Dr. William T. O’Connell of Duxbury, a podiatrist who was known to many as Dr. Bill, led an active life well into his 80s. He traveled extensively, touring Russia and South America, among other places while making 21 trips to Ireland. He skied into his 70s, and, with his wife Rita, devoted considerable time and resources to a wide range of Irish cultural and historic organizations, giving special emphasis, much time, and frequent lectures to educate, entertain and raise funds for the Deer Island Famine Memorial.
Lenahan O’Connell of Jamaica Plain, who died on Jan. 5, celebrated his 100th birthday last June. While a handful of people achieve the centenarian milestone, not many do so having lived a life so large as Mr. O’Connell. From family and the law to the very history and politics of Boston from the 20th to the 21st centuries, this rock-ribbed Boston Irish Democrat, did it all, with a keen sense of justice, humor, hard work, and a commitment to people, whether his law clients or those in society who needed the most help.
Robert H. Quinn, a Savin Hill, Dorchester, native, recovered from a life and death bout with tuberculosis as a young man to became one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful political leaders of his generation. Mr. Quinn, 85, was a state representative from Ward 13 who became speaker of the Massachusetts House and, later, state attorney general. He was a pivotal figure in bringing the University of Massachusetts to its present home on Dorchester’s Columbia Point in the 1970s.
‘Dr. Bill’ took on many causes
William T. O’Connell, or Dr. Bill as he was known to many, led an active life. He traveled extensively, touring Russia and South America, among other places while making 21 trips to Ireland. He skied into his 70s, and devoted considerable time and resources to a wide range of Irish cultural and historic organizations.
Always at his side was his beloved late wife Rita, who was the light of his life and the true companion of his days.
From the ski slopes of New England to the fields of the annual Irish Cultural Festival, they shared a zest for life and a dedication to all things Irish. Bill became an expert historian and gave frequent lectures to educate, entertain and raise funds for the Deer Island Famine Memorial. Some of the multiple organizations he belonged to included the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Plymouth Chapter, the Corkmen and Lady’s Association, the Knights and Ladies of St. Finbarr, voting Member of the Boston Athletic Association (Boston Marathon), Co-Chair of the Deer Island Irish Memorial Fund-Boston Harbor Project, the Randolph Ski Club of North Conway, NH, the Holy Family Choir in Duxbury and founding member of the Irish Cultural Centre where he and Rita enjoyed many an evening listening to Irish music and playing along on the bones.
Born in Boston and raised in Dorchester of Irish- born parents from County Cork, Bill cherished his heritage as a Bostonian and Irish American. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II where he first became interested in medicine as a corpsmen. He followed that with the study of podiatry at the Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine in Ohio. Later he rose through the ranks at the MBTA where he met Rita. Over the course of many summers, they also served as a host family for the Cape Cod Irish Children’s Program which brought children from both Catholic and Protestant traditions together for an extended visit to the United States.
Dr. Bill’s funeral Mass was said on Wed., Jan. 15, at the Holy Family Church, 601 Tremont Street, Duxbury, followed by interment at Saint Joseph’s Cemetery, West Roxbury.
A rock-ribbed Irish Democrat from Boston
Lenahan O’Connell of Jamaica Plain, who passed away on Jan. 5, celebrated his 100th birthday last June. While a handful of people achieve the centenarian milestone, it is safe to bet that few do so having lived a life so large as Mr. O’Connell. From family and the law to the very history and politics of Boston from the 20th to the 21st centuries, Lenahan, a rock-ribbed Boston Irish Democrat, did it all, with a keen sense of justice, humor, hard work, and a commitment to people, whether his law clients or those in society who need the most help.
In 2009, Lenahan, scion of one of the state’s most prominent political and legal families – his extended clan boasts attorneys, judges, three Congressmen, business luminaries, and physicians – told the BIR’s Greg O’Brien, “Life is not altogether chance, and the best training attainable is none too good...I don’t believe in chance. A man largely makes his own chances. The opportunities are always there. The thing to do is grasp them.” Those words reflect not only Lenahan’s personal credo, but also that of his Irish forebears who are testimony to the quintessential Irish American success story of paving the way for the next generation and the generations to follow. Born a century ago, when Fenway Park was barely a year old, the subway system was only sixteen years old, and men named Curley, Fitzgerald, and Lomasney (“The Mahatma”) were exerting the growing political clout of the Boston Irish, John Thomas Lenahan O’Connell was one of Joseph Francis O’Connell’s and Marietta (Lenahan) O’Connell’s twelve children. His mother was the daughter of John T. Lenahan IV, a brilliant attorney and congressman from Pennsylvania. His father was raised in Dorchester, graduated from Harvard Law in 1897, founded the family law firm on Milk Street a year later, and served two terms in Congress.
