Greenfield, MA - Thomas W. Merrigan, 86, of Greenfield, Massachusetts, died peacefully in his home on Saturday, August 24, 2013 surrounded by seven of his children and many grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was born on February 19, 1927 in Montague City, Massachusetts. Tom graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1945. He served in the Unites States Army as a Military Police officer in Europe from 1945 to 1947. He married his high school sweetheart, Marguerite McKillop, on April 19, 1948.
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They settled on Congress Street in Greenfield where they lived and raised a family of eight children. In 1948, Tom began a journalism career as a news reporter for The Greenfield Recorder Gazette, where he remained for twenty-two years.
In the mid-seventies, Tom and his wife Marguerite established Merrigan Real Estate, a family business which they operated for many years, where their children learned the ins and outs of the business. Inspired by his mother, Theresa Tucker Merrigan, Tom took great interest in government and the law, passing these interests to his children and their children. He is recognized as a pioneer of the Democratic Party in Franklin County, being the first Democrat to hold county-wide office in Franklin County. His election in 1970 marked the beginning of political change in what was one of the last bedrock Republican strongholds in Massachusetts.
In 1976, Tom enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in "The University Without Walls" program. There, he received academic credit for his lifetime achievements and experience in government, journalism and business. He graduated in 1978. That same year, Tom enrolled in law school at the Western New England University. On December 15, 1982, at age 55, Tom realized a life-long aspiration when he was sworn in as a member of the Massachusetts Bar. Tom practiced law in Franklin and Hampshire Counties from 1982 until 2011 – in private practice, as an Assistant Clerk of the Superior Court, and as an Assistant District Attorney. As a prosecutor, he was known for his fairness and understanding, recognizing the difference between people who made mistakes and those who deserved punishment. As a defense attorney, Tom was a zealous advocate for his clients, never giving up hope that he could help them better their lives.
Tom loved researching and documenting Merrigan and McKillop family histories. In 2012, he published Remembering Hannah, recounting the challenges that his mother-in-law Hannah Falvey encountered when she emigrated from Ireland to America as a teen-ager. After landing at Ellis Island, Hannah moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts. There, Hannah met Michael McKillop and they moved to Belchertown and raised their family. Remembering Hannah was featured in Volume 14 of the Genealogical Society of Ireland's Journal and in the Irish Legacy section of the Springfield Union Newspaper.
In 2012, Tom published Sugarloaf Street, A Memoir, which chronicled his childhood years in South Deerfield. Sugarloaf Street is sold locally at several outlets. At the time of his death, Tom was writing another memoir dedicated to the loving relationship that began when Tom and Marguerite met at age 13 and lasted until her death in 2008.
Over the years, Tom and Marguerite enjoyed family holiday parties surrounded by many of their beloved children and their families. They also enjoyed many summers of family closeness at Lake Spofford in southern New Hampshire and Lake Wyola in Shutesbury, MA.
As Tom's health declined, he was lovingly cared and supported by close family and his personal care attendant, Diane "De De" Goodnow of New Salem.
Thomas W. Merrigan is survived by seven of his eight children: Tom Merrigan and his wife Margaret of Falmouth, Massachusetts; Maureen Winseck and her husband Ed, Nancy Hawkins and her husband Robert (Butch), John and his wife Martina, and Kathleen Niedbala, all of Greenfield; Meg Merrigan and her spouse Melinda Shaw of Northampton, Massachusetts, and Jim Merrigan of Hull, Massachusetts.
Affectionately known to them as "Grampy," Tom is also survived by twenty-six grandchildren: Jessica, Tom, James, Leigh, Peter, Tucker, Jill, Katie, Christopher, Jaimye, Ryan, Megan, Bryan, Joseph, Amy, Patrick, Brady, Connor, Cameron, Olivia, Casey, Tucker, Michael, Edward, Jonathan and William, as well as 14 great grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews.
In addition to his wife Marguerite, ?Tom was pre-deceased by his brothers Francis and Raymond, several brothers and sisters in-law, a daughter Patricia Jeanne Merrigan in 2011, and by two granddaughters, Karalyn Niedbala and Emily Marguerite Chabot.
A grateful and heartfelt "thank you" from the extended Merrigan family goes out to our friends and to the wonderful caregivers at Hospice of Franklin County who provided so much compassionate comfort and care to our dad and to us.
Calling hours will be held Tuesday 8/27 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 6 pm to 8 pm at the Kostanski Funeral Home, 220 Federal Street, Greenfield.
Funeral services will be held Wednesday 8/28 at 9:15am from the Kostanski Funeral Home followed by a Liturgy of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. at Holy Trinity Church, 133 Main Street, Greenfield with the Monsignor Ronald G. Yargeau officiating.
Burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery in Greenfield.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to Hospice of Franklin County, 329 Conway St., Greenfield, MA 01301.
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Published in The Recorder on Aug. 26, 2013
Kostanski Funeral Home
220 Federal Street Greenfield, MA 01301