Former Bethpage High School principal George C. McElroy, a longtime educator considered a community pillar there, died Jan. 6 of natural causes in his Levittown home.
He was 88.
McElroy was active in several Long Island athletic organizations, where he served in leadership roles. He spent his entire education career in Bethpage public schools, from when he started as a physical education teacher in 1954 until his retirement in 1985 after serving as high school principal for 19 years. He also was a well-loved coach in the district.
“George was a legend,” said Bethpage schools superintendent Terrence Clark. “Everyone who knew George will miss him. He was a tall and distinguished gentleman and he was deeply respected. He was known for his caring nature and the manner in which he treated all who came in contact with him.”
Born in Oyster Bay, McElroy attended local schools until his family moved to upstate Monroe for his senior year of high school. There, he met his future wife, Lynne. The couple were married for 65 years.
After high school, he attended Springfield College in Massachusetts, where he studied education. After graduation, he served in the Army and was a coach and participant in the Army Fourth division track championship team. He also was a coach and a player for the Army Fourth Division’s championship basketball team.
He also held a master’s degree in education from Hofstra University.
When he applied for a teaching position at Bethpage, he was still in the military and unavailable for the interview. His father, H. Nelson McElroy, came to Bethpage and told officials there that his son was a great guy and deserved to be hired, and he was, Clark recalled.
McElroy was also an athlete. He played semiprofessional basketball and excelled in other sports, including track and field, baseball, lacrosse, soccer and football, said his son James McElroy, of Austin, Texas.
At Bethpage, George McElroy served as coach of the high school baseball team, earning 117 wins, five conference titles, three North Shore titles and one county championship, his son said.
He also served as assistant principal at what is now the John F. Kennedy Middle School in Bethpage.
McElroy was active in the New York State and Nassau County Athletic associations. He was inducted into the Nassau County High School Athletic Hall of Fame two years ago. He continued to serve as treasurer of Section VIII. He was also inducted into the Bethpage Hall of Fame for notable alumni in 2013.
Even after his retirement, he continued to be involved in a number of education and academic committees and kept in close contact with the district, educators there said.
“He truly did mentor a lot of generations of teachers and students and athletes — everywhere you go, people would know my dad. And we would go to the bank or the grocery and people would say ‘George — George — George,’ ” his son James said.
He is also survived by daughters Nancy Roth, of Wareham, Massachusetts and Susan Bannick, of Levittown; sons Thomas, of Rockville Centre, and Richard, of Carmel; 13 grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren.
A wake is scheduled Thursday and Friday from 2 to 5 p.m. and from 7 to 9 p.m. at Dalton Funeral Home on Hempstead Turnpike in Levittown. A funeral is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, 474 Wantagh Ave., Levittown, followed by burial at Pinelawn Memorial Park.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can made to the charity of one’s choice.