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John Feighan
Spreading Good Will
From Moriartys to Murray Hill

It was in Lakewood, Ohio that John Feighan was born the only son, or, as he puts it "The only perfect child" of his German and Irish parents. He has three sisters, Mary Jo, Roseanne and Kathy.

He went to St. James and St. Luke's Grade Schools in Lakewood and then went to St. Ed's where he is a proud member of the graduating class of 1955. He spent a year at Georgetown but graduated from John Carroll University with a BA in History and Philosophy.

Johnny Feighan in 1941

Johnny Feighan in 1941

A mere three days after he graduated in 1960 John married his lovely wife, Lynne. Lynne is now the Director of the Botanical Gardens here in Cleveland.

John's family owned the Standard Brewing Company, or as everyone knew it best Erin Brew. Every summer during high school and college, John worked in the brewery until the family finally sold it to the Schaefer Company in 1961.

Standard Brewing Company of Cleveland case

Standard Brewing Company of Cleveland case

John stayed on with Schaeffer until they solid it in 1964 and John started his own company - an automobile leasing company.

Auto leasing was unheard of in 1964 and he and his partner Dick Kelly spent 15 very good years with Keelfee Leasing. Around 1990 they sold the Leasing Company and John went into the world of retirement - or more accurately, the volunteer world.

He is very active in many charities including the fight against Cystic Fibrosis.

John Feighan and Cystic Fibrosis award plaque

One of numerous recognitions
for John Feighan

He has been running special events for them for over 15 years. He volunteers at University Hospital a couple of days a week as a Greeter, and once you meet him you know just how much that could cheer a patient up.

He and his family have always been involved in politics. Yes, the Feighan names we are all familiar with are close relatives of John's. There's congressman and judges, but maybe most important of all was his grandfather's position as Grand Marshall of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1937!

John Feighan and his father on Euclid Avenue

John Feighan and his father
on Euclid Avenue

John has worked on many campaigns. He himself ran for Mayor of Shaker Heights in 1990. Although he was unsuccessful he enjoyed the campaign and still enjoys politics.

John Feighan for Mayor of Shaker Heights

John Feighan for Mayor of Shaker Heights

In addition to the brewing company, John's family owned Moriarty's Bar on 6th Street and Short Vincent. His father was an attorney and represented Mr. Moriarty.

Moriarty told John's father about his desire to sell. Since John's father owned a brewery he couldn't legally own the bar himself, but one night in 1953 he came home and told his wife, "Rose, I just bought you a bar."

From 1975 until they sold it in 2003, John ran the operation of the bar. Every St. Patrick's Day he would sit at the door and greet people, and of course, got to know absolutely everyone in Cleveland!

John Feighan at Moriartys

John Feighan at Moriartys

He wore a very special hat knitted for him by a barmaid at the Theatrical. He also wore white pants embroidered with green shamrocks to complete the outfit.

Lynne and  John Feighan

Lynne and John Feighan

John and Lynn have 2 children. His daughter Allison is a lobbyist for non-profit organizations in Washington D.C. She is married to a reporter for the Congressional Quarterly and they have 2 children (Rose Feighan Norton and Lincoln, who John refers to as "the little Republican".)

His son, John E. Feighan is an orthopedic surgeon and is married to Betsy, a pediatrician and they also have a boy and a girl (Alex and Delaney Rose).

Among John's affiliations is something best described as a social club. It started in the 80's and is known as the Raccoon Club. "It's a group of guys that used to go to The Blue Fox or The Silver Quill - something like an amateur Rotary."

Everyone had a different occupation and they got together every day for lunch. In the beginning the group just got together, but had no name.

John Feighan and the Raccoon Club

John Feighan and the Raccoon Club

Then, member Steve Jackshaw (Jackshaw Chevrolet) was playing golf in Miami one day with none other than Jackie Gleason. Gleason asked him about staying another day but Jackshaw had to get back because his group was having a reverse raffle.

Gleason was surprised to find out the group had no name and jokingly suggested they call it the Raccoon Lodge, after the famous Ralph Cramden, Ed Norton hangout. When Jackshaw returned to Cleveland he mentioned this and the name Raccoon Club was christened.

Whenever they came in, the bartender would put up a sign saying the group was "In Session".

John Feighan in tuxedo

John and Lynne have a home in Naples where they spend a month or so and they visit their daughter in Washington whenever possible. He's been to Ireland three times, but the next trip will be to Italy.

"Now that I'm living in Little Italy I'm really interested in seeing the country. I think I'm the only Irishman living here, and I love the area."

He is a devout Catholic and is active in his parish, Holy Rosary. He is on the Finance Committee; a Eucharistic Minister; in charge of the Acolytes and serves for visiting priest, Fr. McCarthy when he comes to Holy Rosary. He has the highest regard and respect for pastor, Fr. Phil Rocca.

