John Thomas Feighan, age 85, was a man at home on both the West and East sides of Cleveland.
With his death on Thursday, December 8, John said good-bye to all his beloved stomping grounds
and the precious family and friends whose lives he enlivened – and visa versa.
Born and raised in Lakewood, Ohio, he spent the majority of his career years in Shaker Height,
with a retirement 20 years ago that made him the Irishman in Cleveland’s Little Italy.
John was the son of Rose Sybil Neff and John T. Feighan, Jr. He went to St. Luke’s Elementary School
where he met his lifelong best-friend Tommy Sullivan. In 1955, he graduated from St. Edward’s High School,
then attended Georgetown University, and received his BA degree from John Carroll University in political science
and philosophy. In 1960, John married his high school sweetheart Lynne Downey Rossen. They started their family
in Rocky River in 1961 with the birth of Alison followed by the birth of John in 1964.
Ever open to work opportunities, John sold hot dogs at Lakewood’s old Elks, bagged groceries at the local Fisher Foods,
and joined the union to work in the bottling department of his family-owned Standard Brewing Company.
Erin Brew was the decades-long favorite beer of Cleveland’s Irish-American community and sponsor for radio broadcasts
of the 1948 World Series winning Cleveland Indians. Post college, John donned suit and tie to join the Standard Brewing sales staff.
Local breweries were being absorbed by national companies, and in a transition, John was named Sales Promotion Manager
of Standard Brewing‘s new parent company F & M Schaefer Brewing out of New York. John changed industries when in the late 60’s,
when he was recruited by Lake Buick of Lakewood to introduce a totally new concept within car dealerships: automobile leasing.
Five years later, he moved east to Shaker Heights to establish a leasing operation for Qua Buick in Shaker Heights.
John, one of the founders of the National Vehicle Leasing Association, was elected its president in 1969 and invited to speak
about his work at the Annual Meeting of the National Dealers Association in Los Angeles. Over the ensuing years, his outgoing personality
led to various companies that he started with friends in the leasing and manufacturing representation worlds. He became a “stay at home”
grandpa in the mid 90’s. Throughout the years, he was ever supportive of Lynne’s career in Development, a man ahead of his time.
A man of many pursuits, concurrent with his business career, John oversaw the family-owned Irish pub Moriarty’s on East 6th street,
where the slogan was “Every day’s St. Patrick’s Day at Moriarty’s. Moriarty’s was the hub of the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in downtown
Cleveland for many years, with John holding court and George Morrow singing behind the bar. It was standing room only, capacity laws
were relaxed as lawyers and police were among the patrons. He also organized extended family festivities at Acabaca, the Feighan Clan’s
cottage at Atwood Lake where three generations learned to swim, sail, throw Jarts and water ski. Traditions included Saturday afternoon Mass
with Father Jack Garrity for family and neighbors followed by “Sour Hour” blender sports.
Also grounded in work to serve others, John became involved and ultimately president of the Cleveland Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation Board,
at the urging of friends Jim and Connie Brown. He and his team of committed volunteers planned and operated a massive annual Corporate Sports Challenge;
where hundreds of employee participants from Cleveland’s major companies participated in track and field events that secured thousands of dollars for research
and raised awareness of this childhood life-shortening disease. In 1988, he was invited to Washington, DC to receive the Foundation’s National Cystic Fibrosis
Volunteer Recognition Award. In 1990, he ran a vigorous but unsuccessful campaign for Mayor of Shaker Heights, launching and ending his political career.
Building on his gregarious personality, he used his smile, rosy cheeks and white hair in his relished role as Santa Claus through the years from
Havre’s Department Store in Chagrin Falls to Cleveland Botanical Garden. As an Irishman moving to Little Italy, he became ensconced in the community’s life.
He became involved with the Board of Alta House and their many events. He was ever present at Presti’s for coffee with the guys, Bocce Ball competitions at Alta House,
and the Feast of Assumption. He became an active member of the Holy Rosary Parish under Father Phil Racco, and trained a generation of altar boys and girls.
As a large presence on the altar for many services, he was once mistaken and called “Monsignor”. This was quickly corrected by Father Racco!
In 1978, he was chosen one of Cleveland Magazine’s “78 Most Interesting People” as owner of Moriarty’s Pub. They noted that his “Irish wit and sense of humor
helped draw patrons to the establishment”. In response to the article recognizing his “going to wakes “ as a hobby , at one time he was asked by a stranger in an
adjoining service to lead them in prayer as the “famous wake-goer”. Of course, he did. He was an active member of the Sons of Geronimo, a group of avid
Cleveland Indians fans who met once or twice a year to discuss the previous or upcoming season with various players or broadcasters. His son will proudly
be the “Guardian” of his place in the future.
His friends throughout the year were organized for various activities by Big John. Weekly golf outings were arranged around Northeast Ohio.
Golf was part of the day, but camaraderie was the real purpose! Lunch is one of the most important parts of a healthy diet (per Big John)- he made
sure that his friends adhered to that principle. Starting in 1992 , John was often accompanied by his grandson Alex, for whom his Pa bought a child seat
that hooked on Morton’s Steakhouse bar! From the Racoon Club days at The Silver Quill to his more recent Muldoon’s group, John loved meeting
his friends for a meal of conversation and laughs. Evenings at the old Theatrical Grille on Short Vincent, listening to Glenn Covington
was always a favorite. Upon John entering the club, Glenn would stop what he was playing to switch to “Danny Boy” for John.
After the sale of Moriarty’s, John moved his St. Patrick’s Day celebration to Brendan Ring’s Nighttown with his friend Charlie Keane and others.
Upon learning of John’s death, his neighbor Dan Jaffe posted this to their 9-unit townhome association. “With Lynne’s permission,
I am writing to let you know that our friend, neighbor, leader, mayor, confidante, man of action, humorist and just good guy, John Feighan ,
passed away yesterday. John was a shining light on our little group of homes. He will be long remembered and sorely missed.”
His family will miss him but remember all the wonderful times we had together. Lynnie-Pin, the love of his life for over 62 years,
and their dog Mac will never walk alone. Big John would demand his family be recognized as they were all he talked about!
His favorite daughter Alison Feighan founded her own lobbying firm The Feighan Team in Washington DC.
He reveled in her success and tenacity in bettering life for those less fortunate. If you needed something done, he would say “Just call Ali!”.
His favorite son-in-law, Steve Norton, is an independent writer in DC. His favorite grandson in DC, Lincoln, is an aspiring farmer.
His favorite granddaughter in DC, Rose, is a junior at the University of Michigan (a family educational tradition).
His favorite son John is an Orthopaedic Surgeon at University Hospitals of Cleveland and will miss his dad as a constant referral source.
“My son the doctor” was an incredible source of pride for his father for his professional accomplishments and carrying on the Feighan tradition
of never meeting a stranger. His favorite daughter-in-law Betsy is a pediatrician in Cleveland and was constant source of amusement for
Big John, who forever challenged her demands that “he eat his vegetables”! His favorite grandson in Cleveland, Alexander, is in Cybersecurity Sales
in Cleveland. Alex’s wife, Katy, works for Dealer Tire and is expanding the family very soon with Pa’s first FAVORITE great grandchild.
His favorite granddaughter in Cleveland, Delaney, is a Dietician at Seidman Cancer Center of University Hospitals. Laney’s Fiancee,
Wyatt Lawrence, works in home financing.
For those that want to walk in Big John’s footprints, here are some options: Call your parents daily; a story should get longer and funnier each time you tell it;
treat everyone with respect and seek out ways to help others when you can; tell the people you love that you love them.
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