SCARBOROUGH – John Flaherty Sr. was a career police officer, known for serving the Scarborough Police Department for 30 years, 18 of them as chief. But the role he was most comfortable with was guiding a tractor on the family farm.

Mr. Flaherty, who died Monday at the age of 92, would routinely come home from the police department, climb onto a tractor and ask his son which field needed work.

“That’s what he enjoyed, being by himself, running equipment with nobody bothering him,” said his son Jack Flaherty.

Another son Jim Flaherty recalled how a few years ago, his father had back surgery and couldn’t get up on the tractor.

“Jack and I took the forklift and used it to lift him up to the cab of the big John Deere and let him go out in it,” he said. “The farm is where his heart was.”

Mr. Flaherty started the Flaherty Family Farm in 1941, and in the beginning he raised chickens.

One winter, in the early days of the farm, the furnace went out in the chicken house and Mr. Flaherty bustled all the young chicks — 1,500 of them — into the kitchen to keep them warm, James Flaherty said.

Eventually, he built a 40-foot by 100-foot chicken house, adding floors in later years.

In the summer, the chickens were kept in 10 to 15 range houses out in the fields, allowed to forage during the day. That was long before free-range chickens were the rage.

The result, said Jack Flaherty, was a very white meat that tastes superior to modern chicken. He should know. He and his siblings ate a lot of it when they were growing up.

“We had chicken three meals a day,” he said. But there was great variety. “I still love it. I’ll take it over beef.”

Eventually, there were pigs and cows. Mr. Flaherty raised potatoes, and would deliver 15 tons a day to the Snow’s Clam Chowder plant on Pine Point before it closed. The farm sold winter squash to Boston grocery stores.

The retail farmstand on Payne Road grew from humble beginnings in the back of a pickup. Corn cost 25 cents a dozen.

Not everything worked out well.

“He was going to send all of us kids to college on the asparagus crop,” Jim Flaherty recalls. But he couldn’t get enough yield to make it profitable.

Mr. Flaherty didn’t have time for hobbies. He worked two jobs his whole life, officer and farmer.

“He was always a workaholic,” said Jack Flaherty.

Referred to as “chief” even in his retirement, Mr. Flaherty was witness to the evolution of policing in Scarborough, which grew from a sparsely populated, rural community to a bustling suburb of Portland.

He began in 1953, when the town formed its police department, and for nine years he was one of two full-time officers in the town.

Jim Flaherty recalls how his father told of driving to get lunch with his wife in an unmarked car when a young man ran naked across Route 1 by the drive-in. Mr. Flaherty activated his portable blue light and ordered the man into the back of the car.

The man asked if he could grab his clothes first. Mr. Flaherty refused, ordering him into the car for the ride to the police station.

As a chief, Mr. Flaherty had a reputation.

“Dad was known to be stiff. He was firm with everybody and gruff with his officers but always fair,” Jack Flaherty said. He had a sign on his desk reading “Flaherty’s Law,” meaning he wanted things done his way, without argument, his son said.

He continued farming throughout the years.

“Many times he had calls and had to leave the tractor in the middle of the field,” Jack Flaherty said. “Whenever he was needed, they would come get him and he would go.”

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@pressherald.com