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Arthur C. Totten Jr. dead; was longtime Valley Stream educator

Arthur C Totten Jr. passed away Friday, March

Arthur C Totten Jr. passed away Friday, March 11, 2016, at the age of 91. Credit: Family Handout

Arthur C. Totten Jr., a longtime Valley Stream resident, teacher and athletic coach who survived the bloody invasion and capture of Tarawa Atoll in the Pacific during World War II, died March 11. He was 91.

Totten, who was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 6, 1924, and grew up in Scarsdale, taught biology at Valley Stream Central High School for more than 35 years. He also coached varsity and junior varsity wrestling, soccer and bowling.

A short time after beginning his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Totten, at age 18, enlisted in the Marines on Dec. 2, 1942. He served as a corporal and was part of an artillery support unit during the battle for Tarawa in which more than 1,000 Americans died.

After the war, Totten returned to the university, where he met his future wife, Ellen. The couple eloped on June 20, 1947, and wed a year later.

The Tottens moved to Albany, where his wife taught and he continued his studies at New York State College for Teachers in 1953. He later received a National Science Foundation grant and used it to earn a masters in teaching degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Totten spent his entire teaching career — from 1953 to 1988 — at Valley Stream Central High. His wife also taught in the school district. After living in Long Beach for a short while, the couple moved to Valley Stream.

Totten became active in the Valley Stream Teacher Federal Credit Union — later known as the Nassau Educators Credit Union.

Frank De Mita, who taught math and met Totten while they were both new teachers in Valley Stream, said he convinced his friend to serve as the board’s vice president. The friends vacationed with their wives in Hawaii, Arizona and Florida, and took their children on camping trips to New England.

De Mita described Totten as “an honorable, caring individual” who was well-liked as a teacher.

Nancy Hanrahan of Massapequa said her father was an avid gardener, cultivating lush rose bushes in myriad colors and “tomatoes galore” as well as other vegetables.

“He had a magnificent rose garden,” she said. “At 90, he was on his hands and knees tending his garden.”

In addition to his daughter, survivors include his wife of 69 years, and sons Arthur C. Totten III, of Snellville, Georgia.; Charles, of Columbus, Ohio; and James of Chester, New Jersey; and a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. on March 25 at Edward F. Lieber Funeral Home in Valley Stream. A private burial will be held at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

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