Madeline McCord played professional basketball in the 1940s, alternated child-rearing duties with her husband while pursuing three degrees in the 1950s and 1960s, and was a union leader in the 1980s. She grew up long before the women’s liberation movement but inculcated in her children from an early age that men were no better than women, they recalled.
“She was like a pioneer for women’s rights,” said son Richard J. McCord, a Glen Cove City Court judge.
Madeline McCord, of Glen Cove, died Nov. 16 at age 88 from complications of surgery to place stents in her arteries, family members said.
The daughter of Italian immigrants, McCord was born in the Bronx as Madeline A. DeBellis on April 21, 1929, and grew up in the Bronx and Queens. She married William J. McCord in 1950.
McCord played on the professional women’s basketball team for what is now known as AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company in the late 1940s, when there were leagues of corporate teams, her son said. It was part of a lifelong love of sports and exercise.
She taught physical education and health in Glen Cove City Schools for more than four decades, until her retirement in 1993. At night, after teaching, she attended classes to earn two bachelor’s — one in education from LIU Brooklyn, the other in health from Queens College — and a master’s in special education from New York University.
It took nearly 20 years of long days teaching and then studying to earn the degrees, but she never gave up, said daughter Maureen Riebel, of Boerne, Texas, where McCord spent winters in her later years.
“When she got something in her mind, she just went forward with it,” she said. “She was a very determined individual.”
McCord became president of the Glen Cove Teachers Association in the early 1980s, when Glen Cove had among the lowest teacher salaries on Long Island, said Marian Connolly, who served as union vice president at the time.
“We worked to bring it up to the middle,” said Connolly, a friend of McCord.
The union never went on strike under McCord, but, to pressure the Board of Education and raise community awareness, members picketed outside schools before classes began and in front of board members’ homes, and once wore black armbands at parent-teacher conferences, Connolly said.
McCord was an effective leader, she said.
“Madeline would call a [union] meeting and she’d get up there and she’d jump up on the table and she’d say, ‘We’re not going to take this anymore. We’re going to bring our salary schedule up to where it should be,’ ” Connolly recalled.
McCord also served as a Republican Party committeewoman and was active in Sons of Italy in America Loggia Glen Cove No. 1016.
After Sons of Italy meetings, “we’d sit around with a bowl of pasta and talk about old times, about our Italian heritage,” said Joseph Gallo, immediate past president of Loggia 1016.
McCord’s husband died in 1986. In addition to son Richard and daughter Maureen, she is survived by son William McCord, of upstate Hopewell Junction, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
Visitation was Monday and Tuesday at Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home in Glen Cove. The funeral was Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Glen Cove and interment was at Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.
Correction: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect surname for a surviving son. He is William McCord.