January 24, 2013

Feature obituary: Timothy Flaherty, 69, commander of Portland American Legion

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FALMOUTH – A large turnout is expected Saturday at the A.T. Hutchins funeral home in Portland for a memorial service to honor Timothy Flaherty, past commander of the Harold T. Andrews American Legion Post 17 in Portland, who helped coordinate the city's Memorial and Veterans Day parades for many years.

click image to enlarge

Timothy Flaherty and former U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine.

Family photo

PASSAGES

Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

Mr. Flaherty died Sunday after a brief battle with lung cancer. He was 69.

He grew up in Portland, the second of seven children. He attended Cheverus High School, but left during his senior year to enlist in the Coast Guard.

For the past eight years, Mr. Flaherty was active in the Harold T. Andrews American Legion Post 17, where he served as past commander. In 2010, he was named Commander of the Year for the State of Maine.

Historian Herb Adams knew Mr. Flaherty well.

This week, Adams shared stories of Mr. Flaherty's service in the Coast Guard, noting his dedication to honoring local veterans. Adams recalled his service at Seguin Island Lighthouse, where Mr. Flaherty was asked to cook broiled steaks for the crew. He mistakenly heard boiled steaks. Mr. Flaherty was promptly relieved of his cooking duty.

"His least favorite service in the Coast Guard was whitewashing the tower of Portland Head Light, hanging 100 feet up, dangling by ropes in a boatswain's chair," Adams recalled. "Tim always said, 'Look ahead never look down. That's a good philosophy of life, too.' That's exactly what Tim said."

For the past few years, Mr. Flaherty helped coordinate Portland's annual Memorial and Veterans Day parades. He also served as historian for the post. He and Adams collaborated on numerous projects and events such as marking graves and commemorating the service of soldiers and sailors from the War of 1812, the Civil War, World War I and the Vietnam War.

"He had a fine Irish sense of humor and a veteran's sense of honor," Adams said. "His pledge was to serve the living and remember the dead."

He was a loving husband of Katherine Flaherty, his wife for 19 years.

She said Thursday that they met as teenagers and later reconnected after crossing paths at Denny's in Portland more than 20 years ago. Soon after, they went on their first date. A year and a half later, the couple got married.

In the 1990s, the Flahertys moved to Connecticut, where he became an independent contractor with American Express. He covered Connecticut, Rhode Island and six counties in New York. He retired in 2004 and returned to Maine. The couple lived in Falmouth.

His wife said he devoted much of his time to the American Legion and local causes, such as raising money for Special Olympics Maine and for Camp Tall Pines. The couple also visited local schools to replace tattered American flags with new ones.

"He was wonderful," his wife said. "He was a big burly man, but he was a teddy bear. He went out of his way to try to do things for the American Legion."

Mr. Flaherty was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer on Nov. 6, 2012.

He received four treatments of chemotherapy, but the cancer progressed too rapidly.

At the time of his death, his wife and five of his siblings were by his bedside.

"For the last two minutes of his life he smiled," his wife recalled. "He wasn't restless. His breathing wasn't labored. Just before he passed, he smiled. Everyone saw it. They couldn't believe it. It was pretty special."

His memorial service will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at A.T. Hutchins Funeral and Cremation Services, 660 Brighton Ave. in Portland.

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com

 

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