Dennis J. McCrory MD, a 52-year resident of Newton Centre and pioneer in the field of psychiatric rehabilitation, has died. He was 87. Dr. McCrory spent 32 years at the South Shore Mental Health Center, 20 as chief child psychiatrist, and 47 years as chief psychiatric consultant to the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. He was instrumental in expanding the clubhouse movement and for changing the perception of serious mental illness from a stigma to conditions that could be managed and lead to full lives for those afflicted. Vocational rehabilitation | preparing people for work, finding them jobs, enabling them to live independently | was his passion. He treated some patients for more than 40 years, from childhood or adolescence through much of their adult lives. Colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate his life after his July 24 passing. "Many of them told us that he was a man before his time. He was a pioneer in the promise of recovery and rehab, and he knew how to get things done," said his eldest daughter, Anne McCrory of Framingham. "He knew that to shift perception he had to build coalitions, he had to create training programs, he had to educate people about mental illness. Dad liked nothing more than a good committee meeting or walking around the Department of Mental Health or the State House meeting people, educating them on recovery and vocational rehabilitation." Honors during his distinguished career included the prestigious Eli Lilly Reintegration Lifetime Achievement Award, the Distinguished Service Award for Rehabilitation and Recovery from the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, and the Outstanding Psychiatrist Award for Public Psychiatry from the Massachusetts Psychiatric Society. Dennis was known for his warmth, empathy and extreme caring | "not just for his patients, not just his family, but everybody. He had so many friends and would like to thank everybody for how rich they made his life," said Jane McCrory, his wife of 58 years. Family members noted how he thanked them profusely each time they called him at Newbridge on the Charles, where he had resided since May, or said they were thinking of him over the past months via phone. He frequently said what a lucky man he was. "Dennis was a cherished friend and an inestimable mentor to me. I will miss his warm smile, his twinkling eyes, his magnetic personality and his all-encompassing embrace," said David Creasy, who had worked with him to form the New England Psychiatric Training Program. Dr. McCrory had renewed his medical license last year in order to continue treating patients. He also met regularly with a group of other psychiatrists, joining by phone this spring until his death. Dennis was born in 1933 in New York City. He was the son of John McCrory, a candy store owner, and Anna (Brodmerkel) McCrory Antes, who worked in department stores. He grew up in the Yorkville neighborhood in Manhattan and was close to his mother's family, especially his grandmother, his Uncle Otto, a cab driver, and Aunt Charlotte, an office worker, after his dad passed when he was 9. His mother later remarried, to William Antes. Dennis went to parochial school in New York and, after taking exams for high school, chose to go to Regis High School. Though hed had his sights set on a different school, that one was $5 a month, and Regis had offered him a scholarship, its renown unknown to him. It gave him lifelong friendships and launched his academic talent, as its rigor, with his intelligence and hard work, led to scholarships at Fordham University and NYU Medical School. He was a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. Dennis completed his medical internship at Ohio State University Hospital and moved to Boston for his residency at Mass Mental Health Center in 1961. There, he was a chief resident and held faculty appointments at Harvard Medical School until 1974 and Tufts Medical School until 1978. Dr. McCrory retired from SSMHC in 1999 but continued on in his private practice and as chief psychiatric consultant (1973-present) for Mass Rehab, as chair of the Friends of the Psychiatrically Disabled (1985-2003), on a council of Fountain House in New York (1984-2020) and on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts chapter. He was also on the subcommittee on employment at the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. He won numerous awards and was published in various rehabilitation journals and books. Dr. McCrory gave hundreds of presentations, lectures, seminars, keynotes and TV interviews on topics including psychiatric disorders, vocational rehabilitation and recovery and community reintegration of persons with physical and psychiatric disabilities, transitional stress and alliance building. "Its a great, great loss," said Dr. George Sigel, a longtime friend and founder of the psychiatrists group. He was a great, great gift. Dennis was a devout Catholic and member of St. Ignatius Parish in Chestnut Hill, where he and Jane enjoyed the family Mass prior to the pandemic and Dennis participated in a reading group. Previously, he was a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Newton Centre, where he had served as eucharistic minister and led teen groups in the 1970s. With Jane, he enjoyed nature - walks in the woods, a nature reading group at Habitat in Belmont and a camp in Vermont. He also loved to read, to pray, watch classic movies and do crossword and jigsaw puzzles. With his family, he liked to reminisce of his youth as a movie usher on 86th Street in New York, where he developed his lifelong love of film, and as a driver of a Coca-Cola truck making deliveries around the city in his early 20s. Dennis was a loving father to Anne, her partner Jim Idzal and his son Jack; Carolyn McCrory of New York City; and Katharine Jane of Brookline. He was grandfather to Sophia Jane of Brookline, and was very involved in her upbringing. He was delighted by her art, performances in musical theatre and singing. Dr. McCrory was laid to rest in Newton Cemetery. Those looking to honor his memory may donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness at namimass.org
Published by The Newton Tab from Aug. 14 to Aug. 26, 2020.