Obituary of James J Foley
James J. "Jim" Foley - The family of former Woburn Senior High School principal James J. Foley sadly announces his passing on Friday, March 12th 2021.
Jim was born and raised in the Highlands section of the South End where he formed life-long committed friendships and then, in turn, raised his own family. He never strayed far from the environs of Woburn except for family trips and vacations to Long Beach in Rockport.
Growing up, Jim held numerous positions - first as a paper boy with one of the largest routes in the city, then as a soda jerk at O’Brien’s Drug Store and a counter clerk at Kenny McMurray’s Drug Store. Still, he had time to pursue his sports passions, excelling at baseball and basketball.
Following an education at Woburn schools, Jim became the first member of his family to pursue a college degree at Boston College. He was particularly proud of his Jesuit education, living out the ideal of “men and women for others”. Next, delving straight back into Woburn life, he became a teacher at Woburn High. He enjoyed being in the classroom again, this time at the head podium.
Jim began a family with Judith (Judy) Johnson, starting with Brian, then near Irish-twin Kevin, another year later, AnnMarie. As a means of extra income for his young family, Jim became involved in school sports as a coach in basketball and referee in football. His involvement in refereeing continued throughout his life, at many levels up through Division I, and included instructing and teaching refereeing skills for the New England organization. He also worked nights at “Lucky” Ryan’s Colonial Package store, and summer vacations with Casey and Hayes Movers in Boston, as the John Hancock tower was becoming initially occupied.
Jim also became a member of the National Guard along with many high school classmates, serving for six years attaining the rank of Sergeant. His service was during peacetime, and the story of his most dangerous duty was guarding a beer shipment to the base at Fort Dix to make sure it didn’t become “reallocated”. During this time, a “second family” came along as well with Kathleen and Steven.
Jim was deeply religious. He began his elementary and religious education at St. Charles School, also serving as an altar boy. He was at times a member of St. Joseph’s and Immaculate Conception parishes, returning to St. Charles following their closures. He served as a lector and Eucharistic Minister. For many years he participated in an annual retreat at the Campion Center in Weston.
Referring again to his Jesuit background, Jim was a true people person. He cared deeply about family, friends, and fellow Woburnites. How many readers have gotten a handwritten note or card from Him! He did not care for material goods with any kind of importance. His children chided him for his clothing choices, preferring well-worn garb from gardening chores. His first new car did not come until after retirement. The only “thing” he did seem to care for was the original Woburn High School building, and that only because it was the repository for the people and memories he liked best.
At Woburn High School he advanced from the classroom to Administration duties, becoming one of three of the first Headmasters of that new system, ultimately becoming Principal, the position he held for thirteen years. Dedicated to his profession, well-respected by teachers and students alike, he developed even more life-long friendships from his days there.
Jim was, let’s say, comfortable in his South End Highlands location. During the course of his life, he lived in mainly two locations there, only a few hundred yards apart, spending youth on one side of Green Street and adulthood on the other. Averse to travel, he believed that leaving Woburn required a passport. He did make frequent weekend visits and annual vacations to the Johnson family cottage at Long Beach. Though not a beach person, a sighting of Jim in the water was usually a one and done summer event, he enjoyed that Judy loved the cottage and the beach, and that it was a magnet for family.
And family was truly what was most important to him: from his parents, aunts and uncles, to his siblings, children, grandchildren, and his first great-grandchild, nieces and nephews, Jim was totally devoted. There was no greater enjoyment in his life. He loved hosting cookouts, birthday parties, holidays, any event to gather family and friends and neighbors, where he could share his “Grampy” jokes and puns, as well as “Grampy-isms” and groaners on par with the best of the Yogi Berra-isms. And his family was as devoted and loved him right back.
Jim enjoyed a true Golden Years retirement, life, with grandchildren arriving seemingly annually, totaling thirteen! He also the arrival of his first great-grandchild. His favorite pastime was vegetable and flower gardening in the yard with Judy. Many received the fruits of their labor in the form of tomatoes, zucchinis, and took in the colors and scents of the arboretum-like backyard.
Sadly, Jim suffered from pulmonary health issues which kept him from leaving home much over the last few years. His passport became lost during this time. But, wherever he was became the center of family life and many visits. And it was also where he wanted to spend his final days, where he so fortunately was able to, surrounded by the family he loved. He will be missed so much by so many.
Visiting hours will be at be held at St. Charles Borromeo Church, 220 Main Street, Woburn on Thursday, March 18 from 8:30-9:45 AM. A Funeral Mass will follow at 10:00 AM, with limited capacity due to COVID restrictions. Memorial donations in Jim’s memory may be made to the Woburn Dollars for Scholars, P.O. Box 202, Woburn, MA 01801. Arrangements by the Graham Funeral Home, Woburn.