James F. Rice was a longtime Levittown resident remembered by many, either as a history teacher in town middle schools or as a coach at the Acorn Lane Pool.
Rice died June 10 after battling autoimmune kidney disease. He was 79 and had spent more than 40 years teaching and coaching in Levittown.
A Facebook page setup in his memory, the "James F. Rice Legacy Page," garnered more than 1,100 likes as of June 19. Comments on the page herald Rice as teacher that helped to shape many lives.
"He treated everyone with respect and the respect came back in the end," said his daughter Lorraine Meyer of Patchogue.
Rice was born Oct. 2, 1936, in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, to James Frances and Mary Rice.
Though he was struck with polio at age 10, the disease did not slow him down. He joined the baseball team in high school, competed in triathlons and was always in the water. After retirement, he even taught his four grandchildren to swim.
Rice attended the now-shuttered Cathedral Preparatory Seminary in Brooklyn with the intention of becoming a priest until he met "sweet Lorraine" at a Saint Francis Church dance. They married in 1959.
He received his bachelor's degree from St. John's University in Queens. His love for the school continued after he graduated, and he was fond of wearing the team colors of red and black. As recently as last year he enjoyed a game at the school with his family. He earned his master's from Hofstra University.
He taught in two Brooklyn schools in the New York City Public School system -- first at Marine Park Middle School and then at Eastern District High School, where he became dean.
In 1965, he moved to Levittown and began teaching there a year later.
Rice spent more than 40 years as a history teacher for middle schools in Levittown. He retired from Jonas E. Salk Middle School in 1999. He also coached for the district's baseball teams and was involved with the MacArthur High School baseball team when they won the county championships in 1981 and 1988.
He also was remembered for riding his bike everyday to work -- rain, sleet or snow.
"He was the first person to have me speak in front of people and I have been comfortable ever since," said Father Michael Duffy, one of Rice's former students and now associate pastor at St. Kilian Roman Catholic Church in Farmingdale. "He treated us with respect, talked to us as adults and saw what we could become."
During summers he returned to Brooklyn and coached day camp in Greenpoint.
In retirement he joined the U.S. Masters Swimming Team and devoted his life to his four grandchildren, attending all their sporting events.
In addition to daughter Lorraine Meyer, he is survived by wife, Lorraine, of Levittown; daughter Christine Rice of Plainedge; sons James Rice of Massapequa Park and Terrence Rice of Levittown; and four grandchildren.