Daniel Francis Coyle, 76, of Philadelphia, a longtime elementary schoolteacher in the Southeast Delco School District, and a classically trained baritone who performed with other notable singers and theater companies, died Wednesday, Aug. 11, of cancer at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse.
Although he sang and performed throughout his life, and earned an advanced degree in theater, Mr. Coyle could not resist the lure of the classroom. Animated, empathetic, and encouraging, he spent 35 years, many at Delcroft Elementary School in Folcroft, teaching mostly third and fourth graders.
Eventually, he mentored some of the district’s most gifted students and, being a performer himself, directed many school plays and musical productions. Jack Coyle, Mr. Coyle’s younger brother, said he recalls running into parents of Mr. Coyle’s students and receiving glowing endorsements of his brother’s classroom manner.
“He loved being around the students, laughing and sharing in their education,” said longtime friend Paul Steinke. “He was just a big kid in a way, and he could relate to them.”
A devotee of classical music, Broadway musicals, and especially the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, Mr. Coyle trained with Philadelphia-born baritone Lester Englander and performed for years with the Philadelphia-based Savoy Company.
He had a “big voice” and wasn’t afraid to break into song if he felt like it. He taught himself to play piano and had what Steinke called “an encyclopedic memory for musical shows.”
He performed, often in the chorus, at many venues and with several stars, including operatic soprano Beverly Sills.
After his 2004 retirement from teaching, he worked on local issues with developers, historical preservationists, and other resident associations as the board president of his residence, the William Penn House on Chestnut Street.
Born in South Philadelphia on Sept. 29, 1944, Mr. Coyle was raised in Colwyn, Delaware County, and graduated from West Philadelphia Catholic High School in 1962. He earned a bachelor’s degree in literature from La Salle University in 1966 and a master’s degree in elementary education and theater from Temple University in 1972.
Known by friends and family as the “consummate caregiver,” Mr. Coyle over the years aided his family and friends as their needs increased and health declined. His sister-in-law, Denise, was his best friend.
“He was the oldest [of five] and took over to help my parents when they needed it,” his brother said. “He taught me how to read, and introduced the whole family to the Beatles, to show tunes, to all kinds of music. That’s just the way he was.”
Later in life, Mr. Coyle discovered travel, and went on his first cruise in 2011, from New York to Los Angeles aboard the Queen Victoria. He followed that with trips to London, Barcelona, Scandinavia, and elsewhere. “He was so interested in the world around him,” Steinke said.
Mr. Coyle enjoyed reading mysteries, and rewatching old Broadway musicals. He made it a point to attend as many live shows on Broadway as he could, often taking the score of the show with him and following along from his seat.
He was active with the teachers’ union during his career, and “many teachers got good contracts because of him,” his brother said.
Raised Irish Catholic, Mr. Coyle was friendly and “the most generous person I know,” said friend Brian Campbell.
“He embraced those values that were instilled in him, and he lived those values,” Steinke said. “That’s why everybody loved him.”
In addition to his brother and sister-in-law, Mr. Coyle is survived by brother Jim and other relatives. Two sisters died earlier.
A service is to be Wednesday, Sept. 29, at 5:30 p.m. at the William Way LGBT Community Center, 1315 Spruce St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19107. Email CelebrateDan@outlook.com to RSVP and receive updates.
Donations in his name may be made to the William Way LGBT Community Center.