Dr. John Scarry of Ridgewood, NJ, passed away on Wednesday, October 16th after a long illness. John was born on August 25, 1942, in Manhattan and grew up in the Bronx. He is survived by his wife Sandra, sister Helen (Religious of Jesus and Mary), and daughters Siobhán and Kathleen. He was a beloved grandfather to Anthony, Avery, Jordan, Jullian, and Sophia.
John attended Bishop Dubois High School in New York. He earned a B.A. in English from Fordham University, a Masters in English from the University of Maryland, and a Ph.D. from New York University. His dissertation focused on James Joyce and music. He worked for the Modern Language Association, was an Assistant Professor at SUNY Fredonia where he met his wife Sandra, and spent the majority of his career as Professor of English at City University of New York, Hostos, where he taught from 1973 to 2012.
John’s interests in literature, theater, and classical music began from an early age when his parents – both immigrants from Ireland – were gifted a set of encyclopedias. His passions for James Joyce and the Irish tenor John McCormack would lead to many of his scholarly publications. He published articles in Opera News, the Journal of Modern Literature, and World Literature Today, among others. He was an early admirer of Joy Harjo’s work, amplifying the work of her first book with an article in 1975, and continuing to publish on her work throughout the years, including an introductory essay on Harjo in Smoke Rising: The Native North American Literary Companion.
John passed on his love for reading and the arts in ways that always modeled his belief in excellence without elitism. He was devoted to his many generations of students at CUNY, caring deeply about their lives, and believing in the power of the written word to inspire and bring about tangible change in their lives. John and his wife Sandra co-authored the composition textbook series The Writer’s Workplace, which focused on helping students build academic skills for college readiness.
John was a devoted husband and father. Sandra and his daughters remember the constant and creative ways he cared for them; he often put the dreams of other family members above his own. His friends remember his generosity of spirit, sense of humor, and endless enthusiasm for actors and singers no one had ever heard of. Though his last years were difficult, he held onto his Irish wit until the very end.
A service to celebrate his life will be held in the Pulsifer Chapel at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood, NJ, at 2pm on Saturday, November 30. In lieu of flowers, contributions in memory of John can be made to the music program at West Side or Habitat for Humanity.
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