John Rooney, son of late NHP-GCP superintendent, dies at 63

John Rooney, son of late NHP-GCP superintendent, dies at 63
John Rooney, originally from New Hyde Park, died at 63-years-old on Feb. 6. (Photo courtesy of Eleanor Poppe)

One year, John Rooney drove about 250 miles from his home in Maine to visit his sister, Eleanor Poppe, and her three children on Long Island with snow packed in the back of his pickup truck.

Snow had not come to Long Island that year, so Rooney, who grew up in New Hyde Park, took it upon himself to bring winter fun to his nephew, Frank Poppe, and his nieces Grace Poppe and Sarah Crilley.

“We were the only people on Long Island with a snowman,” Eleanor Poppe said.

That’s just one example of how Rooney, who died on Feb. 6 at 63 after a brief illness, was a great uncle, Poppe said.

He was also a loving brother, son and friend, Poppe said.

“I’ve known him as a brother,” Poppe said. “But since, I’ve been hearing from so many of his friends with so many stories that he was just someone who would just show up if you needed a hand moving … he knew how to be a great friend and is much missed.”


Rooney is the son of the late former New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district Principal Thomas Rooney, whose position was the equivalent of superintendent.

As the children of the superintendent, who doubled as Manor Oaks principal, Poppe said it made for “interesting parent-teacher conferences.”

“It was a lot of fun,” Poppe said. “We used to get up early in the morning and try to convince him to call a snow day, or go in on Saturday and play in the gym.”

Rooney went on to graduate from Hartwick College. Afterward, he worked with the Job Corps in Maine and Massachusetts, assisting teens and young adults living in poverty find a path to a successful career, according to Poppe.

Following his time with the Job Corps, Rooney started an interior painting business based in Boston, before moving back to Mount Desert Island, Maine to become a property manager, according to Poppe.

Rooney was also an avid Red Sox fan – but, Poppe said, Rooney said he found it harder to cheer for the team once it started winning.

Rooney also was an art collector and creator, Poppe said.

He had a website called Crash Bonsai where he took miniature cars and melted them to look as if they had crashed into bonsai trees, Poppe said.

He also made art out of items that washed up on the shore of Maine or that people had thrown away.

“He was very much into creating art from discarded or seemingly destroyed items,” Poppe said.

In addition to his sister and her children, Rooney is survived by his mother, Marjorie Rooney, his brother, Tom Rooney, and Crilley’s husband, Bradley.

Rooney’s cat of 12 years, Tiger, died shortly before him, Poppe said.

“And countless birds may now relax,” Poppe added.

Poppe said, though she admits she is biased, Rooney was one of the world’s great guys.

“[He was] a wonderful friend, son and brother who had a very giving and kind heart and was always doing things for other people,” Poppe said. “Usually in ways that nobody would know, behind the scenes, and he’s very missed.”

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