Friday, December 23, 2005

The Hardest Words Of All To Write

The term father-in-law always sounded too clinical, too pat. And if you knew big Bill Kerrigan, a man larger than life, you'd probably agree. He died early this morning, in his own bed, among those who loved him best. He leaves behind a lifetime of good works, and a giant heart which he didn't take with him, but which he instead parcelled out to everyone he ever knew. I'll spend the rest of my life thinking about, and thanking him for, all the things he taught me.

William A. Kerrigan, 81, Former United Way Executive, Father of Nine

William (Bill) A. Kerrigan, a longtime executive of United Way and later the co-proprieter (with his wife Mary) of the Billow House, a popular oceanfront guesthouse in Ocean Park, Maine, died on December 23rd. The cause was complications from cancer. He was 81 at the time of his death.

Mr. Kerrigan was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He later graduated from the College of the Holy Cross and earned a master’s degree in social work from Boston College. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was married in 1953 to the former Mary O’Toole, a native of Dorchester, Mass. The couple went on to have nine children and 20 grandchildren.

During his career, Mr. Kerrigan steadily climbed the United Way management ladder, working in Boston; Ashtabula, Ohio; Albany; and Westchester County, New York, among other stops. He ended his career as the top executive of the United Way of Greater Cleveland. At a 1987 party in Cleveland, held to mark his retirement from the United Way after 42 years, it was calculated that $618 million had been raised under his leadership in various postings over the years. Two of his children, his son Chris and daughter Bernadette, now work for United Way.

He is survived by his wife Mary, of Ocean Park, Maine; his brother Joseph of Nashua, New Hampshire; and his nine children--Maureen Wearn, of Portland, Oregon; Bill Kerrigan, Jr., of Wellesley, Mass.; Monica Kerrigan, currently on assignment in Indonesia; James Kerrigan of Mountain View, Calif.; Julie Kerrigan Ettorre of Cleveland, Ohio; Chris of Charleston, S.C.; Bernadette, of Cleveland; and Seanna, of Portland, Oregon. Funeral services will be held on December 27th at Most Holy Trinity Church in Saco, Maine. Visitors will be received at Cole Funeral Home, 87 James Street, Saco, Maine, on December 26, from 5-7 p.m.. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent in his name to the Hospice of Southern Maine.

See the death notice and visit the guest book here.


At 9:45 PM, Blogger Jill said...

John, I'm sorry for this loss to your family. My condolences and warm wishes that you'll find comfort with those whom you love and love you.

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Don Iannone, D. Div., M.Div., MA said...

Hi John,

Sorry to hear about your father in law. Wonderful man, I'm sure. We miss this type--deeply.

I hope there is joy overflowing in your Christmas for all. God bless.


At 10:19 AM, Blogger Daniella said...


I am so sorry for your mother in-law, Julie and yourself and your whole family. Hopefully being all together in this time of grief will help to heal the loss of this husband, father,grandfather,and wonderful friend.

Sincères Condoléances.

At 11:20 AM, Blogger Jeff Hess said...

Shalom John,

I've never found meaningful words to use at times like this other than to say that I am mindful of you and those you love at this moment.



At 11:32 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks everyone for your kinds words and your visits. May you all have a warm and wonderful holiday!

At 12:27 PM, Blogger The Full Cleveland said...

I'm sorry for your loss. Thank you for giving the rest of us a chance to know the man and understand his influence on you.

At 10:20 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Jim the Full Cleveland guy, a very happy new year to you, my friend. But I must warn you that I didn't even begin to skim the surface of the guy, who he was or what he meant to me and so many others. But I will be sure to give a fuller accounting of that story soon. Till then, relax and enjoy the holiday, especially those precious loved ones.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Dave L said...

John, my name is David Lyon. I knew the Kerrigan family when they lived in Ashtabula. I have fond memories of our large get togethers. There were 7 of us kids and the Kerrigan 9. We used to go to McDonalds and order enough for a small army. I especially remember Maureen, Monica, and "Biffer". Please pass along my condolences to the entire family. I would love to here from any of the family who might remember me. E-mail


Dave Lyon


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