Feature Obituary: Francis McGillicuddy, 82, stood up for his beliefs
By EMMA BOUTHILLETTE, Staff Writer January 5, 2010
Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more
about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look
for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's
family and friends in lasting ways.
PORTLAND — Francis McGillicuddy lived an "intentional life" as a community leader.
"Francis was a very sweet, gentle man who just really lived his values in every way," said his longtime friend Claire Brannigan.
Whether it was discussing moral or ethical issues, cultivating his 8,000-square-foot property into a permaculture demonstration, supporting his wife's endeavors or seeking social justice, Mr. McGillicuddy stood up for his beliefs, "no matter what the consequences may be," said his friend Lynn Kuzma.
Mr. McGillicuddy died Sunday at age 82.
Originally from New Brunswick, he studied at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and pursued a degree in philosophy and theology at St. John's Seminary in Brighton, Mass. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 1958.
His work in social justice and seeking peace began during the Vietnam War. He sponsored a young man who won conscientious objector status from the federal court in Portland, and considered it a turning point in his life.
By 1972, Mr. McGillicuddy had left the priesthood. He married Elaine (Goulet) McGillicuddy, a former nun he had met in 1968 while she was assigned to Colby College – before she left the covenant in 1970.
She said their relationship was "underground" as they waited for permission from Rome to be married.
"I've been a lucky woman living with this man," his wife said. "He's been so open on all fronts, yet he is his own man."
After getting married, Mr. McGillicuddy began working for the Portland Housing Authority. For 23 years he was a social worker supervisor, mainly for Franklin Towers.
State Rep. Herb Adams of Portland said he worked often with Mr. McGillicuddy in that capacity.
"He had a very sweet touch with elders. He had to be ready with sympathy and ready with solutions," Adams said, as he dealt with residents' issues as well as family and community conflicts.
As an advocate for social justice and equality, Mr. McGillicuddy was one of the founding members of Greater Portland's Martin Luther King Day celebrations, Adams said. But Mr. McGillicuddy didn't need a holiday to fight for equality and peace, said Adams, who recalls his friend saying, "It's a day on, not a day off."
Brannigan said Mr. McGillicuddy was in Monument Square every Wednesday for years, holding up signs for peace.
His wife said they spent two years campaigning against torture. They would hold up signs urging the closure of Guantanamo Bay and decrying any form of torture, she said.
She said he learned right along with her as she developed a passion for yoga, Aramaic chanting of the Lord's Prayer and the Beatitudes and Dances of Universal Peace.
Together, they founded the Portland Yoga Studio in 1989 and operated it until 2005. For 11 years during that time, the couple taught yoga weekly at the Cumberland County Jail. They also were featured in three-minute segments on a local news station each week, with Mr. McGillicuddy demonstrating yoga positions as his wife described them for viewers.
She said he would always learn from her interests, and as a teacher she enjoyed that.
"I teach the next generation," as a professor of political science at the University of Southern Maine, Kuzma said. "They don't have that same kind of civic sense that Elaine and Francis embody. He was an incredible role model."
Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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