Obituary: Thomas Flatley, archdiocesan benefactor

Thomas Flatley, a man who always wanted to be in the background, but whose generosity to many causes including the Archdiocese of Boston thrust him frequently into the limelight, died on May 17 at age 76. He had been battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig’s disease.

His is one of the fabled immigrant, rags to riches stories which punctuate the history of our nation. Born and raised in the bucolic County Mayo, he came to New York with less than $25 in his pocket. No one, perhaps even he, could imagine that his life would twist and turn and the grit and hard work his family inculcated in him in Ireland would yield a fortune estimated by some at over 1 billion dollars.

After serving in the United States Army, he married his wife Charlotte McLeod and together they had five children, two sons and three daughters, and 18 grandchildren.

He established his own foundation some years ago and through it continued his legacy of generously supporting local, national and international -- especially Irish -- charities. Over the years the archdiocese has been the beneficiary not only of his material support, but also of the insight and wisdom he gained over his years of business experience and enterprise.

Last year he made an extraordinary gift of a Braintree office building to the archdiocese, which on completion of renovations later this year will serve as the new Archdiocesan Pastoral Center, bringing together almost all the central services of the archdiocese in one place.

Preferring always the private life, he was at the same time a gregarious and engaging man. He could easily strike up a conversation with a business mogul, a university president, a parish priest or a cardinal as well as with his employees, handball partners and longtime friends.

Mr. Flatley’s funeral Mass was celebrated at his Milton parish, St. Agatha’s. He had generously supported the parish over the years and more recently given again from his generosity to assist in the renovation of the parish church.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, OFM Cap. was the principal celebrant and the homilist of Mr. Flatey’s funeral Mass on May 21. Following the funeral Mass Mr. Flatley was to be buried in Milton Cemetery, Milton.