Editor Emeritus - Ed Wilkinson

Bill Flynn Was One of Cathedral Prep’s Men of Greatness

In spite of all the legal reservations that some people have about Facebook, I must admit that I get a lot of news from it.

Over last weekend, I learned of the death of Bill Flynn, the former chairman of the board and CEO of Mutual of America, who was active in Irish-American activities. He was 92 when he passed away on Saturday, June 2.

The son of Irish immigrants, Bill was born and raised in St. Gabriel’s parish, East Elmhurst. He attended Cathedral Prep and College in Brooklyn and went on to study for the priesthood at Immaculate Conception Seminary, Huntington. But he realized that his call did not lie in the ordained priesthood and in 1953, he married Peggy. The marriage lasted 65 years and she survives him along with two children, Maureen Flynn Welsh and William K. Flynn. He was predeceased by two other children.

Bill was a towering figure in helping gain a ceasefire in Northern Ireland and cessation of hostile activities between the IRA and British forces. He was a realistic, tough businessman that existed behind a kind and gentle demeanor.

He never forgot where he came from. He never forgot his days at Cathedral College, which at that time, was located at the corner of Atlantic and Washington aves. in Brooklyn. His classmates included the former Brooklyn Auxiliary Bishop John Snyder, now the retired Bishop of St. Augustine, Fla.; and other noted Brooklyn priests, Msgr. George Deas, and the late Father John Fecher and Father Robert Kennedy.

“He would recall with great fondness his days at Cathedral,” said Father Joseph Fonti, the current rector of Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst. “He was always grateful to the priests who made up the bulk of the faculty that gave him the foundation that made him successful in business.”

Father Fonti said Bill Flynn had a great reverence for the priesthood and remained generous to his alma mater. In 1999, he was the first layman to receive the school’s Immaculata Award, the highest honor given annually to a priest and lay alumnus. Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua was the clergy recipient.

Cathedral’s Yearbook entry noted: “Bill Flynn and Frank Byrnes are our business executives. The way they’ve managed the finances of the Gargoyle and Annual puts them in line for some sort of Treasury post or other.” Little could they have known the heights Bill’s business acumen would take him!

Among the many honors bestowed upon Bill was the privilege of being grand marshal of New York’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1994. On the eve of the big parade, he toured the city stopping at many functions, but he made time to visit the Brooklyn St. Vincent de Paul Society’s fundraiser at the South Street Seaport.

If you read my own Facebook posting last weekend, you already know that Sheila and I attended Father John Vesey’s Mass in thanksgiving for his 50 years of priesthood. The liturgy lasted two hours and 15 minutes and was conducted in five different languages. Afterwards, a reception for family and parishioners was held in the parish auditorium.

Interesting that Father Vesey, who served with Maryknoll in China for 10 years, invited his former bishop, Archbishop Paul Pei, to attend and preach at his anniversary Mass, but the Chinese government would not allow him to leave the country.

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