James L. Davey, a central figure in Long Island wrestling who founded the team at LIU Post, died Jan. 27 at Northport Veterans Hospital. He was 91.
The cause of death was multiple cancers, said a son-in-law, Robert Stock.
As a nimble 123-pounder out of Valley Stream Central High School in the late 1930s, Davey won the South Shore championship, Mepham Invitational and Long Island titles. He fought with the Marines in the Pacific in World War II and returned to coach at Cortland State College and South Side in Rockville Centre and Oceanside high schools.
But it was at the then-C.W. Post, where he arrived in 1955, taught phys-ed 32 years and coached 22, that he made his mark. Under Davey, the wrestling program won two NCAA Division II national championships and three conference titles, producing 15 All-Americans, 38 intercollegiate champions and five NCAA Outstanding Wrestler award-winners.
He arrived at Post just a year after the school’s founding and made a practice of recruiting locally.
Davey was inducted into the New York State Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1979 and was honored by the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1997 for Lifetime Service to Wrestling.
LIU Post inducted Davey into its athletic hall of fame in 2005 and named its wrestling room after him last year. “He was the architect,” said Bryan Collins, the school’s athletic director. “He’s been here for everything we’ve done.”
James Louis Davey was born June 10, 1924, in Valley Stream. His father was a bus mechanic. His mother died when he was 12.
Davey enlisted in the Marines after Pearl Harbor. After the war he married his high school sweetheart, Jane Murphy, and attended Cortland, where he served as wrestling player-coach, on the GI Bill. He later earned a master’s degree in special education from Hofstra University.
The couple spent much of their time in Smithtown and East Setauket, where they lived in a log cabin Davey had built from a kit.
Ed Rufrano, who wrestled under Davey 1968-1972, recalled “a fantastic technician.”
“He had a way of taking a lot of the stress that young men feel in wrestling away and putting it in the proper perspective,” Rufrano said. “Lighten it up, come on, go out there and have fun.”
Davey was celebrated at Long Island Wrestling Day at Post in early January, an event attended by hundreds of wrestlers, many of whom he’d coached. Rufrano, who runs a millwork company, had made a sign: Coach Jim Davey Wrestling Room, in 14 feet wide green and gold, the school colors.
“He was shocked,” Rufrano said.
Davey is survived by his wife, of Ridge; brothers William, of Middle Island, and Ken, of Hyde Park; daughters Kathy Stock, of Port Jefferson, Sally Davey, of Hercules, California, and Terry Davey, of Stony Brook; sons Dale, of Lewiston, California, Wade, of Wading River, and James, of Stony Brook. He was preceded in death by a brother, Ed, of Merrick, and sisters Rose Long of Northport and Chickie Fry of Ocean Pines, Maryland.
The family said there were no services.