BY ARTHUR MURPHY
SPECIAL TO THE BIR
Jack Shaughnessy grew up in Quincy, graduated from BC High in wartime 1944, served in the Navy, and afterwards worked with his brother Al in building a very successful crane and rigging business in South Boston. That is a spare biographical sketch, and only a small part of the Jack Shaughnessy the city of Boston came to know.
He was clearly a man for all seasons, driven to help people, and it was easy from the outside to see that that drive was fueled by a wondrously abiding faith in God. Jack deeply believed that hard-working people and those in need deserved a chance to make a good life for themselves.
Over years I watched and worked with Jack as he operated in a variety of settings – as a CEO, board member, philanthropist, assisting people in their causes, political environments, and family situations. He was always direct and determined, never one for idle discussion. He was a doer who thought that those who had the opportunity should use it constructively
On his death, one former employee of his who is now a Teamster labor leader said, “Jack always wanted the best for his employees and was as hard a worker as anybody, always there the earliest. He provided me personal and business guidance from the very beginning. He wanted his employees to be paid with the best but he also demanded the best. Jack was like a second father to me through my career as a rigger and through the rough and tumble of my growth in the labor field.”
If you didn’t know that Jack Shaughnessy, you missed out on knowing a special man. “Jack gave of his money, time, and advice to charities all over the city of Boston,” one major philanthropist said. “He looked for groups that helped the poor and the needy as long as they could show results.” Jack also gave financial assistance to a large variety of educational, social service, and health-related agencies and projects. And let’s not forget the Catholic Church, a major beneficiary of his generous heart and soul. All of this came from a clear vision that only by helping others could people do their jobs on earth.
A business acquaintance called Jack “a cheerleader of all that is right in the world, a fierce warrior against injustice, greed, prejudice, and boring behavior. Everything he did was expressed with a passion.” Said another: “Have you ever see anybody show more disdain for arrogance than Jack? He took it as a challenge to underscore that view if it in anyway negatively affected people around him.”
Once Jack Shaughnessy was committed to you and what you were doing he led the charge. The number is legion of those he assisted in getting jobs or in raising their self-esteem, not to leave out those he called out of the blue to see if he could help. I can’t count the number of times he called me and said, “Please take care of this person, and if there is any charge, I will take care of it.”
But Jack’s major driving force was perhaps his relentless pursuit of helping the young and the old and those in between. White or black or male or female or straight or gay, it didn’t matter to him. He wanted all of them to have the opportunity to show their worth, and he did all he could to advance their causes, recommending them for schools and job promotion and, when appropriate, financial assistance or helping them to keep their jobs. He had a simple faith in people, and as one of them said: “He believed in mankind.”
Jack believed deeply that God tests individuals in a variety of ways – through sickness, economic matters, personal distress – but as they coped with those tests, it was his privilege to assist them if they could use the help. He believed with the biblical Job that if people hung in there and had faith in God, they would make it through the darkness.
As one beneficiary of Jack’s wisdom said recently, “Jack was thoughtful, respectful, and direct [a rarity these days]. He never got distracted by the ‘noise’; he always stayed on point . And he knew what was really important in life: family, friends, church and community.” Another said, “Jack always made you feel as if you were tops and if he saw any hesitation in direction he subtly got you back on track “
In the everyday world, Jack stood up to trends that he felt hurt society, but he was always careful to separate the idea from the person, many times calling community leaders and directly challenging them on their positions while supporting them as individuals. And he didn’t limit his outreach. In his last years, Jack often expressed a special concern over the activities of the so-called “jihadists” who preached Islam while carrying out violent attacks on people and property. He searched for answers, to the point where he took to reading the Koran. He concluded for himself that there was no justification for the murderous actions of the jihadist factions.
For all that, education was key, Jack knew, and he preached its value from his ever-ready soapbox, especially the lessons waiting to be learned at his alma mater, BC High, which he helped financially over and over again. Yes, he had a bias for the Jesuits on Morrissey Boulevard, but that was offset some by his wife Mary, who made it possible for deserving students to study elsewhere than at one of her husband’s “favorites.” It was about her that Jack often said: “Any success and enthusiasm I have had is the direct result of my magnificent wife Mary.”
This man for all seasons spread his faith in God and in the importance of the family and the individual far and wide, using that faith, his intellect, his work ethic, and his tenacity in pursuit of his deeply held values to benefit us all.
- Arthur Murphy is an attorney with the Quincy firm Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP and a long time friend of Jack Shaughnessy.