Patrick E. Mahoney — booster for Misericordia, St. Angela’s — dies at 78

SHARE Patrick E. Mahoney — booster for Misericordia, St. Angela’s — dies at 78
SHARE Patrick E. Mahoney — booster for Misericordia, St. Angela’s — dies at 78

The “Angel of St. Angela’s” has died.

Some say the West Side grade school wouldn’t be open if it weren’t for Patrick E. Mahoney, a personal-injury lawyer whose volunteer work and political acumen helped St. Angela’s survive — and thrive. Over the last decade, enrollment almost doubled from fewer than 200 students to more than 380. He also was a longtime supporter of Misericordia, a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities.

St. Angela’s would have had to close its doors 10 years ago if not for Mr. Mahoney, said Sister Maryellen Callahan, president of the school. “He was absolutely the ‘Angel of Angela’s.’ ”

He did everything from substitute teaching, to buying paper and pencils, to fundraising, to dispensing legal advice. He gave VIPs tours to get them interested in the school. He brought in Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke, her husband, Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), dean of the City Council, and Jim O’Connor, then-chairman of Commonwealth Edison, said Geralyn Lawler, former principal at St. Angela’s, 1332 N. Massasoit.

A polio survivor, he did all this with an atrophied right arm. Mr. Mahoney used his disability for teachable moments at St. Angela’s. “When he would be substitute teaching and he would see a child looking at his arm, he would say, ‘OK, we’re going to have a science lesson now,’ and he would tell them about polio and what happened to his arm,’ ” Callahan said.

Mr. Mahoney, 78, of Western Springs, died in his sleep on March 22.

He grew up near 60th and Campbell. Polio struck before he entered kindergarten. “His right arm was shorter than the left,” said his son, Timothy. Still, he learned to play table tennis through the Chicago Park District.

“He was a hell of a Ping-Pong player,” said Mike McArdle, a friend since childhood. And “he could shoot pool like a pool shark.”

He also grew skilled at basketball and softball. “He pitched lefty and he could field the ball, and hold the bat with his bad hand and his good hand,” McArdle said. Mr. Mahoney learned to drive and play a mostly one-handed game of golf.

“Perhaps because of the physical challenges Pat faced as a child, he had a very special empathy for our Misericordia mission,” said Sister Rosemary Connelly, director of Misericordia. “He loved the humor and spontaneity of our children and adults, and was always there for all of us.” He served on its board of directors.

Mr. Mahoney graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and DePaul University College of Law. He and his wife, Jeanne, raised their children in Beverly, and later, Western Springs.

Twenty-one years ago, he got involved with St. Angela’s, where he became president of the board. His guidance was especially helpful when the church closed about a decade ago, Lawler said. “It had been the pattern when the church closed, [subsequently] the school closed,” she said. But thanks to his contacts and business acuity, the school grew.

“He had access to different university people, and they would come in and help our teachers by providing professional development,” Lawler said. He worked out tuition payment plans for families that needed aid.

“He really felt our students were entitled to a quality education,” she said. “It really was, in Pat’s opinion, a matter of social justice.”

He viewed St. Angela’s as “a safe haven, a harbor for kids who go home to not so nice neighborhoods,” he said in a report by the Big Shoulders Fund, which supports inner-city Catholic schools.

His legal savvy helped Misericordia develop despite a trend toward smaller group homes, Connelly said. “Every time we wanted to grow and expand, we had to ‘go political,’ ’’ she said, “because the bureaucrats didn’t want us to do it.”

Mr. Mahoney served as Misericordia’s legal adviser, and “he made us acquainted with a lot of good legislators,” she said. “We needed our friends, and we needed lawyers, and we needed people who were politically astute.”

It has grown from 39 residents in the mid-1970s to about 600 residents, in “a beautiful campus with all these lovely houses,” she said.

“He knew more people than any 50 people I know,” Callahan said.

Mr. Mahoney also supported St. Francis Xavier University.

It wasn’t unusual for him to give cabbies a $25 tip for a short ride — or a $50 gratuity to the man who shined his shoes, friends said.

He also is survived by his daughters, Maureen Dickinson and Peggy Kennedy; two more sons, Tom and Terry; a brother, Timothy, and 12 grandchildren.

Connelly said at least 1,000 people attended his funeral service Saturday at St. Cletus Church in La Grange.

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