"I am closer to my Church now then I ever was. Sometimes we meet some person in our life that makes a difference so dramatically that you are almost forced to change. Fr. Phil was that guy for me. I used to be a wedding-funeral-Christmas-Easter Catholic. Now I go to Mass almost daily and Fr. Phil is the reason."

John Feighan in Little Italy

Not the usual hat you'd see in Little Italy

You would expect to see him at an Irish Festival, or maybe tipping a few with friends at an Irish Pub. But you probably wouldn't expect to find him where you will - playing Bocce Ball at Alta House or having coffee in Presti's in Little Italy.

He moved to a beautiful home in Little Italy and John, who lived in Shaker Heights from 1968-2000, loves his new neighborhood.

"My very first date with my wife was at Teresa's Pizzeria on Murray Hill."

John Feighan playing Bocce Ball

John Feighan playing Bocce Ball
outside the Alta House

He even plays Bocce Ball on a team every Thursday night. They came in second last year and are in the playoffs this year.

John is also on the Board of Alta House and the Board of Little Italy 2000, which is a redevelopment committee concentrating on improving the neighborhood.

John Feighan with his Little Italy view of Cleveland

John Feighan's view

The 1978 Cleveland Magazine listed John as one of Cleveland's Most Interesting People, and rightly so. The quote beneath his photo in the magazine reads "His Irish wit and sense of humor help draw patrons to his establishment. Among his hobbies: "Going to wakes".

It was actually his daughter's idea to list going to wakes as a hobby, since she noted he seemed to do this more than anything else. "A couple nights a week I'd either be at Corrigan's, Barry's or Chambers." He remembers going to Barry's Funeral Home right after the Cleveland Magazine article and a total stranger, attending a service in another room, asked "the famous wake-goer" if he would come and lead a prayer for them. Of course, he did.

Remember Moriartys?  John Feighan Business Week magazine cover

Remember Moriartys?

"I still go to a lot of wakes. The trouble is, I used to go because my mother said I should go and pay my respects to someone the family knew. Now, I'm going to dear, close friends' wakes and that's very sad."

And just to be sure, every morning he goes to "the Irish Sports Page" in the paper and checks the "F's" to make sure his name isn't there!

John is a member of The Sons of Geronimo, a group of 30 or so members, all native Clevelanders, who are absolutely avid baseball fans. They meet twice a year and usually have either a player or a broadcaster come and talk to their group. The last meeting they were happy to have Bob Feller.

John Feighan in suit

Another of his organizations is the Blue Coats. The Blue Coats started in 1953 by Gordon and Vernon Stouffer and Fred Crawford. The men were going to Africa on a trip for the Cleveland Zoo. While they were gone a Cleveland police officer was killed. When they got back they started a fund to financially help the widows and children of officers killed in the line of duty.

There are 275 members, all by invitation and John has been a member for 25 years. The group now supports families of Fire, Police, or EMS officers. They help pay for funerals, pay off mortgages, educate the children - whatever needs there are The Blue Coats try to fill them.

"When it was started there were no benefits like there are now, so some things are a little different. But you can bet within a few hours after a service man or woman is killed, the director of the Blue Coats is knocking on their door with a check to help them get through the hard times in the beginning."

John looks at life in this way:"Having lost my father from a heart attack at the age of 60, I thank God for every day I exceed his all too short time on earth. Many times when I attend a hockey game to watch my grandson, a recital by my granddaughter or visit my other grandchildren in Washington, I think of the many events he missed seeing his grandchildren grow up.

John and Lynne Feighan and family

John and Lynne Feighan and family

As I get older I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, give a special hug or slip then a "fiver" like I know my Father would have done.

What do I want to be doing in l0 years? Still be around to see them graduate from college, get married and then take my great grandchildren to Morton's for lunch!"

John Feighan in his home office

John Feighan in his home office

On January 23, 1937 John Feighan came into this world and he has brought smiles to part of it every day since. It doesn't matter whether he is having fun with the Raccoon Club or his Bocce Ball Team, or distributing the Eucharist at Holy Rosary.

He could be sipping coffee at Presti's or offering support to a young police officer's widow. It really doesn't matter what he is doing - it's all about how he does it.

Himself - John Feighan in Irish hat

Himself - John Feighan

He does it with an open heart, a huge smile and a genuine concern for other people. There isn't a phony bone in this loveable Irishman's body - he's the real deal.

He may have roots in the land of Blarney, but there is nothing but sincerity in what he does and what he says.

Update: Here's a 2007 photo of John and Lynne Feighan at members night at the Botanical Garden where John has played Santa for the past few years.


Profiled by Debbie Hanson

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