, a balance between the homeowners and commercial interests, and naturally had some opposition from extremes at both ends,” Katz-Rogers said in a 2019 interview with our publication, shortly after her 100th birthday.

She survived her second husband Chuck Rogers by 15 years, and tragically outlived all three of her daughters.

To fill these voids Natalie cherished the friend- ships she forged over the years. She is remembered by many as a crackerjack amateur golfer and she left an enduring imprint on the Village of Ocean Beach that shaped its destiny.