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N.Y., Washington labor leader John Falvella, was 73

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

John Robert Falvella, the father of the Irish Echo’s Washington correspondent, Susan Falvella-Garraty, died of pneumonia at Brooke Grove nursing home in Sandy Spring, Md., late Thursday evening. He was 73 years old.

Mr. Falvella was husband to the former Mary Helen McElligott. They were married for 47 years. Both were from New York.

Mr. Falvella distinguished himself as a scholar at an early age. He graduated with honors from St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School in the Bronx. He received a scholarship to Manhattan College in Riverdale, but World War II interrupted his freshman year. Mr. Falvella entered the Marines and served with distinction in the Pacific Theater. He was promoted to staff sergeant before returning to his studies. He received a Bachelor of Arts with high honors in 1950.

After working as an insurance underwriter for several years, Mr. Falvella launched a successful career in labor relations in New York City. He guided Fuller Construction Company, one of the largest construction companies in the United States, through the building boom in the 1960s as they completed such diverse projects as the Twin Towers, the Lincoln Center, and underground nuclear missile sites in Nevada.

In 1974, Mr. Falvella moved his wife and family — daughters Cathy and Susan and son John — to the Washington area. He helped design and then manage one of organized labor’s most innovative programs. The Stabilization Agreement of the Sheet Metal Industry or SASMI was designed to assist workers not just when unemployed but when underemployed. By coordinating contributions from both Sheet Metal workers and their employers, SASMI could help move workers to where work was available on a temporary basis.

Mr. Falvella promoted the fund’s growth from a few thousand to several million dollars. Mr. Falvella retired from SASMI in 1990. He and his wife enjoyed winters at their condominium in Highland Beach, Fla., and summers in the Manor Country Club community in Rockville, Md., until Alzheimer’s Disease began a terrible encroachment on both his memory and abilities.

Throughout his later years, Mr. Falvella greatly enjoyed the company of his seven grandchildren. He was a longtime parishioner of St. Patrick’s Parish.

Mr. Falvella was the son of Joseph Falvella of New York and Mary Burke whose family came from Cork. He is survived by his wife, Mary; children Cathy Falvella, John Falvella, and Susan Falvella-Garraty, and grandchildren Thomas, Katie, John, Joseph, Bridget, Timmy and Jack.

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