Arnold Obey, hoop and track star at Wagner in late 1960s, is another casualty of Covid-19

By Joel Alderman

In a previous article we noted the passing due to the coronavirus (Covid-19) of three men who made their marks in college basketball. Now we regret that our unofficial total has reached four in number.

Arnold Obey, born in the Bronx, was an outstanding player at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY. He was a retired school principal in Staten Island. He died on March 22 in San Juan, P.R where he had been vacationing with his wife and sister-in-law. He had turned 73 less than two weeks prior.

While growing up he became friendly with NBA star Nate “Tiny” Archibald. He was a player on the powerful DeWitt Clinton High School teams which in his junior and senior years had a combined 31-1 record and a New York City championship.

He was given a basketball scholarship to Wagner where he was on the basketball and track and field teams. On the court he scored 1,081 career points in three seasons from 1965-1968 and was captain the last two years. He was all-Metropolitan selection and was a member of the 1967-1968 team that won 21 games, a record that stood for 30 years.

Obey stood 6-1 as a player and in the three seasons he was on the team the Seahawks had a 54-29 record. After graduation, he was an assistant basketball coach at Wagner for three seasons and he later was the boys’ varsity mentor at Staten Island Acadamy from 1977 to 1985.

Peter Rapp, who at the time was the athletic director at the school, and the one who hired him, recalled for the Staten Island Advance “watching him play at Wagner. He was quick and always a team player. He never worried about his stats, even though he eventually scored 1,000 points there.

“And Arnold, no matter what he was doing, was always a gentleman who really cared about kids. I don’t remember him getting upset in the huddle. He was always great with kids, mild-mannered and a shrewd tactician and we were fortunate to have him on our staff.”

At that time Wagner was in the ECAC-Metro Conference and in 1988 it took on its present name, North East Conference (NEC). His eldest daughter, Celise Lundy, also graduated from Wagner and was a member of the 1989 women’s team that won the NEC Championship.

On the track and field teams he ran the 100 and 200 yard dashes and a leg in the 4×400 yard relay. He was a long and triple jumper, and held the school record in the triple jump for over 30 years with a leap of 44’ 11 ½.”

He retired in 2002 as principal of P.S. 31 in New Brighton, also on Staten Island.

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Arnold Obey ran marathons for consecutive years. (Staten Island Advance)

Obey started running in the New York City Marathon in 1980 and did so through 2018, a total of 38 consecutive times (it was canceled in 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy.) It is a New York City Marathon streak that only 17 others have achieved, according to the New York Road Runners club which sponsors the event.

Although he had suffered a stroke he was determined to run in 2018, when it took him nearly eight hours to complete. His best marathon time was in 1982, when he finished in 3 hours and 31:54 minutes.

To become a marathon runner, Obey said “One, you have to start running. You’re not going to get out of bed and run a marathon. But if you can run three miles, you can build up to run a marathon.” He recommended a 16-week training program you can find online.

While growing up in the Bronx, Obey not only got acquainted with NBA great Nate “Tiny” Archibald, but helped lead DeWitt Clinton HS to a 38-1 record, two Public School city championship games and one city title within his junior and senior years.

Of her father, Celisse recalled, “We’d be out and he’d finish talking to someone and I’d say, ‘you know that guy?’ He’d say ‘no,’ “He’d talk to a pole if he knew it would talk back and, honestly, that’s a trait that I got from him.”

To another daughter, Tonya McCombs’ “He was a great man and a great example of what it is to be a great human being.”

Former college basketball players to die of the new coronavirus

Lee Green, 49, St. Johns, March 23, 2020
David Edwards, 48, Georgetown and Texas A&M, March 23, 2020
Jonathan Duck, 50, Iona, March 24, 2020
Arnold Obey, 73, Wagner, March 29, 2020

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