Todd Rowley, of Huntington, died unexpectedly on Jan. 25 due to...

Todd Rowley, of Huntington, died unexpectedly on Jan. 25 due to a heart condition. He was 52. Credit: Jill Rowley

From his tutoring business to friendships, Todd Rowley pushed himself to the max, family and friends said.

When he wanted a backyard paradise with a rock retaining wall for his family, he leveled the ground by shoveling eight dumpsters worth of soil and carrying the rocks. As a high school student, he drove five hours round trip to take a friend to see the girlfriend he missed. He not only helped his children and his students pursue their dreams, he also was at practically all his niece’s events, from birthdays to concerts. 

“Todd was the husband that would start my car for me on a cold day,” recounted Jill Rowley, who married him in 1995. “He would make sure he was home in time from a workout to kiss me goodbye when I started my day. We would always thank each other when we did things around the house like clean or cook or take the Christmas lights down.”

Rowley died unexpectedly on Jan. 25 due to a heart condition. The Huntington resident was 52.

The sole employee and founder of Todd Rowley Tutoring, he never had to advertise his services, succeeding by word-of-mouth, those who knew him said. He constantly researched potential questions on college entrance exams and prepped himself on the tests’ legal, medical and academic topics. 

He happened upon the career after graduating from Dartmouth College in 1993 with a bachelor’s in creative writing and starting studies for a master’s in writing at Columbia University. To earn money, he worked for Princeton Review, a tutoring service for college admissions tests. He discovered he liked it more than the English teaching jobs he got after graduating, so he turned to tutoring full time.

“I've found that there's nothing more fulfilling than helping someone in need,” Rowley wrote on his business Facebook page.

Aiden Bernstein, 17, who studied for college entrance exams with him weekly for a year, remembers Rowley tailoring test-taking tactics to her abilities and advising her on how to handle the anxiety and pressure. She ended up with almost perfect scores on the ACT and PSAT tests.

“He was endlessly patient,” said Bernstein, a junior from Chatham, New Jersey. “He could always rework his plans around what I needed for that day. He’s the only reason I was able to score as high as I did. He taught me psychological aspects that translate into everyday life.”

Tutoring afternoons and nights fit Rowley’s daily training routine — up by 5 a.m. to run, swim both indoors and outdoors and often bike, all before most people got to work.

A member of the Greater Long Island Running Club and several other sports clubs, he ran in the New York and Boston marathons, among others. Last year in his favorite competition, the TOBAY Triathlon, he was 10th among the males and 13th out of 419 athletes, clocking 1:04:23 in the swim-bike-run event through Oyster Bay Town.

Training and competing satisfied his social side, those who knew him said. If anyone was recovering from a sport injury, Rowley was the first to check up on them, friends said.

“He appeared only to give, his capacity to open his heart and his arms to others infinite,” Steven Moskowitz, a friend and fellow triathlete, said in his eulogy.

During the pandemic, Rowley resurrected his writing dreams, not necessarily a Great American Novel as he once hoped but an autobiography of his childhood in Oyster Bay, said his brother Chase Rowley of Fort Salonga. 

Together, they rehashed memories of boyhood shenanigans, of climbing trees to jump into an Upper Brookville estate owned by the Soviet Union and of picking peas at a local farm to earn 25 cents for half a bushel. 

“We looked back with bemusement,” Chase Rowley said. “He liked authors like John Irving, with a quirky childhood upbringing or people who are a little off center, not your normal heroes.”

Besides his wife and brother, Rowley is survived by son Nick and daughter Grace, both of Huntington, and parents Pamela and Bertram Rowley, of Oyster Bay.

A funeral service was held Monday at the M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington. A burial will be held later.

 In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the American Heart Association, The SATO Project, Bike MS, Guide Dogs for the Blind  or any charity.

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