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John F. O'Riordan - Biography
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Biography - John F. O'Riordan

John F. O'Riordan, 76, Philadelphian and Irishman, died Monday, surrounded by his wife, sister and seven children at Lankenau Hospital. Mr. O'Riordan was born in 1924 in St. Michael's parish in North Philadelphia. After his graduation from Northeast Catholic High School in 1942, O'Riordan entered the Air Force as an aviation cadet. While in the Air Force, he was stationed at St. Anselm's College, Manchester, N.H. He took preflight training at Maxwell Field, Alabama. He then went onto gunnery school at Ft. Meyers, Fla., and later to Army Air Force navigation school in Hondo, Texas. Mr. O'Riordan saw active service as a squadron navigator with the 305th heavy bombardment group. Before returning to the United States, he spent six months in Europe on special assignment with the State Department and attained the rank of Captain before leaving the Air Force.

In 1948, O'Riordan entered St. Joseph's College where he was president of the Villiger Debating Society and one of the first Hawk debaters to win the Ben Franklin Trophy. In addition to his academic and debating pursuits at St. Joe's, O'Riordan became active in the reform politics of the late 40s and early 50s that culminated in the elections of Joseph Clark and Richardson Dilworth as successive Mayors of Philadelphia. O'Riordan was Chairman of the 19th Ward Democratic Executive Committee and Chairman of the Democratic Veteran's Committee. After graduating from St. Joe's' in 1952, O'Riordan attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School but his interest in law quickly gave way to his love of debating and of the hustle and bustle of Philadelphia politics - a passion he enjoyed for the rest of his life. He worked in both the Clark and Dilworth administrations as an aide to then President of City Council, James H. Tate.

In 1953, Mr. O'Riordan married Patricia Loftus, the nursing supervisor of the Emergency Ward of Thomas Jefferson Hospital. The couple moved to St. Martin of Tours parish in the Oxford Circle section of Northeast Philadelphia where Mr. O'Riordan left the world of politics to work as a real estate broker and to help his wife Pat raise their seven children.

In the late 1960s, Mr. O'Riordan opened his own real estate office and toiled there until the political bug bit again. In 1972, when his old friend and lawschool classmate, F. Emmett Fitzpatrick, decided to take on then incumbent District Attorney Arlen Specter and needed a friend in his foxhole, he asked John O'Riordan to be his campaign manager. Never one to turn down a friend or walk away from a good fight, O'Riordan told his wife, Pat that he was closing his real estate business and jumping back into the political fray with his friend Fitz She sighed, he jumped and, against all odds, Fitzpatrick won. O'Riordan managed the Fitzpatrick campaign to a stunning upset of Specter, who had the backing of Mayor Frank Rizzo. Indeed, what O'Riordan treasured most from his years in Philadelphia politics were the deep and lasting friendships he forged in the heat of political battle. If you were lucking enough to have John as your friend, you had a friend for life. Indeed, in the 1973 Philadelphia Magazine article "It Wasn't a Campaign; It Was A Disaster," writer Mike Mallowe echoed "at least once in every man's life, he should have a friend like John O'Riordan. He abandoned his real estate business, weakened his health, and sacrificed himself in every way." He counted among his friends Superior Court Judge Steve McEwen, the late Mayor Frank Rizzo and John J. McCullough, the head of Roofers Local #30, with whom he shared a love of Ireland and its people. A life-long democrat and always self-effacing, O'Riordan often joked that the "success" of the Fitzpatrick campaign was unseating Republican Specter as District Attorney while perhaps providing the impetus for Specter's career as a U.S. Senator.

O'Riordan spent the next four years as Executive Assistant to District Attorney Fitzpatrick and later served as a Deputy Managing Director under Mayor Rizzo and with the Philadelphia Parking Authority under Mayors Green and Goode. He was active in the political campaigns of United States Congressmen James "Digger" Byrnes and Joseph Smith.

In September, 1991, almost ten years after the death of his wife Pat, Mr. O'Riordan married Mary Bridget Devlin and moved to Narberth. In recent years, Mr. O'Riordan and his wife Mary enjoyed traveling to Ireland and researching genealogy with Irish expatriates throughout the world.

Mr. O'Riordan was an avid scholar of early American history as well as the history of Ireland and Philadelphia. He contributed articles to the Philadelphia Inquirer, including "Lincoln Came To Kensington." Mr. O'Riordan combined his love of Irish and Philadelphia history when he penned the History of St. Michael's School for its 125th anniversary.

Mr. O'Riordan is the son of the late Frank and Katherine Killgallon O'Riordan of Philadelphia. He is survived by his wife, Mary Bridget Devlin O'Riordan; seven children: John F. O'Riordan, Esquire, Maureen O'Riordan, Dr. Martin J. O'Riordan of Ardmore, Elizabeth O'Riordan, Clare Daniels of Pipersville, Patricia O'Riordan and Daniel O'Riordan; sisters Mary and Ann O'Riordan, a brother James O'Riordan and twelve grandchildren.

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