During his more than two decades with UPI, McGarry was a member of the wire service's Dallas bureau when John F. Kennedy was shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
Two days later, McGarry was only a few feet away from Oswald when he was shot and killed by Jack Ruby in the basement of Dallas police headquarters. He also covered Ruby's trial.
In 1969 McGarry covered the war between Honduras and El Salvador while in charge of UPI's news coverage for Mexico and Central America.
After working for UPI in Montreal and Los Angeles, McGarry joined The Times in 1983 as a reporter for the Valley edition. He also wrote the "Around the Valley" column.
During his 10 years as assistant city editor, an investigative project he assigned, supervised and edited led to changes in the state law governing a previously unsupervised class of police officer.
He also was part of the large team of Times staffers whose "comprehensive coverage of a botched bank robbery and subsequent police shootout in North Hollywood" earned the paper a Pulitzer Prize in the breaking news category in 1998.
McGarry retired from The Times in 1999.
"He paid such attention to the craft of journalism, and every story was important to him," said Steve Padilla, an assistant national editor for The Times who worked with McGarry as a reporter and editor in the Valley. "He really was one of the best teaching editors. He worked with a lot of young reporters, and a lot of them owe their careers to him."
McGarry was born May 13, 1938, in Milwaukee. After earning a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in Latin American studies from Marquette University in 1961, he served two years in the Army.
Long active in journalism education and fostering the careers of young journalists, McGarry ran the internship program at UPI-Los Angeles and headed the scholarship program of the Los Angeles chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for about 10 years. He also served as president of the society's Los Angeles chapter in 1983.
He is survived by his wife of 49 years, Marlane; daughters Veronica Miller and Victoria Lorino; a brother, Daniel; sisters Kathy Hettenhaus and Kea Gogin; and four grandchildren.
A celebration of McGarry's life will be held this summer.