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Former governor Joseph Garrahy has died

January 25, 2012

Former Governor Joseph Garrahy, best remembered for offering a comfort presence in his familiar flannel shirt during the Blizzard of ’78, has died at age 81.

Garrahy, a Democrat, served as governor from 1977 until 1985. His family released this statement:

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of former Governor J. Joseph Garrahy. He loved his family dearly and we were so proud to call him our husband, father and Poppy. He also loved the people of Rhode Island and worked tirelessly to improve the State and to provide assistance to those in need.

We thank Rhode Islanders for their continued outpouring of fondness over the years. He was very grateful for their warmth and friendship and for the opportunity to serve them.

Your prayers are greatly appreciated at this time.

Former Providence Journal political columnist M. Charles Bakst offers this recollection of Garrahy:

He was a thoroughly decent guy, did not put on airs, not a mean bone in his body; a kind of folk hero in Rhode Island, partly, of course, for the blizzard.

I think he was somebody people could identify with as being of them. And I used to be at lunch with him or breakfast, wherever we were, people would come up to him, ‘oh, Governor, how are you?  I remember you from the blizzard,’ stuff like that.

And at one time I said to him, ‘So you’re role in life is to be — this is years after he was governor — your role in life is to be Joe Garrahy.’  I was thinking of people like Rocky Marciano or Stan Musial, people like that who had their careers and then the rest of their lives they just sort of played that role.

I said, ‘You’re role is to be Joe Garrahy.’ He sort of chuckled and said, ‘Yeah, it’s pretty good.’ 

Former lieutenant governor Charles Fogarty, director of the state Department of Labor and Training, offers this statement:

I was stunned and saddened today to learn of the passing of my close friend and mentor, Former Governor Joe Garrahy. Outside of my parents, no person has had a greater and more lasting influence on my public service career.

Joe Garrahy was my first boss. I had the privilege of serving as his senate page when he was lieutenant governor, and later as a policy aide when he served as governor. Personally, I will always remember Governor Garrahy for his honesty, humility, humor and great inner strength, and I am certain that all Rhode Islanders will remember him for touching so many lives while making our state a better place.

My heart goes out to his wife, Margherite, and to all his children and grandchildren on the loss of this wonderful man.

This from Brendan Doherty:

I began my career with the Rhode Island State Police under Governor Garrahy and have been fortunate to develop a lasting friendship with him over the years. I am proud to have had Governor Garrahy as a mentor.  We were together last week inFlorida and as usual, the best advice he gave me was not about politics, but the importance of family, values and humanity. Rhode Islandhas lost a great statesman.

State Democratic chairman Ed Pacheco:

My heartfelt condolences go out to the Garrahy family. As Rhode Islanders, we mourn the loss of our 69th governor – an icon in the State of Rhode Island, a true and dedicated public servant. A state senator, deputy majority leader, lieutenant governor, governor and Democratic Party chairman, Garrahy’s stewardship serves as a model and his leadership had a tremendous impact on our state.

Senator Jack Reed:

Rhode Island has lost a great statesman and we have all lost a great friend. Joe Garrahy combined courageous leadership, unimpeachable decency, and a warm and embracing spirit.

 His example sustained us and inspired us, and it will continue to do so. My deepest condolences to his wife, Margherite, and his wonderful and loving family.

Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts:

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of former Governor J. Joseph Garrahy, a beloved leader who was deeply committed to our state and to all Rhode Islanders. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this sad time. He will be greatly missed.

Governor Chafee:

I was shocked and saddened to learn this morning of the passing of former Governor J. Joseph Garrahy.

Governor Garrahy truly had an unending love for the people of Rhode Island, and in return he earned the respect, admiration, and affection of the people of this great state. He was a true gentleman, down-to-earth and lacking any pretense.

Governor Garrahy had a gift for making progress quickly while managing to make as few waves as possible in the process. He was unassuming, but he delivered results.

Many of us will always think of him in his famous flannel shirt, rising to the occasion to guideRhode Island through the devastating Blizzard of ’78.

Much of Governor Garrahy’s family still lives here and remains part of the fabric of our state. My thoughts and sympathy are with them during this difficult time. I hope that they are able to find some comfort – as so many Rhode Islanders will – in their many fine memories of him.

Treasurer Gina Raimondo:

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Garrahy family. He loved serving the people of Rhode Island, and they loved him in return for his gentle manner and confident leadership. I will never forget his tremendous kindness, friendship and wise counsel as I began my term as Rhode Island’s General Treasurer.

House Speaker Gordon Fox:

I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Governor Garrahy, who will always be remembered for his even-handed and steady leadership at the helm of our state.  I considered him one of the true elder statesmen of the Democratic Party who inspired us in the next generation to carry on his legacy of honesty, hard work and dedication to the people ofRhode Island.  I was very fond of the way he always made himself available to me and others in the General Assembly to provide us with advice and guidance.

Congressman David Cicilline:

Governor Garrahy first entered public service as a member of the United States Air Force during the Korean War.  Of course, Rhode Islanders will always know him as the affable son of Providence who led our state decisively, especially during the Blizzard of 1978.  Governor Garrahy’s legacy, established during the four terms he served as Governor, will continue to live on in our memories.  He was a beloved public servant who was respected and known for his integrity.  Governor Garrahy’s family is in my thoughts and prayers today.

Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed:

Governor Garrahy, a former state Senator who presided over the chamber during his tenure as Lieutenant Governor, is a trueRhode Islandlegend whose leadership I remember fondly and vividly to this day. His portrait in the Senate Lounge reminds me daily of the dedicated service which has made him a part of the tapestry ofRhode Islandgovernment. His calm and steady stewardship during often tumultuous times helped to strengthen our state and endear him in the hearts of generations of Rhode Islanders. The thoughts and prayers of the Rhode Island Senate are with Mrs. Garrahy and the entire Garrahy family during this difficult time.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 25, 2012 7:04 pm

    Joe Garrahy was one of the easiest going and sensitive Rhode Island politicans I have known in my many years of political friendships here in Rhode Island. I voluntered to help in his first campaign for govern or when I first came to the state, and he took me up on it. From then thorugh the balance of his time as governor it was a priviliege to continue polling for him. All memories are so very positive, and he set a civil tone that is much lacking in today’s politics. He will be missed. One can only wish that his greatest legacy would be a return to civility in politics.


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