Harry Farrell

Harry Farrell Credit: Handout

Never the straight "A" student, Andrew Vachss was going nowhere in high school when his Bethpage neighbor provided him with the encouragement he sorely needed.

Vachss recalls that neighbor, Harry G. Farrell, a teacher, telling him "he was not dumb, he just needed to get more motivated" and take the SATs so he could get into college. Vachss did just that, and five decades later he still credits Farrell with getting him on the right path: Vachss is now a successful Manhattan attorney.

"He was genuinely interested in you as a person," said Vachss, who did not have Farrell as a classroom teacher. "He would talk with you, not at you. He wanted to listen."

Farrell, who spent his life imparting wisdom inside and outside the classroom, died Jan. 2 in Canton, Ga. He was 93. A memorial service will be held in his honor Feb. 20 in Georgia, where he moved in 1998 after his wife's death.

Farrell worked from 1946 to 1951 as a social studies teacher at a Brooklyn school and then held the same job at Garden City Junior High School in the 1950s. He was a teacher and later an assistant principal at Bethpage High School from 1957 to 1966 before becoming principal of Port Jefferson Station Junior-Senior High School from 1966 to 1968. He was a school administrator for Hauppauge schools in the 1970s.

Tom Stiles, of Flanders, who was a student in Farrell's history class at Bethpage High, credits Farrell for making his time in the classroom a positive experience.

"He was the first teacher that made history a story," he said. "He made learning interesting and he had a way of steering you in the right direction."

Farrell's son Curtis Farrell, of Nesconset, remembers a time when he witnessed his father's impact firsthand. When the star athlete on his Bethpage High baseball team was moved from shortstop to catcher, the teen did not take it well.

Harry Farrell not only gave the player one of his famous pep talks, he also wrote him a letter about never giving up and seeing the best in the worst situations, quoting lines from Farrell's favorite speaker, Winston Churchill.

That young man "carried the letter around for 40 years," Curtis Farrell said.

Farrell's life was dedicated to teaching. As a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army during World War II, Farrell instructed new Army candidates on how to perform their duties.

In 1943, he married his childhood sweetheart and former Bensonhurst neighbor, Charmian.

"They were in love, but pestered each other," Curtis recalls. "They were the equivalent to George Burns and Gracie Allen."

Besides Curtis, he is survived by another son, Clark Farrell of Canton; twin daughters, Charmian Hess and Caroline Derrick, both of Canton; and a granddaughter.

A Feb. 20 service will be held at 3 p.m. at First United Methodist Church in Canton. Farrell's remains were cremated.

Latest Videos

DON'T MISS THIS LIMITED-TIME OFFER1 5 months for only $1Save on Unlimited Digital Access