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Man Killed in W. 96th St. Motorcycle Crash Was Sculptor and Art Professor

By Emily Frost | January 18, 2016 2:08pm | Updated on January 18, 2016 2:49pm
 Thomas McAnulty, 73, died from his injuries after getting hit by a motorcycle on West 96th Street last Thursday.
Thomas McAnulty, 73, died from his injuries after getting hit by a motorcycle on West 96th Street last Thursday.
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McAnulty Family

UPPER WEST SIDE — The 73-year-old man who was hit by a motorcyclist Thursday evening on West 96th Street has perished from his injuries, his daughter said. 

Thomas McAnulty was hit by a motorcyclist headed east on West 96th Street as he crossed the street at Amsterdam Avenue just after 5 p.m. Thursday. The motorcyclist stayed at the scene and police said it was not immediately clear whether McAnulty had the right of way as he crossed. 

The crash caused severe head trauma and McAnulty was brought to St. Luke's Hospital, but died Friday after being taken off life support, according to police and his niece Hope Moore.

McAnulty lived on West 96th Street for close to 35 years and was an accomplished sculptor and professor who was "passionate" about his art and his teaching, his family said. His sculpture studio was on Broadway at West 102nd Street, said his son, Steve McAnulty, 42.

His family is looking for help finding out what happened in the crash. They're hoping additional witnesses will come forward as police only interviewed one witness at the crime scene, Moore said. 

"We are looking for any leads or tips that would help the police with this case. At this time it has not yet been deemed a criminal event, only an accident," she wrote in an email Sunday on behalf of her family. 

"We feel that Tom was robbed of his precious life," she stated. 

The head trauma and injuries were "horrific," leading the family to believe the motorcyclist was driving above the speed limit, said Steve McAnulty, his son.

Police said the investigation is still ongoing. 

McAnulty was born and raised in Philadelphia and came from humble origins. Initially, he studied to be a priest in the Catholic Church, which was where he met his brother-in-law, who introduced him to his wife, Mary. The two were married for 46 years and had an uncommonly happy relationship, said his son. 

A Vietnam veteran who served in the Air Force, McAnulty was able to attend college on the G.I. Bill, after he decided to leave priesthood behind. At college and in graduate school, he pursued his love of art, eventually moving to New York City in 1980, and then to the Upper West Side in 1982, where he's lived ever since.

While his wife worked as a nurse, McAnulty cobbled together odd jobs while working on his sculpture. He caught a break when he was offered a job at Adelphi University, where he would go on to help build the school's art department, his son said. He worked there for 20 years and was serving as a Professor Emeritus when he passed away.

The McAnultys raised their two children Steve, 42, and Kathleen, 39, in New York City and were attached to the city; they never had any desire to leave, he added. 

"He was a great father... and a fixture in the community," said his son. 

One of McAnulty's favorite pastimes was exploring the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

"He knew the Met like the back of his hand. He would take you through the Met and just talk about every artist, every painting, every sculpture," said his son. 

The focus of McAnulty's sculpture was everyday objects — a table or a piece of fruit, for example — and he used relief sculpture, where forms are set against a solid background, as his primary technique. 

He also did charcoal drawings, created an altar and sculpted Christian devotional scenes for churches.

Each year for the past decade, he traveled to Florence, Italy to lead a study-abroad program and teach. His interest in Europe and European art emerged during his post-war travels with his wife and Florence was a place he knew and loved, his son said. 

A Facebook page a friend set up for him after his death is full of reflections and memories on his life.

He's remembered again and again as a lighthearted, but deeply thoughtful person.

"To know him was to know kindness, love and laughter," said a student who studied with him in Florence.

Students said he made them feel important and have confidence in their work, and many said he gave them the courage to pursue sculpture and was an irreplaceable mentor. 

"Every minute with him was a good minute, full of easy going humor, passion, humility and insight," another friend said. 

McAnulty was someone that many people felt they could depend on, said his son. 

"A lot of people really, really counted on him in life, whether it be for a short period of time or all the time," he said. 

The family is asking that anyone who witnessed the crash or has information reach out to them by emailing helptommac@gmail.com. 

A visitation will be held at 11 a.m., followed by a service at 12:30 p.m. at the Riverside Memorial Chapel at 180 W. 76th St. at Amsterdam Ave. on Friday, Jan. 22.

The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations in McAnulty's name be made to Families for Safe Streets, which is comprised of families of victims of crashes in New York City and works for changes to traffic regulations and enforcement.

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