Lenahan took enormous pride in his Irish heritage, his father’s ancestors hardscrabble farmers from Co. Cork, his mother’s family hailing from Co. Mayo. He was educated at Boston Latin, English High, and then Boston College Following his graduation from BC, in 1934, he followed his father’s footsteps to the practice of law and soon after married Patricia Halloran, with whom he had three sons. In addition to his law degree, Lenahan had graduated from the Massachusetts Military Academy with a lieutenant’s commission. During World War II, he was called to active duty and assigned to the Army’s Judge Advocate School. He later served as an artillery officer with the 79th and 86th Divisions and then went on to serve with the Judge Advocate General Division in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Occupied Japan.
Throughout his long legal career in Boston, he was also a prominent figure in public and community service. From 1948 to 1952 he was an assistant prosecutor; in 1962, he was named by Boston Mayor John F. Collins as a trustee of the Boston Public Library. He served as a trustee for the Boston Museum of Fine Arts and a member of the American Ireland Fund, the Eire Society of Boston, the American Irish Historical Society, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Charitable Irish Society.
Mr.O’Connell, whose wife predeceased him, leaves his three sons, Lenahan Louis O’Connell of Lexington, KY, Donn O’Connell and his wife Eileen Regan O’Connell of Jamaica Plain, and Brendan H. O’Connell of Jamaica Plain; four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren; and his brother Diarmuid of Cohasset.
True public servant, UMass Boston booster
Robert H. Quinn, a Savin Hill native who recovered from a life and death bout with tuberculosis as a young man to became one of the Commonwealth’s most powerful political leaders of his generation, died on Sunday morning after being stricken at his home in Falmouth.
Mr. Quinn, 85, was a state representative from Ward 13 who became speaker of the Massachusetts House and, later, state attorney general. He was a pivotal figure in bringing the Unive rsity of Massachusetts to its present home on Dorchester’s Columbia Point in the 1970s.
Jim Keefe, president of the Boston development firm Trinity Financial, recalled that Quinn spent several years in his youth recovering from tuberculosis at the now-defunct Boston Specialty Rehabilitation Hospital on River Street. Trinity converted the main hospital building into an assisted living housing complex in 2003, and Keefe dedicated one of the rooms in the building to Quinn in a ceremony several years ago.
Mr. Quinn was a Harvard Law School graduate who was first elected to the Dorchester House seat in 1957. He quickly moved up the leadership ranks and was elected speaker in 1967. He was later appointed to fill a vacancy as attorney general before winning the office on his own in the following election. He left public life after an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1974. After living in Milton for many years, Mr. Quinn and his wife Claudina moved recently back into his childhood home on Auckland Street in Savin Hill, where he was often seen at the local MBTA stop during his commute into and out of the city.
After his retirement from politics, Mr. Quinn became a leading Boston attorney and a partner at the firm Quinn & Morris and a frequent presence at UMass Boston, where one of the administrative buildings is named for him. The university’s most prestigious award, for community service, is also named for Quinn, who has been an outspoken booster of the university’s growth.
In a statement issued, UMass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley said that the university had “lost a true friend.”
On hearing of Mr. Quinn’s death, former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, his opponent in the 1974 Democratic gubernatorial primary, said he respected him, calling him “thoughtful, intelligent,” and a “pretty good speaker.” In terms of politics, the two men legislated from opposite corners at the State House. As Quinn moved up through the ranks to the speakership, Dukakis grouped himself with young, reform-minded Democrats. Quinn left the House in 1969 to become attorney general after Elliot Richardson resigned to take a post in President Richard Nixon’s administration.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who represented the same section of Dorchester that Quinn did decades earlier, saluted him in a statement after hearing of his death: “Robert Quinn dedicated his life in the service of the Commonwealth, and his legacy as a statesman and advocate for justice will be felt for generations to come. He championed his namesake bill and, through this work, was able to open the doors for young men and women to pursue successful and fruitful careers in law enforcement.
Mr. Quinn leaves his wife Claudina and his children Andrea and her husband Ralph Bernardo of Rockville, Maryland; Michael J. Quinn of Norwood; Elaina M. Quinn and her husband Alan Aikens of Dorchester; and Stephanie M. and her husband Robert Fallon of Milton; a sister, Catherine M. Keating of Hyde Park; and seven grandchildren.
– BILL FORRY