Patrick King developed an aversion to potatoes during World War II because that is all the Germans fed him after his plane was shot down over the Netherlands and he was taken prisoner.
“He never liked eating potatoes after that, but if someone put them in front of him, he’d eat them without complaining,” said his son Matt of West Roxbury.
“He was a soldier and that was the deal,” Matt said of the time his father was a prisoner of war. “It was tough, it wasn’t where he wanted to be, but when it was over he was happy to come home alive and in one piece.”
Mr. King, who coached winning football and basketball teams during the nearly four decades he taught at English High School, died Dec. 12 in Faulkner Hospital of complications from dementia. He was 91 and lived in West Roxbury, after spending most of his life in Dorchester and South Boston.
Known as Jody to family and friends, Mr. King was a standout athlete at English High, where he was captain of the 1939 football team. After college and the war, he returned to English as a physical education teacher and coach.
Awarded a football scholarship to Boston College, he was taking classes and playing football when many contemporaries were leaving to fight in the war. He decided to interrupt his studies and enlist in the Army Air Corps, which trained him as a B-17 tailgunner and sent him to the European theater.
The war ended about 14 months after Mr. King’s plane was shot down. He was freed and sent to a hospital in France to recuperate, then returned home to little fanfare.
Because of a miscommunication with his family about when and where he would arrive at the airport, no one was there to greet Mr. King, who returned home to South Boston on his own, his son said, adding that “he probably took the T.”
According to family lore, his parents had locked the doors when they left to meet him at the airport, so Mr. King climbed through a window and fell asleep on the couch.
“And that’s where they found him,” his son said.
After returning, Mr. King resumed studying and playing football at Boston College.
“He was the kind of guy who did what he was expected to do,” his son said. “He was a soldier, he had a job to do, and he did it. When he came home, he picked himself up and got back to his life.”
In 1947, Mr. King graduated from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in history and joined the staff of his high school alma mater as a teacher and coach.
He was “laid back, a very calm individual, and not at all pretentious,” his son said. “He would never talk about all the things he did in his life: playing football, being in the war. He’d rather talk about you than talk about him.”
Mr. King was very committed to education, his son said, especially his children’s. Although the family always cheered for English High’s teams, the four King children attended Boston Latin School, and his sons played on the football team that was a rival to their father’s teams.
“As much as he was devoted to English, there was no debate” about his children going to Boston Latin, his son said, “because the education there was better. As much as sports was a big part of his life, his emphasis was always on education. He was interested in our sporting events, but he was much more interested in our schoolwork.”
Patrick J. King grew up in South Boston, where he was one of six children born to emigrants from Galway, Ireland.
In 1954, he married Peggy Fitzgibbons, whom he met while on Cape Cod with friends. They settled in Dorchester to raise their family.
Mr. King was a “man of few words,” said his granddaughter Annie Tomasini of Boston, but “when he spoke, everyone turned their attention to him.”
She recalled many family outings when former players and students approached her grandfather to shake his hand and share memories of their high school years.
“It was easy to see the respect that these adult men had for him,” she said. “They loved him. When they saw him, it was like they were in high school all over again.”
Barry Hickman played football for Mr. King on undefeated English High teams in the early 1960s, and later played at Wake Forest University.
“Jody was a fabulous coach,” Hickman said. “He was an inspiration and a mentor, just a great guy.”
As a teacher and a coach, Mr. King could “work you mercilessly, but you didn’t mind because he was such a loving figure,” Hickman said. “He had a great personality, and was able to get the most out of every individual. And he identified with the players because he was such a great player himself.”
Though football was his first love, Mr. King also coached the English High basketball team and retired in 1984 after nearly 40 years at the school. In 1988, he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.
An avid reader and swimmer, Mr. King was devoted to the Red Sox and was successful as a competitive handball player at the Huntington Avenue YMCA and the Curley Community Center in his later years.
A service has been held for Mr. King, who in addition to his wife, son, and granddaughter leaves a daughter, Peggy Tomasini of West Roxbury; two other sons, Patrick Jr. of Quincy and Joseph of Canton; and five other grandchildren.
“He was a teacher, but that went beyond the classroom,” Matt said. “He taught us, his kids, how to conduct ourselves by following his example of honesty, loyalty, and integrity.”