Joseph Timilty’s funeral draws who’s who of Boston politics

Joseph Timilty in his Back Bay office. The former politician is publishing the diaries he kept while imprisoned.
Lane Turner/Globe staff
Joseph Timilty in his Back Bay office.

A who’s who of Boston politics gathered at St. Gregory Church in Dorchester Thursday morning to pay their respects to the late Joseph F. Timilty.

Among the many familiar faces in attendance were Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, House Speaker Robert DeLeo, former mayor Raymond Flynn, former House speaker Thomas Finneran, and Joey McIntyre from the pop group New Kids on the Block.

A standing-room only crowd turned out for the funeral Mass, during which the Rev. Kevin O’Leary reflected upon Timilty’s storied political career.


“Joe was an institution,” said O’Leary. “He gave his life to public service.”

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Timilty, who served as a city councilor and state senator and waged memorable mayoral campaigns against Kevin White, died of cancer on Dec. 22 at the age of 79.

Timilty grew up in Dorchester and was an altar boy at St. Gregory. After attending Boston College High School, he transferred to St. John’s Prep in Danvers, where he was a three-sport athlete lettering in football, hockey, and baseball. He went on to attend Providence College and left during his first semester to join the Marine Corps.

Politics was in his blood. His grandfather, James P. Timilty, was a state senator for whom a Roxbury middle school is named. His uncle, Joseph F. Timilty, was appointed Boston police commissioner by James Michael Curley.

Timilty’s son, Gregory, delivered the eulogy at the church Thursday morning. “This is where it all began,” he said.


He went on to explain how it was at St. Greg’s that his father met his mother, Elaine Benson. They married in 1961 and had seven children.

“He was very proud of being an Irish Catholic. His heritage meant a lot to him,” he said. “He was so proud to be OFD. . . . He was so proud of being Originally From Dorchester.”

He said his father entered politics because he liked fighting for the underdog and helping those in need.

“He got into it for the right reasons,” he said. “He had a great deal of respect for anyone who had the courage to put their name on the ballot.”

He spoke of how he attended countless political fund-raisers with his father over the years, and wished he could have the chance to go to one more with him. “He really cared about public service,” he said.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.