Whether Dr. Richard Meagher was involved in East Rockaway village politics, volunteering for a variety of local organizations or serving in the school district, he would do just about anything to help East Rockaway, family members and friends said.
“He was a person who, when someone said there was a problem, he asked people to come together to help fix it,” his daughter Heather said. “If there was money needed, he helped to fundraise. If there was an event needed, he helped to run it. My dad very much wanted to be a ‘yes’ person in a ‘no’ world. He never wanted to hear that a bad situation couldn’t be fixed or that you couldn’t even try.”
Meagher, a former East Rockaway mayor and school board president, died on June 25. He was 82.
His daughter said that nothing rivaled Meagher’s love for his late wife, Gail, his children and their spouses and his grandchildren, but the village came in a close second. In addition to serving on the school and village boards, Meagher was a lifetime member of the Kiwanis Club and founder of many community organizations and initiatives.
He was born Oct. 8, 1938, at what is now Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside. He grew up in East Rockaway and raised his family there. As he did, all of his four children attended Centre Avenue Elementary and East Rockaway High schools, and the library at Centre Avenue was eventually named for him. Meagher graduated from Long Island University-Brooklyn in 1960 with a bachelor’s in English and American literature, and earned his master’s in English there in 1962.
After teaching English at LIU, he embarked on a 30-year career at the SUNY Fashion Institute of Technology, retiring in 1994 as emeritus dean of continuing education. Along the way, he earned his doctorate in higher and adult education in 1983 at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Heather said her father loved to read and worked to impart that love to his children.
“We would have to do book reports for him, separate from schoolwork as kids,” she recalled. “It was ‘dad school.’”
Meagher also enjoyed watching Yankees baseball and spending time with his friends at the Commuter’s Club, and also liked to gamble and eat desserts in Atlantic City, but mostly he liked to spend time with his family. Additionally, he was fond of coin collecting, watching musicals and reading Agatha Christie mysteries. Heather noted he liked to dress formally, even after retiring in 1995.
Prodded by his wife to “get involved,” Meagher was appointed to a one-year interim term on the East Rockaway Board of Education in 1980, and eventually was elected to four three-year terms over the next two decades, serving as board president from 1993 to ’97. He also served on the East Rockaway village board for four terms, acting as the deputy mayor for most of that time and as acting mayor for the final year of his service.
Outside of elected office, he never passed up an opportunity to help his village, and especially the school system. Meagher was the founding president of the East Rockaway High School Alumni Association in 1986, the East Rockaway Education Foundation in 1998 and the Village Foundation of East Rockaway in 2007. He was also active in the local chapters of the Knights of Columbus and Kiwanis Club. In 2006, he was selected as Man of the Year by the East Rockaway Chamber of Commerce.
His daughter Gail joked that in addition to being known for “the loudest sneeze ever,” her father was also renowned for getting things done with an army of help while wearing big, black-rimmed glasses and frequently carrying a clipboard that he meticulously jotted notes on in tiny script, often written in black ink with key items underlined in red.
“He was known for his ability to take any task, large or small, and turn it into actionable item and then charm folks into helping him accomplish those tasks,” she said. “We heard time and time again from people this past week that they couldn’t say no to him.”
Meagher is survived by his four children and nine grandchildren. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent to the East Rockaway Education Foundation, P.O. Box 230, East Rockaway, N.Y. 11518, or the East Rockaway High School Alumni Association, P.O. Box 279, East Rockaway.
Heather said she hoped people would follow in her father’s footsteps and get involved in East Rockaway in any capacity.
“If everyone in our little 10,000-person town volunteered for just one hour a year, we would have so many hours of service,” she said. “I hope people who miss him think about how they can help.”