Army Air Force pilot Joe Coady was flying a B-25 in the Pacific Theater on Aug. 6, 1945, when a massive cloud appeared in the distance. Coady, then 23, didn’t know it at the time, but he had just witnessed the mushroom cloud resulting from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Coady and his crew had not received turn-back orders and believed the historic cloud to be weather-related, Coady’s daughter, Jacy Coady Needles, said.
“The navigator says, ‘What is that?’ and my dad says, ‘Gosh, that’s a huge thunderstorm. We better get out of here,’ ” she said.
Coady, who died on April 19 at 95, not only witnessed history but helped make some of his own as Carle Place High School’s first football coach. Coady led the team from 1955-78, compiling a 125-57-11 record, according to Newsday records. One of his players, Matt Snell, achieved stardom with the New York Jets.
“He was extremely dedicated and organized for every aspect of the game,” said Bob Greco, 74, who was the starting quarterback on Coady’s 1959 team that went 8-0. “There was no aspect of the game that we did not practice — the fundamentals of football, the execution of all the plays, the attention to detail.”
Born in Minersville, Pennsylvania, in 1922, Coady grew up playing football and helping his father in the coal mines. He graduated from Minersville High School in 1940, and played football at the University of Delaware, Needles said, until joining the Army Air Force at the onset of World War II. He rose to second lieutenant and flew 13 combat missions, according to his separation qualification record.
Coady and his crew were shot down during the war, and he and his navigator were marooned on a Pacific island for five weeks, Needles said. His future wife, Jane, received notice that he was missing in action.
Needles said her dad’s sense of humor shone brightly in a letter he sent his fiancee, her mom, upon being rescued.
“When he got back to the base, he wrote her a letter saying, ‘Hey, how come I haven’t heard from you? What’s happening?’ ” Needles said. “She was like, ‘What are you talking about? We thought you were dead!’ ”
The couple, together since they were teens, married in 1947.
Coady was known on Long Island for his service as football coach and director of health, physical education, recreation and athletics at Carle Place High School. He moved his family from Tenafly, New Jersey, to Carle Place in 1955 after accepting the job.
“I always admired the guy,” said Jim Colligan, 69, who worked for Coady and succeeded him as Carle Place’s athletic director. “I really looked up to him, but I think a lot of us did. A lot of us really admired him.”
After his final year at Carle Place, the Coadys built a house on their son Mark’s farm in Kentucky. They stayed in Kentucky until Jane died in 1997, at which point Joe began dividing his time among Pennsylvania, Florida and Portugal, where Jacy and husband Stanley Needles had taken up residence.
In 2010, Needles and her family moved to Avon, Connecticut, and Joe lived with them until his death.
In addition to his children, Coady is survived by his brother, Jim, 80, of Baltimore; five grandchildren and seven great-granddaughters.
A memorial service for Coady, who was cremated, will be held at Carle Place High School in the fall, Needles said.