Kings Park mourns loss of beloved gym teacher and coach
A popular Kings Park middle school gym teacher Michael McDermott died tragically on Sunday, July 14, at age 37. He was jogging on the shoulder of the southbound lane of Lake Avenue in St. James, north of Oak Street, when he was struck and killed by a southbound car at 12:21 p.m.
The driver, Keith Clancy, age 32 of Mattituck, fled the scene in a Nissan sedan and was located and arrested about 30 minutes later, according to police reports, near exit 69 on the Long Island Expressway heading east with a smashed windshield. He was charge with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
McDermott served as physical education teacher and coach for 14 years at the William T. Rogers Middle School, where he touched many lives with his enthusiasm, kindness and wonderful sense of humor.
“He was a dedicated JV baseball and middle school boys soccer coach, who inspired those around him,” said Superintendent Timothy Eagen in a prepared statement on behalf of the Kings Park school district. “Our hearts are broken after the tremendous loss of this truly dedicated educator, professional, husband and father. Our thoughts are with the McDermott family at this time.”
Students gathered in the dugout at the school’s baseball field on Monday afternoon for an impromptu tribute that grew that evening into a candlelight vigil, where students, teachers, counselors and the community joined in to mourn the loss.
John Mueller, age 15, a ninth-grade pitcher for 2019 Kings Park JV baseball team said he will always remember Coach McDermott and wants to be like him.
“Coach made me the person I am today,” John said. “He knows right from wrong, and what is good. He was a great coach, gym teacher and person.”
Community members Camille Cardoza and Barbara Mueller, mother of John admired the coach’s positive attitude and the values he instilled such as family first, school second, then baseball.
Memorial services were held Wednesday July 17 at the Branch Funeral Home. A funeral Mass was due to be held Thursday, July 18, at 10 a.m. at Sts. Philip & James R.C. in St. James.
McDermott is survived by wife Lorraine, and three children Leila, Ryan and Sienna.
Photos from Branch Funeral Home, Barbara Mueller, Camille Cardoza and Patrick Moser