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Long IslandObituaries

Bill McCabe, Sanitation's "Perfect Man," dead at 90

Almost 70 years ago, a young man taking the rigorous physical test for sanitation worker in New York City scored a perfect 100 and created a civil service legend.

It later became known as "the Superman test," and up until it was modified in the 1970s, there was no record of any other candidate scoring a perfect 100, according to Vito Turso, spokesman for the Sanitation Department.

Bill McCabe died at his Bethpage home Saturday, his family said. He was 90.

He was 19 when he took the test in 1940 at the tail end of the Great Depression, competing against 68,000 men for a $35-a-week job then called "street cleaner."

News reports at the time said McCabe raised an 80-pound dumbbell in each hand, then lifted a 60-pound barbell from the floor behind his head, ran seven yards and lifted a 120-pound garbage can onto a 4-foot, 6-inch ledge, ran seven yards and broad-jumped eight feet, six inches. Next, he ran 10 yards and leaped a 3-foot hurdle, ran a 10-yard obstacle course, a 10-yard straightaway and climbed an 8-foot fence.

After the fence, he leaped a 4-foot, 6-inch barrier and ran five yards to the finish line. After a 15-minute rest, he ran 120 yards in 25 seconds with a 50-pound dumbbell in each hand.

"The time for the entire run was 10.8 seconds," The New York Times reported on June 13, 1940.

All but 10,000 applicants were eliminated by the test, and news reports at the time referred to McCabe as "The Perfect Man," and "The Perfect Specimen."

Within a year of that spectacular start, McCabe quit and became a New York City police officer, then quit that job eight months later and became a New York City firefighter. He retired from that job in 1962 and went to work handling airline cargo.

Turso said the test was changed in the 1970s to make it more related to the work sanitation workers perform - lifting bags and placing them in receptacles. "They are no longer required to scale an eight-foot wall. That's obviously not part of a sanitation worker's job," Turso said.

McCabe, who was buried yesterday, is survived by his wife of 64 years, Margaret; sons Kevin, Thomas and William; daughters Peggy Hobi and Eileene Bordt, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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