The funeral for Tom Farrell, former member of the Michigan Historical Commission, is tomorrow, Wednesday, December 31, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Gerard Catholic Church, Lansing, MI. Tom passed away early Christmas morning, age 86.
When I received the honor of an appointment in June 2007, I joined a Commission with Tom already a member. He had been appointed to the position August 16, 2005, by Governor Granholm, because (as I heard from an informed source) his good friend Attorney General Frank Kelley thought he would be a good addition to the State's longest standing history body.
The obituary notice I received says the following:
He was well-known among state agencies for his public relations work. In the span of his nearly 50-year career Farrell served as the public information officer for many state government agencies including the Michigan State Highway Department, the Michigan Commerce Department, and the Michigan Department of Education. He also worked for the Michigan Catholic Conference and as an administrative assistant to former U.S. representative John C. Mackey.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, January 15, 1928, Tom Farrell graduated from Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School in 1946. Farrell started his career in the news business as an 8-year-old selling nickel newspapers to churchgoers at The Shrine of the Little Flower Parish in Royal Oak. Later, he attended Aquinas College where he met his wife Marilou. In 1946 he worked as a sports reporter for the Grand Rapids Herald before moving to the Grand Rapids Press. In 1949 he hired on with the United Press and covered the 1950 elections before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He spent two years as editor of The Cardinal, at Camp Atterbury, IN, before returning to Lansing to work as the Capital Correspondent for UPI. One of the highlights of Farrell’s half-century career was his coverage of the opening of the Mackinac Bridge in 1957.
In 1959 Farrell went to work as the Public Information Officer for the Michigan State Highway Department under the direction of John C. Mackie. During his tenure Michigan led the nation in freeway construction. In 1964 highway commissioner John Mackie won a U.S. House seat and Farrell went with him to Washington to serve as his administrative assistant. Two years later he returned to Michigan to work as the Public Information Director at the new Michigan Department of Transportation. Following this position, in 1968, he was the Public Information Director for the Michigan Catholic Conference under Francis J. “Jerry” Coomes; he held the same title for the Department of Commerce under Dick Whitmer from 1969-72. Farrell spent the next 13 years, 1972-1985 working as the Assistant Superintendent for Legislation and Public Affairs at the Michigan Department of Education.
In 1985 then-Chief Justice G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams hired Farrell to be the Public Information Officer for the Michigan Supreme Court, where he worked until his retirement in 1993. Farrell also worked under Chief Justices Dorothy Comstock Riley and Michael F. Cavanagh. Farrell was previously quoted as saying, “I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had some of the greatest bosses in the world.”
Farrell was a member of the Michigan Historical Commission, was president of the Michigan Press Association, a member of the Michigan Broadcaster’s Association, and a lifetime board member for Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. He also did public relations and media operations for various political campaigns.
Thomas is survived by his eight children, Richard, Grand Ledge, MI; Thomas, Michael (Carol), Mark, Susan (Douglas) Lenon, Lansing, MI; James (Jane Greenway) Okemos, MI; Mary (Robert) Moffett, Pierson, FL; and Nancy, Weslaco, TX; his many grandchildren, great grandchildren, great, great grandchildren, nieces and nephews; sisters Joanne Chapin, IL; Mary Cagney, OH; and Lois, Lansing. He was predeceased by his wife of 61 years, Marilou, their son Patrick, daughter-in-law Gail, daughter Catherine, and granddaughter Sara Rivera. The family wishes to invite those whose lives were touched by Tom to join them in celebration of his life Wednesday, December 31, 2014, at 10:30 a.m. at St. Gerard Catholic Church, Lansing, MI. Burial at St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Lansing, MI. Visitation is Tuesday, December 30, from 2:00-4:00 p.m. and 6:00-8:00 p.m., with Vigil Service at 7 p.m. in the Tiffany Funeral Home, 3232 W. Saginaw St., Lansing. Viewing will be from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Wednesday at church. Friends may visit the guestbook at www.tiffanyfuneralhome.com. In lieu of flowers donations may be made to organizations supporting Alzheimer’s research and care.
According to Gongwer, "Mr. Farrell was praised by reporters as a man of tremendous knowledge, humanity and integrity." And: "Mr. Farrell was someone who knew everyone, knew their history and the history of current issues. He was an invaluable source to reporters, knowing what they needed and what they did not, and never tried to oversell a story. And in a political climate where people often were looking over their shoulders, Mr. Farrell was unafraid to be direct either to reporters or the people he worked for. He also had a tremendous sense of fairness."
Thomas Maurice Farrell served this State and its citizens loyally and with great dedication practically his whole life. I am grateful for our paths having crossed. Condolences to his family.