EDWARD HAGARTY JR. was driving on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge one day in 1970 when his car ran out of gas. Ed got out and was trying to push the car when he was rammed by a drunk driver.
He was dead for three minutes, his family said. He lost a leg, was paralyzed from the waist down and faced life in a wheelchair. He was only 21.
Oddly, Ed became a local celebrity. The community around his home in Glassboro, N.J., rallied to help and encourage him. Dances, fundraisers and charity drives were held to help with medical expenses. The local papers covered his struggle and, ultimately, his triumph.
Ed Hagarty wasn't about to let a wheelchair hold him back from living a life of accomplishment and service to others. He became an inspiration to others with handicaps to carry on as he did.
But Ed had many health problems related to his injuries, spending long months in the hospital, and he died April 18 in his sleep. He was 59.
"His life was a miracle," said his niece, Cassandra M. Oryl. "He gave tremendously to everyone around him."
Ed had been co-captain of the soccer team at Rutgers University before his accident. He finished his bachelor's degree in psychology and then earned a master's degree in special education from Glassboro State College, now Rowan University.
He received a certificate of clinical psychology from Widener University in Chester, and was finishing his thesis for his Ph.D. in psychology from Widener when he died.
Ed was born in Delanco, N.J., to Jeanne and the late Edward Hagarty Sr.
He had a variety of activities and careers. For a time, he worked as an analyst for the Navy at the Pentagon, a position he felt restrained not to talk about.
He later worked as a psychologist at Elwyn Institute in Delaware County.
Ed was active in his church, Our Lady of Lourdes in Glassboro. He volunteered at a soup kitchen in Camden, taught religious education, coached youth soccer and generally helped out wherever he was needed.
He also donated time to Kyros, a prison ministry, and his listening ear, sympathy and knowledge of psychology made him a sought-after counselor and just plain friend to anyone who needed to talk to someone.
He did all this while struggling with his health. He eventually lost his other leg, and spent months in Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia.
"Ed meant a lot to many people," his niece said. "He inspired them and taught them how to overcome great disadvantages."
Besides his mother, he is survived by three brothers, Daniel, Francis and Peter, and a sister, Cheryl Oryl. He was predeceased by another sister, Jean Rader.