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A man of deep faith, Joseph K. Walsh, 88, of East Falmouth, MA, and formerly of Milton and Jamaica Plain, went home to God on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021. He was the beloved husband of 62 years of Margaret M. (nee Brunnock) “Peg” and the adored father of Joseph, Marybeth Emerson (Brad), Cathy, Meg Furey (Chris), Kevin (MaryJane), Brian (May), Paul (Jackie), and Annie Watts (Brent). He also enchanted his 19 grandchildren: Joseph (Kelly), Erin (Will), Matthew, George, Eamonn, Kevin (Kristen), Liam, Owen, Aidan, Kaleb, Noah, Adam, Sam, Charlie, Tom, Lily, Hannah, Brentan, and Kate.
Born to Lily (Gill) and John T. Walsh on May 14, 1932, he was the dear brother of the Rev. Aidan J. Walsh and the late Sister Mary K., John T., Thomas F., James F., Daniel D., and Elizabeth Flaherty (“Ciss”), and uncle and cousin to so many. After attending Our Lady of Lourdes School and Cathedral High School, he served for 4 years in the US Navy. Along with his brothers and father, he was active in the Erin’s Hope Irish Football Club in the Boston GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association). Along with his father, he was a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.
A 70-year member of the Local 12 Boston Plumbers and Gasfitters Union, including service as Secretary Treasurer, Joe worked tirelessly with Kevin Cotter and others to open a brand-new union hall on Mass Ave, with state-of-the-art meeting facilities and apprentice-training programs. Joe was most proud of the four generations of Walsh’s serving in the plumber’s union: his father, brothers, son, and grandson. He also served as a trustee to the vital Health and Welfare Plan and represented Local 12 as a delegate to UA National conventions. In addition, Joe served in local politics as a Milton Town Meeting and Warrant Committee member.
Joe’s first love was family. Together with Peg, he raised eight children on Hinckley Road in Milton. Their home was filled with joy and fun and great conversation, and always overflowing with so many friends and family. As children of immigrants, Joe and Peg believed that education was key to a happy and successful life and they took great pride in the successes of their children, who among them have 13 higher-education degrees. Joe loved kids and kids loved Joe. He had a way about him that made everyone feel that they were the most important person to him. His infectious humor in even the most challenging times drew people to him and made them laugh. His laugh could be heard from afar.
A man of unflagging faith, Joe prayed the rosary every day and believed in the power of Novenas. St. Theresa the Little Flower and the Blessed Mother interceded many times in his life. He prayed for everyone, especially his kids and grandkids. He was actively involved in St. Mary of the Hills Parish in Milton for many years and later at St. Anthony Church in Falmouth. He attended Mass no matter where he was in the world. Joe led by example and encouraged his family to always cultivate their Catholic faith; he reminded everyone that prayer is powerful. On his 80th birthday, he urged his family to stay close to each other, God, and the Church.
Joe literally danced his way through life: As a boy he danced the Irish hornpipe with his brothers and sisters in their kitchen in Jamaica Plain, in local halls, and in support of the Columban Fathers’ mission. He later performed spontaneous jigs in his Milton home for his family and friends; his most successful dance transpired at the former Sherry Biltmore Hotel in Boston, where he met the love of his life, Peg. They continued to dance, not just at every wedding and event but also at a Vienna Ball in Austria, a Fijian Easter celebration with men and women in grass skirts, a Honolulu St. Patrick’s Day parade, and in the streets of Guatemala and Mexico, where they swayed to the rhythms of marimba and mariachi bands.
Travel was a huge part of Joe’s life. Peg organized it all and he willingly went along. The early days were filled with camping trips all over Cape Cod and New England, with Vermont being his favorite, as it was so reminiscent of Ireland. They led their large family of teenagers and young children on a monthlong backpack trip around the USA on Trailways Bus. Peg and Joe realized a lifelong dream when they traveled around the world for four months in retirement. Along with his abiding affection for Irish culture and visits to his ancestral Kenmare and Wexford, Joe also relished exploring diverse cultures and religions in his travels with Peg and his family. Most of all, he delighted in visiting his adult children and their families throughout the USA, Canada, and Hong Kong.
Joe was known for his generosity of spirit, his sense of fun, and his compassion for the less fortunate. Ever a people person, he always saw everyone as “someone’s child” and wanted to know their story. He loved to “people watch” too and passed these traits on to his family. A compelling storyteller, he regaled his listeners with tales both true and magical. He loved history and reading and shared his wealth of information with family and all those he met. A lifelong Boston Democrat, he fiercely believed in the importance of labor unions and their role in this country for a strong middle class. He loved to debate the issues of the day and wasn’t shy with his opinions. He would occasionally punctuate his point of view by pounding his fist on the table but was interested in all sides of a debate.
After suffering a catastrophic stroke in 2019, Joe demonstrated his usual grit, courage, and humor as he learned to walk again. He was blessed with Peg, the best nurse in the world, who had honed her nursing skills by caring for the people of Boston, Milton, and Cape Cod in her 65-year nursing career. For two and a half years, she cared for him and never doubted that he would recover. He not only survived but thrived with the loving care that Peg provided him in their beautiful Cape Cod home and garden every day for the rest of his life.
That he returned to the God who loved him beyond all telling on Easter Sunday was a fitting coda to his beautiful life.
Arrangements are from the Alfred D. Thomas Funeral Home. Wake is on Thursday, April 8, at 3-7 p.m. at St. Gregory Church, 2215 Dorchester Ave, Boston, MA 02124. The Funeral Mass is on Friday, April 9, at 11 a.m. at St. Gregory Church. Burial is Friday, April 9, at 2 p.m. at the Massachusetts National Cemetery, Connery Ave, Bourne, MA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Plumbers & Gas Fitters Educational Scholarship Fund, Plumbers Local 12, at 1240 Massachusetts Ave., Dorchester, MA 02125. The funeral will be streamed on facebook Blue Hill Live Streaming.
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