Joseph F. Leary, a leader in Boston’s Irish-American community since the 1980s, passed away peacefully, surrounded by his loving family on September 18, at age 90. Preceded in death by his wife, Eileen (Sullivan) Leary in 1981, Joe is survived by his two children, Joseph of South Boston and Eileen and her husband Thomas Johnson of Boston and Harwich Port.
Prior to attending Boston College, Joe served in the US Army as a Military Policeman out of Fort Jay in New York City and worked for the Gillette Company in sales for nearly 30 years.
In 1988, the newly formed Irish American Partnership selected Joe as its president and CEO. The non-profit organization, which was endorsed early on by House Speaker Tip O’Neill and others, with a mission to create a ‘strong, healthy Ireland through economic development, job creation and education.” Leary served as president for 28 years until his retirement in 2016, when he became president emeritus.
The Partnership, run since 2016 by CEO Mary Sugrue of Cahersiveen, County Kerry, has raised over $56 million in support of educational and community organizations within Ireland since it was first formed. The Partnership has focused in particular on education funding rural schools that need it the most, particularly in the west of Ireland. In an email to Irish America’s editor, Mary recalled her first meeting with Joe.
“Thirty-five years ago, I arrived in Joe’s office fresh off a flight from Shannon to interview for a job with the Partnership. In the decades that followed, Joe became my mentor, a cherished colleague, and a close friend. He was a true Irish American, and a great character! Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis.”
In a statement released by the Partnership, Sugrue elaborated on Leary’s role in the community and his love of Ireland: “Today, we mourn the loss of a bastion of the Irish-American community and my close friend and mentor, Joe. It is hard to believe he is gone, but his dry sense of humor, quick wit, and unending love of Ireland will live on in our fond memories. My thoughts are with his family and friends as they celebrate the life of a dedicated and passionate ambassador for Ireland and irreplaceable member of the Boston Irish community.” Read the full statement from IAP.
A Mass of Christian Burial is being celebrated in Our Lady of the Visitation Parish, Saint Elizabeth Church, 350 Reedsdale Road, Milton on Monday, September 25 at 10 a.m. Visiting hours at Dolan Funeral Home, 460 Granite Avenue, East Milton Square, Sunday 3-6 p.m. Interment Saint Mary’s Cemetery, Canton. Relatives and friends are invited.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Irish American Partnership or the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Joe’s memory. To send the Leary family a condolence message, please visit Dolan Funeral Home.