James Hall Jr., who for more than three decades inspired his Long Island students to appreciate science as he directed those who vied for top prizes in major national competitions, died March 26 after a long illness.
Hall, who had been a Glen Head resident before leaving Long Island 11 years ago, died at his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and orthostatic hypotension, a form of low blood pressure that can cause fainting. He was 82.
As a teacher of earth science, chemistry and introduction to research methods, Hall spent 34 years at Roslyn High School where he also prepared students for the country’s premier contests, particularly the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, now sponsored by Regeneron Phamaceuticals Inc. Hall retired in 1995 because of Parkinson’s disease.
“He taught all students to love science, even if they were not planning to go into research,” Nancy Hall, his wife of 58 years, said. “My husband could put complicated concepts into easy-to-understand language and help anyone learn extremely complex subjects.”
In the 1960s, James Hall took his love of science abroad, moving his family to West Africa where he taught science at the University of Liberia in Monrovia for two years with support from the National Science Foundation.
Nancy Hall said her husband also brought his scientific wit and curiosity to his life at home.
“Jim was ahead of his time in so many ways,” she remembered, noting that her husband was an advocate and practitioner of organic gardening in the late 1950s, decades before the pesticide-free technique became widely popular.
Daughter Linda Hall noted that her dad also was a strong advocate for girls in science — and not only because all four of his children are female. Girls had every right as boys, her father thought, to tackle the tough subjects — and excel, she said.
“My dad was extraordinary,” said Linda Hall, who attended Yale University where she graduated with a degree in economics.
Both wife and daughter described Hall as equally enthusiastic about biomedical science in major national laboratories and its potential to help patients with Parkinson’s and other conditions.
While still a Long Island resident, Hall was co-president of the Nassau County support group of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association and co-director of the Parkinson’s Action Network, now part of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
For more than two decades he attended the action network’s national forums and lobbied Capitol Hill legislators to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health. His final outrage, his wife said, centered on the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to the federal research budget.
Although Hall was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the early 1990s, it was orthostatic hypotension that was most encumbering, Nancy Hall said.
James A. Hall was born Oct. 24, 1934, in Denver, Colorado, where he attended South High School and graduated in 1952. He obtained a bachelor’s in chemistry from Colorado State University in 1956, then moved to Long Island where his father had become the head of the Port Washington school district.
Hall received two master’s degrees, one from C.W. Post College of Long Island University in education and another from Cornell University in earth and space science education. He served in the Navy’s critical skills program, his family said.
He met his wife-to-be Nancy Ann Pickett in Port Washington not long after moving to New York. They were married in 1958 and settled in the Radcliff Manor section of Glen Head where they raised four daughters.
In addition to his wife and daughter Linda, Hall is survived by daughters Cheryl Gettinger of Asheville, North Carolina; Lori O’Donnell of Catonsville, Maryland; Bonnie Hall of Ontario; four sons-in-law and nine grandchildren. A memorial service was held at Biltmore United Methodist Church in Asheville. Hall donated his brain to the University of Miami Brain Endowment Bank and his body to Science Care to enable Parkinson’s and other medical research.