John J. Heagerty

August 11, 2020



June 18th, 1923-August 11th, 2020


In the early morning hours of Tuesday, August 11th, 2020, John Joseph Heagerty left this world. He had passed on life’s highway the stone that marked ninety-seven years, one month and nineteen days and, weary with many good deeds, he crossed the final bridge to the life everlasting. There are few individuals within the mid to older generation of Oswego County who did not know the name of John Heagerty and the statement made by countless people, “I had your father in Social Studies class,” was almost a daily experience for all of us in the family at any given time, and this fact of him being known extended to other states as well as New York. From rock & roll performances with Pegasus in New Jersey, to the check out counter at grocery stores in Florida, and many places in between, there were people, originally from Oswego, who knew John and had him in class. Above all, he was considered by all to be the best teacher they ever had.

His academic career was a speck shy of fifty years, forty three of which he spent in the Oswego School District, twenty-one of which he chaired the Social Studies Department at Oswego High School. I once asked John why it was that so many people loved and respected him and he said, “No matter what their social standing was, I saw the potential in every student and never gave up on them.”  The accolades he received confirmed that his methods worked. A lasting impression it seemed was woven into the fabric of the minds and lives of countless people, quite possibly forever.


He enlisted in October, 1942, and after technical training on the B-24 airplane, was assigned as mechanic in the Army Air Force, eventually achieving Corporal status. His final assignment was to the 450th Heavy Bombardment Group, 721st Squadron.

John was finally discharged on October 6th, 1945. After his return from his tour of duty, he went back to SUNY Oswego, receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in 1947 and, after meeting and marrying his sweetheart, Barbara Jane Riley, in 1950, obtained his Masters Degree in 1951. They were married for sixty-three years and had five children, before Barbara passed away in 2014. John’s military experience ignited his great love of World History and, aside from being an educator of the subject, was a prodigious reader of it also, the last book of which he was reading a week before he passed.

He is survived by five sons, John Mark (Kathy), Noel Riley (Caroline), Dean Gerard, Paul Jude (Debra), and Michael Patrick (Mary); seven grandchildren, three step-grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews. He is predeceased by his brothers Michael and Pat Heagerty.


Farewell, John Joseph Heagerty, may peace and happiness follow you forever. We will see you again on that long and winding road, and all will be well.


There will be a private service for family only. In lieu of flowers, any donations can be made, in John’s name, to the Oswego Food Pantry, or Animal Shelters.


“Die happily and look forward to taking up a new and better form. Like the sun, only when you set in the west can you rise in the east.” -Rumi


Arrangements are in care of the Dowdle Funeral Home

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