When Brian Carey was in the eighth or ninth grade his father wasn’t too happy about a report card.

“He was failing,” John Carey recalled Tuesday. “So I said to him, ‘Look, you bring those grades up and I’ll get you a dirt bike.’ ”

The next marking period Brian Carey had himself a Kawasaki dirt bike.

“He loved that thing, too,” said John Whitley, Brian Carey’s lifelong friend. “We rode a lot of places together we weren’t supposed to.”

Friends and family remembered Carey Tuesday for his inner drive, unselfishness and, at times, a mischievous twinkle in his eye.

Carey, a Newsday pressman from Setauket, died Sunday in his sleep. He was 47.

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Nick Campisi, another lifelong friend, never knew the dirt bike story. But knowing Carey, it’s just perfect.

“He was driven in that regard,” said Campisi, 45, now a sales representative from Port Jefferson. “When he really had to do something, he could. And he would do more for others whenever he could.”

Carey, Whitley and Campisi grew up in a group of close friends in the Setauket area in the 1970s and ’80s, when the North Shore’s Three Village community was more wide-open spaces. They’d drive their dirt bikes through fields and on roadways, sometimes irritating and often eluding police.

In the nearly four decades since, they’ve retained that unbreakable childhood bond.

As they got older, they’d still make time to fish and golf together, with Carey chasing striped bass and bluefish off Montauk or driving a golf cart perhaps a bit heavy-footed.

Carey also was proficient in karate, said Whitley, 48, also of Setauket, and a carpenter for the Long Island Rail Road.

Carey always seemed drawn to individual sports and challenges, said his father who for 45 years was a pressman for The New York Times and the New York Daily News.

At Newsday, Carey came through the ranks the old-fashioned way, starting in 1987 as an apprentice and then making journeyman, said Geoffrey Rizzo, a press room manager.

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Rizzo said Carey was good at his job, and, perhaps more importantly, always was willing to work hard at it. “He never shied away from getting in there, doing whatever he had to do,” Rizzo said.

His mother, Madeline, also remembers her youngest son as quiet with a streak of impishness. “You’d find out what he’d done after he’d done it,” she said. “And quiet. We didn’t know he could talk until he was talking to a girl on the phone, when he was in junior high.

“I went to my husband, and said, ‘He really talks. He really does.’ ”

In addition to his parents of Setauket, Carey is survived by a brother, John Carey Jr. of Sumter, South Carolina; and a daughter, Caitlyn, of Port Jefferson Station.

Visitation is Tuesday and Wednesday at Bryant Funeral Home, East Setauket. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at The Church of St. Gerard Majella, Port Jefferson Station.