Edward McCabe, 81, teacher, running coach

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Edward McCabe

When he was captain of the track team at La Salle College, in the decade when the international four-minute mile was broken in 1954, Edward McCabe's best time as a miler was 4 minutes, 17 seconds, his family said.

Mr. McCabe was prominent enough that in 1957, he competed in a 1,000-meter race at an invitational event at Madison Square Garden.

But his family seemed proudest that in 1980, when he was 46, his racing history qualified him for the Boston Marathon.

"He did not have a good race," his daughter, Mary McCabe, said, but he was legitimate enough that "he had run two marathons to qualify."

Mr. McCabe was there, she said, "because I was a freshman at Boston College and the course runs right by BC." With his wife, Sally, and friends watching as he ran past, "it was a nice day."

On Thursday, Jan. 21, Mr. McCabe, 81, of Cinnaminson, a former teacher and coach at La Salle College High School, died of complications of Parkinson's disease, at home.

Besides running at Boston, he maintained his edge at home, running in occasional Philadelphia marathons and half-marathons.

And despite the increasing presence of his Parkinson's, his daughter said, he continued almost daily gym workouts - "rode a bike or lifted weights" - into 2015.

He made his presence known at La Salle High, too.

Joseph Colistra, who teaches economics and history there, said: "He was a person who made you laugh, made you cry. Sometimes, you wanted to curse at him."

Mr. McCabe, Colistra said, "often walked by my classroom, listened to me teach my students, and sometimes popped in and became part of the conversation.

"Sometimes it was a never-ending conversation that carried on after the class," Colistra said. "Sometimes, you didn't want the conversation to end."

The most important outcome, he said, was that "they learned from him and he cared about them."

A 1951 graduate of North Catholic High School, Mr. McCabe was in the Army from 1953 to 1955, for a while stationed in West Germany.

He earned a bachelor's in English literature at what is now La Salle University and a teaching certification from Temple University, his daughter said, and later in his career researched an unwritten doctoral thesis at the University of Delaware.

The thesis would have dealt with the final paragraphs of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, his daughter said, perhaps appropriate for the son of Irish immigrants.

Mr. McCabe taught English at Lenape High School in the early 1960s, but his career, over 30 years into the early 2000s, was spent at La Salle High, where for a time he was an assistant cross-country coach.

He married his wife in 1959, and after they moved to Riverton in the mid-1960s he was a board member for Riverton School, the public elementary there, and for the Riverton Free Library, both in the 1970s.

Besides his daughter and wife, Mr. McCabe is survived by sons Peter and Paul, two brothers, a sister, and five grandchildren.

Plans for a springtime memorial service are pending.

Donations may be sent to Bread of Life Food Pantry, 501 Morgan Ave., Palmyra, N.J. 08065.

Condolences may be offered to the family at www.weberfuneralhome.com.

wnaedele@phillynews.com

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