James McKinstry

The NY Jets, Grumman Aerospace Corporation, St. Pat’s!

Mr. McKinstry was a beloved Physical Education teacher at St. Patrick’s during most of the 1980’s. He still lives in Huntington and he wrote the following article especially for our newsletter!

I began teaching at St. Patrick's in 1980, when my oldest daughter, Kelly, was in first grade.  It was interesting because, while working days at St. Patrick's, I also worked at Grumman Aerospace.  I was in charge of the night shift there, working on the F-14 - the same type of plane featured in the movie TOP GUN with Tom Cruise!


Before I was married, I played professional football with the New York Jets and I worked for Grumman during my off season.  At Grumman, I first worked on the Lunar Module with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.  It was very competitive.  After all, we were racing the Russians to the moon!


During this period, I also served in the U.S. Army.  I’m the only NY Jet to have served a whole season on active duty during the Vietnam War in 1964.  Upon being honorably discharged, the Jets gave me the opportunity to rejoin them on the taxi squad.  Coach Weeb Eubank felt it would take time for me to regain my skill level (even though I had been playing on the Army All-Star team) and so I played for a Jet semi-pro farm team when I returned from War.


I then decided, with great support from Patrick Cherry (Grumman Treasurer and Controller at the time) to use my talents full time at Grumman.  I once again enjoyed the competition.  While there, I also pursued additional degrees at Long Island University CW Post campus - ending with obtaining my NYS Teacher Certification in Health, Physical Education, and Special Education as well as receiving a Master of Science Degree in Education.

After obtaining these additional degrees, and continuing to work nights at Grumman, I also became a part-time faculty member at LIU CW Post. 

Sister Helen Anne and Monsignor Richter were very involved in giving the very best education to the students at St. Patrick's.  Luckily, they both felt that I could be a helpful addition to the physical education department, which was then in the capable hands of Mrs. Kathleen Brescia. Mrs. Brescia was (and still is, I hear!) a very capable and qualified teacher at St. Pat’s. St. Patrick's has always had a very supportive staff, for which I was, and still am, most appreciative. 


I was glad to try adding teaching at St. Pat’s to my schedule, as it gave me a chance to see my children and be involved with them.  And thanks also to my wife, my kids are doing great.  All three have post graduate degrees and are working in areas that benefit the less fortunate.


I would have loved to continue to work at St. Patrick's, but Grumman was slowly reducing their presence on Long Island and they were being taken over by Northrop.  The night shift was the first to stop.  After 9 years at St. Patrick’s and a total of 15 years on the night shift, I reluctantly went on the day shift at Grumman.  By that time, my daughter Kelly was just starting at St. Anthony’s High School. 


I will always remember having the 1984 St. Patrick’s yearbook dedicated to me.  I also have fond memories of playing floor hockey with the tables turned over to create boards, playing indoor lacrosse, volleyball, dodgeball [using nerf balls], and all the terrific athletes who attended St. Patrick's.  To name them all would take a page or two, but one very special athlete comes to mind. This person is Mr. Sean Hyland. I ran into Sean years after graduation.  He was working at Huntington Hospital helping the less fortunate and the very sick.  He was an outstanding athlete but has become an even better person.  I have come in contact with quite a few St. Patrick’s grads and, thankfully, those whom I have spoken with are doing quite well.  


I hope this is my legacy - in that, by my teaching and setting an example, they all do well.  

(June 2013)