Remembering Joan McCarthy

Joan Deirdre Dempsey McCarthy — a long-time volunteers for countless causes, particularly in sports — died peacefully on December 23, in her Westport home of 72 years. She was 97 years old, and had lived a full, happy life.

Joan — or “Mrs. McCarthy” to generations of baseball, soccer and other sports coaches and administrators who technically worked over or with her, but who knew she really ran the show — was a legend, a pioneer, and an important presence on athletic fields, in schools and at Assumption Church for decades.

Joan Dempsey McCarthy

Born in 1923 in Manhattan to Gerald H. Dempsey and Maud O’Brien Dempsey, she was the granddaughter of New York State Supreme Court Justice Morgan O’Brien.

She grew up in Westbury, Long Island, where she helped her father — an international polo player — train ponies for competition. She graduated from the Fermata School for Girls in Aiken, South Carolina. She played field hockey, was on the swim team and served as president of the Riding Club.

Joan later coached a men’s swim team, which included a future Olympian. She married George T. McCarthy III in 1946, in Palm Beach, Florida. He died in 2009, after 63 years of marriage.

Joan McCarthy, surrounded by the male swimmers she coached.

The McCarthys moved to Easton Road in 1950. Directions to their home — now 2 doors down from Coleytown Elementary School — were simply “2nd house after the parkway.”

Mrs. McCarthy became a Girl Scout troop leader and a member of the Westport school system, at Coleytown Junior High School and Staples High. She also worked at Assumption School.

But she is most remembered for her sports activities. She first volunteered with the Westport Little League in the mid-1950s, soon after it began. She held many roles for nearly 20 years, including official scorekeeper at the town, district and state level. She also handled uniforms and sponsors, and was the secretary.

In 1973 Mrs. McCarthy became the first woman to serve as official scorekeeper at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania — a feat that earned notice in Sports Illustrated.

She was also active in the Babe Ruth League and Staples Booster Club.

In 1965 Joan McCarthy was featured on the cover of the Westport Little League handbook. Twelve years earlier, after a visit to the Little League World Series, national officials wrote to her: “Under usual circumstances the press section is an all-male domain, but we were delighted to have the opportunity to make you welcome, as we will at any time you come to Williamsport.”

An avid soccer fan, she was a co-founder of the Westport Soccer Association in 1975. She attended games long after her son Stuart graduated in 1979, and after his son Michael graduated in 2010. Both won state championships, making her the only mother and grandmother of Staples soccer state champs. She also enjoyed watching her granddaughter Colleen play soccer at Staples.

Joan McCarthy at the 2010 Staples High School graduation, with her grandson Michael McCarthy and son Stuart, a 1979 grad.In 1975, Mrs. McCarthy was the first woman honored by the Sportsmen of Westport. She received their Citizenship Award.

I had the honor of knowing Mrs. McCarthy, as the mother of a friend, the mother and grandmother of players I coached, and the “general manager” of one of my first soccer teams. She took care of all the paperwork, instantly and efficiently. I made certain to give her whatever she needed; it was not a good career move to cross her when she was at her typewriter, getting rosters or player passes in order.

She never threw anything away — a trait that came in handy whenever a last-minute birth certificate was needed. After her death, her son Stuart presented me with all the paperwork she’d saved from our trip to the Eastern US championships in Buffalo, in 1976.

Mrs. McCarthy was also, her family notes, an avid New York Yankees fan.

She is survived by her her children Tom (and wife Andrea) of Aptos, California; Sharon of Westport; Joan Ketley (Mark) of Wilton; Douglas (Susan) of Raleigh, North Carolina; Tara Eaton (Steve) of Orange, California, and Stuart (Heidie) of Westport, as well as her grandchildren Anya Ciecierski; Ryan, Tyler and Christy Ketley; Michael and Colleen McCarthy, and Kyle Eaton.

Memorial services are private. In lieu of flowers, donations in Joan McCarthy’s name can be made to Mid-Fairfield Hospice.

12 responses to “Remembering Joan McCarthy

  1. Chuck Greenlee

    Stuart and family, so sorry to hear of her passing. What a contributor!!
    Now we know where you got your terrific coaching skills!
    Chuck and Mimi Greenlee

  2. Wow, that’s some mother to be proud of Stu!

  3. She was a lovely person. My condolences to her family.

  4. Michael Elliot

    If memory serves she also was instrumental in the workings of Coleytown Junior High in the late 60’s. Monitored the cafeteria, ran a tight ship, let me wash dishes for a free lunch, I pocketed my lunch money! A great lady, Condolence to the McCarthy family……your mom was a Westport original.

  5. Condolences to Stu and all the clan. What a great life!!

  6. The Hill will be a little bit lonelier without Mrs. McCarthy watching Staples Soccer. Condolences to the McCarthy Family from the Donovan’s.

  7. Dawn Loecher

    I had no idea your Mom was all that and more! My condolences to you and her family.

  8. Ed Bludnicki

    I have many fond memories 0f Mrs McCarthy when she worked at CJH. May she rest in eternal peace!

  9. Scott and Michelle Walker

    Fond memories! She was always so nice to us and we had lots of fun at her house. She was a lovely lady and we were always so impressed that she could do gig saw puzzles wrong side up! Deepest condolences to all. Love, Scott and Michelle Walker

  10. Anya Ciecierski

    Dan, this is a wonderful tribute to my grandmother, Nana. She would have been so extremely proud to be featured on your site. I am sure she would have printed off a hard copy for each of her kids and grandkids and mailed them around the country. I admit I even learned a few fun facts about her in your article that I never knew and it sparked some fun family conversations! Thank you. – Anya Ciecierski

  11. Dear Sharon and Doug and family,

    My deepest sympathy to you! May the beautiful memories you have of your mom bring you comfort and peace.

    With love, Chris Smith (cousin)

  12. Sympathies to Tara and Stuart, who I went to school with at Assumption and Staples and remember well.