On the first day of religion class at Saint Gabriel School, Glenn McCarthy would begin by playing “I Am … I Said,” by Neil Diamond.
By the end of the song, students understood that the famed singer had fortune and power. What more could he want? “And yet, how does he sound?” McCarthy would ask. “He sounds very sad, because something is missing in his life.”
McCarthy’s main focus at Saint Gabriel was not philosophy, but math, which he has taught at the middle school level since 1971. He has retired this year, as the school closes for good, 82 years after it was established in 1941.
“I have been blessed,” McCarthy said. “This school is a blessing, and (you) can’t do anything without cooperative parents. You can be the best teacher in the world, but if you don’t have the cooperation of parents, it’s like banging your head against the wall.
“The parents here have been absolutely, unbelievably fantastic,” he added.
“This is my second home,” McCarthy said. “I love this school. I love all the people here. I can’t start over at my age, and that’s why I’m retiring.”
When his mother was alive, she wanted him to retire. She could see how hard he was working. He also had health issues then, but his doctor cleared him to keep working.
And McCarthy worked all the time. He never took a day off of school. He would go to his doctor appointments after class or on weekends.
He had studied at Iona College, and did graduate work at Immaculate Conception Seminary in New Jersey, now part of Seton Hall University. He thought about the priesthood, but decided against it.
He had an interest in basketball, and started coaching 30 years ago, in his home parish of Saint Leo’s in Elmwood Park.
He coached players of various ages at Saint Gabriel as well, from third grade through high school Catholic Youth Organization ball. He ultimately gave it up because it demanded too much time away from his family.
He also got involved in the South Riverdale Baseball League, coaching and served as commissioner for about 10 years, but he gave that up, too, after he got married in 1993.
One of his favorite activities at Saint Gabriel was coordinating the annual Basketball Marathon for charity.
McCarthy is a member of the Knights of Columbus, which is all about raising money for charitable causes, and he plans to step up his volunteer work.
He may even help out at his old grammar school, which is five minutes from his home in Jersey.
“My sister also keeps on saying, ‘Maybe now you can spend time with your grandnephews,’” he said with a laugh, calling the soon-to-be 5-year-olds “twin-nadoes.”
“My sister and brother are younger than I am,” McCarthy said, “and they’re retired.”
In February, students and parents helped him celebrate his birthday on campus — during a rally opposing the Archdiocese of New York’s plan to close a number of Catholic schools, including Saint Gabriel, due to the lingering financial effects of the pandemic and under-enrollment.
“Mr. Glenn McCarthy has been here for over 40 years, and it’s his 72nd birthday, and we’re going to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ — we’re going to celebrate his birthday,” parent Kai-Lin Rausch said.
They all sang — and the school’s closure was finalized a day after McCarthy’s birthday.
“Yeah,” he said emotionally. “It’s been a great 47 years.”