George Dagher III seemed to know everyone in the communities where he lived and worked, from Bay Shore to Sayville, and at his funeral Mass last Saturday the large Catholic church in Sayville, St. Lawrence, was packed.
He taught for about a decade at Chaminade and St. Anthony's high schools, and, after going into finance, served as the president of the Bay Shore Rotary Club, a title he held at the time of his death.
"He was a guy with a big heart who cared about his community and was doing a lot of good," said Drew Allt, owner of a Bay Shore health spa.
Dagher's death on Dec. 19, apparently from heart problems, Allt said, "was terribly shocking to all of us."
"He was the definition of gregarious," said Mark Velapoldi, who was vice president of the Rotary Club under Dagher and is now acting president. Dagher was "never standoffish and was always ready to give you a hug."
A lifelong bachelor, Dagher, 59, who lived in Brightwaters, was an uncle not only to his own nieces and nephews, but an unofficial one to many other children, said Sayville attorney Dennis O'Doherty, a close friend of Dagher.
"He was a great conversationalist. He made people feel special. That's why he was so well-liked and loved by so many people," O'Doherty said.
Dagher grew up in Bayport and attended St. Lawrence grammar school in Sayville and LaSalle Military Academy in Oakdale. He went on to Villanova University and then studied for his master's degree in foreign languages at Middlebury College and Stony Brook University.
At Chaminade and St. Anthony's he taught Spanish. Even though he left teaching more than 20 years ago, he remained in touch with many staff members and even attended the schools' 25th graduation reunions.
One fellow teacher, Bruce Bombara, said he often thought jokingly at the reunions that Dagher "knows more people than I do and I'm still here."
After teaching, Dagher spent a few years working on Wall Street, said one of his brothers, Matt Dagher of Hingham, Mass., and eventually opened a financial planning business in Bay Shore.
He also served on the Friends of Connetquot River State Park, and was an active member of the Point O'Woods club on Fire Island and Southward Ho County Club in Bay Shore. He was also a member of a community-based organic farm at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale.
Dagher is also survived by two other brothers, Peter of Laurel Hollow, and John of Locust Valley; two sisters, Barbara Smith of Walpole, Mass., and Kathyrne Dagher of Rocky Point; and seven nieces and nephews.