Today’s Obituaries: Former Haverhill Highway Superintendent James Flaherty Dies at 78

James M. Flaherty.

The man who steered the city’s public works department through deep budget cuts and layoffs after voters approved the tax-limiting law Proposition 2 1/2 40 years ago, died yesterday morning at 78.

James M. “Jim” Flaherty Sr. died at home after an extended illness surrounded by his family and close friends.

Flaherty, who worked his way up from laborer to highway superintendent, would later guide his department through another round of deep cuts when the city’s finances collapsed with the failure of the city-owned Hale Hospital. His 47-year city career ended, however, when he was accused of taking city material for use in his own paving business. It was a charge Flaherty denied and, despite receiving backing from two former mayors, he lost his case in 2009.

In a statement, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said, “Jim Flaherty dedicated over 40 years of his life to serving the city of Haverhill and its citizens. Today, the city mourns his passing and extends its deepest and heartfelt sympathy to the Flaherty family and to Jim Flaherty’s many friends and family on his passing. We extend our condolences to his wife, children and grandchildren and we thank them for Jim’s many years of service to our city and to its citizens.”

Born in Haverhill, he was the son of the late Maurice C. and Pearl E. (Horne) Flaherty. Raised and educated in Haverhill, he attended Sacred Hearts School and graduated with the class of 1960 from Haverhill Trade School. Upon graduation from high school, he enlisted in the United States Navy and was stationed on the Proteus in Dunoon Scotland, earning 3rd Class Petty Officer’s rank. During his time there, Flaherty met and began to fall in love with a young woman named Jean Coggins. One day when she shared that, before their meeting, she had applied to come to work in the United States and that she just received her date and location to leave, Flaherty thought that meant the end of their relationship. However, when she asked him if he knew where Andover, Massachusetts was, he knew he found his life partner and soul mate.

After leaving the Navy, Flaherty began his 47-seven-year career working for the City of Haverhill Public Works and proudly working his way through the ranks from laborer to superintendent of the Highway Department.

He loved taking care of his city nearly as much as his family. His excitement blossomed at the hint of a major snowstorm, and his children reveled in being the first kids in the city to know that school was canceled. He regularly created projects to beautify or create a special occasion for the residents. The one that made his heart overflow was when he and his department worked to create Santa’s Workshop on the Bradford Green Park and watched it grow over several years. He loved the holidays but especially enjoyed that this project collected toys to be distributed to children that may not otherwise experience gifts and a joyful Christmas. In addition to the formal holidays, Jim just loved any opportunity to bring his family and friends together to celebrate and have fun.

Flaherty loved people and had a wide circle of friends; he enjoyed traveling with, navigating a boat ride up the Merrimack on a warm summer day, dining out, or watching a youth sports game, especially hockey. Additionally, he relished a great day of fishing, a good round of golf, or a weekend away with family and friends in their treasured condo at Linderhoff Mountain.

He is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Jean M. Flaherty; daughter, Dr. Dorothy A. Flaherty; sons James M. Flaherty Jr, and his wife Linda, John C. Flaherty and his wife Stacey and Kevin P. Flaherty, all from Haverhill; grandchildren, Christina and her husband Michael, James M. Flaherty III, Gavin M. Flaherty, Hayden C. Flaherty, and Morgan R. Flaherty; great-granddaughter, Alina, upon the marriage of his dearest Christina to Michael Hurtado; and sister Elizabeth Bradley and her husband Richard of Bradford. He was predeceased by his brother, Maurice C. Flaherty Jr; as well as his treasured sister and brother-in-law Mary and Robert Greenwood, and several nieces and nephews.

Family and friends are respectfully invited to attend calling hours on Monday, Sept. 7 from 4-7 p.m., at the Kevin B. Comeau Funeral Home, 486 Main St., Haverhill. Funeral services will begin on Tuesday morning at the funeral home at 9, with a Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated at Sacred Heart Church, 165 S. Main St., Haverhill. Burial follows in Elmwood Cemetery, Salem Street, Bradford. In lieu of flower, donation may be made to St. Jude’s Childrens’ Hospital, 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105.

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