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Colleagues share memories of 50-year NYSED member who died suddenly


For 50 years, PEF member Charles “Charlie” McCarthy dedicated his life to serving New York as an Education Credentials Specialist II at the Department of Education (SED), assisting those who applied for teacher certificates, administrative and other certificates.

At the time of his death, at age 87, McCarthy was still working full time but had been unexpectedly placed on administrative leave in the days leading up to his passing. He was turned away from his long-time workplace, unaware of the administrative action. He was reportedly confused and distraught. On September 28, he died after a massive stroke.

RELATED: A call for change at SED following long-time member’s death

Fondly remembered by many

Charles McCarthy, third from the left, pictured with his siblings. (Photo courtesy of McCarthy family)

Well loved by his colleagues at SED, many jumped at the chance to share their memories of McCarthy.

“My remembrances of Charlie McCarthy are many,” Chambers said. “He was a very dedicated, knowledgeable, kindhearted and generous person.”

“Charlie was my supervisor for many years, and he was dedicated and helpful, always,” Chambers remembered. “He worked closely with school superintendents, colleges, universities and many others. Charlie’s knowledge was extensive. He was always ready with an answer and always had great stories to tell.”

Besides being a talented and dedicated professional, McCarthy also went out of his way to boost workplace morale. His bread treats were a fondly remembered favorite among many colleagues, as was his willingness to help others.

“Charlie often made a point of bringing a birthday card and a cupcake for the birthday person to enjoy,” Chambers said. “He also provided bread and other goodies on nearly a daily basis to his colleagues.”

SED colleague Pat Whalen said McCarthy was friendly to all those he interacted with, regardless of which department they worked in.

“The thing I remember most about him is how warm and collegial he always was, whether you were someone who worked with him or someone from a completely different department,” Whelan said. “He would often stop at the front desk and visit with those of us who worked there, and he would frequently bring in breads from various bakeries in the area and share some of it with us.”

A recent hire, Kathy Ophardt, said McCarthy made her feel welcome.

Charles McCarthy, standing first, next to Barbara (McCarthy) Grzelecki, Charlie’s sister; John McCarthy, (Brother), and Marie (McCarthy) Provan, Charlie’s sister. (Photo courtesy of McCarthy family)

“What I remember most about him is that he would buy loaves of bread every morning from Perreca’s bakery in Scotia that he would distribute to his colleagues later in the day,” she said. “I was personally the recipient of the bread three to four times in the four months I have been here. He used to tell me it was for my kids to enjoy at dinner.

“To me, personally, this was Charlie’s way of saying, ‘Welcome to the NYSED family!’” she said. “He made me feel very welcome. My children did enjoy the bread, too!”

Mail and File Unit Supervisor Rich Parks said, “Whenever I see that green and red bag, I’ll think of Charlie. He was a great help to me when I first started.”

Division 194 Steward Mary Sapp also highlighted McCarthy’s energy and selflessness.

“He always said hello in the halls,” she said. “He was always friendly with a smile. He was an accomplished person who worked for so long at SED.”

His knowledge helped many of his coworkers through the years.

“Charlie was always willing to help colleagues with certification questions,” Amy Heebner said. “He was also very generous in bringing in treats for people in the office. I was the recipient of many loaves of bread from Perreca’s, raspberry cookies and Crabtree and Evelyn bars of soap (which he gave as birthday presents).”

Lori Kane said McCarthy’s spirit was inspiring.

“I will always remember my first day at State Ed almost 20 years ago,” she said. “Charlie was hurdling over the ramp in Teacher’s Certification and I thought, ‘Wow, this older man has so much energy and is so happy.’

“Over the years, I realized, he was so much more,” she continued. “Charlie was kind, caring, smart, sweet and a perfect gentleman. I will forever miss him and feel that we should all be more like Charlie.”

Richard Jackson, who met McCarthy in 2001 and sat next to him for eight years, will remember the unique things McCarthy would say.

“He was always the last one to leave the office (using the quiet time to complete work accumulated from his many phone calls),” Jackson said. “I would say, ‘See you later, Charlie’ and he always responded, ‘Hope so.’

“That, and his phone conversation closing, ‘It is always nice to speak to a noble colleague,’ still rings in my ears,” he continued. “Charlie also provided many lessons in history, religion, music, comedy, and of course, institutional knowledge of the New York State Education Department, that can only be known to individuals that work there.”

S. J. Finnessey, director of the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability, remembers fondly his interactions with McCarthy.

Charles McCarthy is seated, (father), then Charlie F. McCarthy is standing, Marie (McCarthy) Provan, (Charlie’s sister) is next, then Barbara, McCarthy Grzelecki, (Charlie’s sister). Seated is Bertha McCarthy (Mom), and lastly, standing on the end, is Johnny McCarthy (Charlie’s brother). (Photo courtesy of McCarthy family)

“Much to our mutual laughter, Charlie and I exchanged greetings every time we passed each other in the hallways,” Finnessey said. “He would often greet me with ‘Counselor’, ‘CIA’, or ‘Celebrity’, and I would greet him with ‘General,’ ‘Admiral’, or ‘Commander’. That was our special way of saying hello to each other.”

“He was truly a friend to all and is dearly missed,” Chambers said.

A coworker crafted a poetic remembrance.

“Gentle Charlie — still larger than life, distinctively enduring, of legendary archival knowledge. With a skip in his step, knapsack of bread, we still feel as if we can see him rounding the corner, sitting near us, telling of his drive or kitty companions — ‘often the best kind.’ CFM we wish you peace and love, beauty, kindness.”

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) union were also fond of McCarthy.

Donna Ross, a retired CSEA member who worked at the New York State Museum for 30 years, had the pleasure of McCarthy assisting her with teacher certification. He made a lasting impression on her.

“I met Charlie in the early 90s when I met with him about applying for teacher certification,” Ross said. “I was in a graduate program for Liberal Studies at SUNY Albany and decided I wanted to add Reading Teacher to my program.

“Charlie was very sweet and very professional,” she recalled. “He gave me excellent advice and guidance and beyond that was a mentor to me.”

Ross said she would sometimes run into McCarthy on the second floor of the museum where she tutored kids in the Museum Club and he would pass through on the way to his car. And like many others, she looked forward to his bread offerings.

“He also very generously brought the Visitor Services Staff fresh Italian bread from Perreca’s bakery about once a week and we all looked forward to that wonderful treat,” Ross said. “I will always have fond memories of Charlie.”

Current CSEA member Robert Hart also passed along condolences: “Charlie, rest in God’s peace.”

Prior to working for SED, McCarthy, fluent in Russian, served as a translator with the United Nations in New York City. Born in Schenectady on April 18, 1932, he lived in Scotia most of his life. McCarthy is predeceased by three siblings, Barbara, Marie, and John, and is survived by several nieces and nephews.

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