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.
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.
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.
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.
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.