David Finnegan: He made his mark with élan

Ed Forry

By Tom Mulvoy. Associate Editor

David Ignatius Finnegan, a member of a prominent political family with deep roots in Dorchester, died on Oct. 12 in Bluffton, S.C. at age 74. The cause of death was given as lung cancer.

Some 70 years ago, Mr. Finnegan was a lively presence in Neponset, his boyhood neighborhood where the streets were the best playgrounds. As a teenager he joined his brother John in treks up to Wollaston Golf Club across the Neponset River where he caddied with a certain panache while learning how to play the game skillfully.

His education was all local: St. Ann’s School, Boston English High, Stonehill College, and Boston University’s law school – with a stint at Harvard for a master’s degree later in life. While in college, he held a steady job working nights on the display desk at the Boston Globe.

Once out of the groves of academe, Mr. Finnegan took zestfully to public life. He served two terms on the Boston School Committee, made several unsuccessful runs for the mayor’s office, most notably in a showdown with Ray Flynn. He was a broadcaster, hosting a radio show on WBZ in the early 1980s and a television show on Ch. 7 later on. In his later years, Mr. Finnegan was a lawyer and lobbyist specializing in insurance cases before retiring to South Carolina in the early years of the new century.

On the private sector side of his ledger, Mr. Finnegan was a raconteur and master of ceremonies who took no prisoners when roasts were in order at the many dinners, luncheons, and functions that he attended in the course of his business.

Of David Finnegan the man and politician, former Mayor Flynn said on hearing of his death: “The best thing about running against David Finnegan was after a hard fought campaign, you knew you made a good friend. Seventy six spirited and well attended neighborhood forums, debates and candidates nights throughout the neighborhoods Boston in 1983, but never a personal attack or a harsh word from David or among any of the candidates. David was a man and a public official whom I had deep admiration and respect for. Whether on the School Committee, on radio or in a tough campaign, Dave was an articulate and well-informed competitor, but always a complete gentleman. All the citizens of Boston can be grateful for David Finnegan’s outstanding record of public service.

The second-youngest of nine children born to Julia and Joseph Finnegan, the latter a state senator in the Depression years, Mr. Finnegan leaves his wife, the former Ellen Olsen of Bluffton, S.C.; three sons, David of Boston, Joe of Los Angeles, and Michael of Nashville; a daughter, Trish Giampaoli of Naples, Fla.; four brothers, Joseph and John, a former Massachusetts state representative and state auditor, both of Naples, Fla., Thomas, of Dorchester, and Stephen, of Milton; two sisters, Eleanora Golden of Delray Beach, Fla., and Julie Matzel of Mashpee; and four grandchildren. In 1967, the year he graduated from law school, Mr. Finnegan married Patricia Harden. They had four children and their marriage ended in divorce.

A memorial Funeral Mass was said for Mr. Finnegan on Wed., Oct. 28, in the Chapel of Mary at Stonehill College in North Easton, MA.