During his decades of service in Nassau County schools, James Tolle was a compassionate and intelligent leader for the many educators who worked with him.
But Tolle’s daughter, Ann Marie Reardon, remembers him for perhaps his most important roles — a loving father, a supportive coach and an enthusiastic fan at his four children and 10 grandchildren’s sports games.
“He was great. He was always everyone’s biggest cheerleader,” said Reardon, 45, of Lynbrook.
Tolle, a Malverne resident and the former superintendent of Malverne Union Free School District, died Wednesday in Mineola of heart illness after a long battle with various illnesses. He was 80.
Born in 1937 and raised in the Rosedale section of Queens, Tolle graduated with a doctorate in education from St. John’s University. Tolle served for decades as a teacher and administrator in the Uniondale, Garden City and Roslyn school districts before becoming superintendent of the Malverne Union Free School District in 1979, where he served until 1992, according to the Malverne district’s website.
“He was truly a very special leader — kind, compassionate and a model for all of the educational leaders in Nassau County,” said Jericho School District Superintendent Henry Grisham.
Tolle also left his mark on interscholastic sports as a past president of the upstate Latham-based New York State Public High School Athletic Association and also as a former chairman of the association’s Championship Advisory Committee.
The association’s president, Robert Zayas, called Tolle “a true educational leader” in a social media post.
Tolle was inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame in 2010 and later into the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame as part of its inaugural class in 2015.
From his roles in athletics and education to his later duties as executive director of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, Tolle was perpetually occupied with something, said Reardon, the youngest of Tolle’s children.
Yet he was never too busy to enjoy fishing, traveling, the beach and his greatest passion — spending time with his children and grandchildren.
Reardon said her father lived to be her swimming coach, and later to cheer on his grandchildren in their soccer, basketball, baseball and gymnastics competitions.
“He seemed to do it all,” she said. “No matter what it was, he was there.”
Tolle is also survived by his children James Tolle, 53, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Christine Dubin, 48, of Coral Springs, Florida; Mary Lou Langdon, 51, of North Bellmore; 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
His wife, Mary Jo Tolle, died at age 62 in 2001.
Tolle’s funeral was held Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Malverne.