Robert M. Beatty, a substance abuse counselor who grew up in Central Islip, loved long, intense conversations about politics, music and life over coffee at the Daily Grind, his favorite restaurant in Albany.
Sometimes those conversations were with his closest friends. Sometimes they were with people he had just met. Beatty loved exchanging ideas and opinions, said his daughter Emily Beatty, of Santa Monica, California. He loved the give-and-take of everyday life, she said.
“He was so intelligent and curious about the world,” she said.
Robert Beatty, 57, died Saturday of cancer at St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany.
Beatty was born in Flushing, the oldest child of Robert and Theresa Beatty. In the mid-1960s, his family moved to Central Islip, where Beatty attended St. John of God Elementary School.
Beatty was legally blind, but his sister Mary Shuell, of Williston Park, said his disability did not prevent him from riding his bike, playing in the woods with other neighborhood children — or getting into mischief with his pals.
Beatty would perform entire Flip Wilson routines while watching his siblings when his parents went out, Shuell said. “He was a wonderful brother,” she said. “He was so funny. He used to entertain us.”
Beatty learned to play guitar as a child and performed in the St. John of God Church folk group. Paul Simon, James Taylor and Janis Ian were among his favorite artists. “We shared countless hours spinning records to all hours of the night,” said longtime friend Frank Trainor, of Rocky Point. “One of my fondest memories is when Bob sang at our wedding.”
Beatty later attended St. Anthony’s High School, where he sang in the choir. St. Anthony’s classmate Timothy O’Keeffe, of West St. Paul, Minnesota, said Beatty borrowed a guitar from the band during an intermission at their senior prom — and then blew the room away with a soulful rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Boxer.”
“He would get into these big, passionate discussions about religion and society with faculty members,” O’Keeffe said. “He really loved to debate.”
After high school, Beatty moved to Albany, where he attended the College of St. Rose. He also attended Empire State College. He worked for decades as a substance abuse counselor.
“He made a big difference for a lot of people,” said Beatty’s friend Donna-Maria Pavia, of upstate Troy. “We couldn’t go far without someone stopping him on the street and thanking him for helping them turn their life around. He was much loved, appreciated and respected.”
In addition to his daughter, parents, of New Hyde Park, and sister, Beatty is survived by brothers Michael Beatty, of Williston Park, and James Beatty, of Douglaston; cousin Theresa DeGuisto, of upstate Thornwood; and a host of other relatives. He was preceded in death by his cousin, Stephen Donohue.
A funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday at Notre Dame Church in New Hyde Park. Interment was at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.