A lover of music and animals, devoted to family, friends, and his students, former Prep teacher’s legacy is loyalty
Patrick J. Henaghan, a retired Spanish language teacher known for building mentor-mentee relationships that endured long past graduation day with his St. John’s Prep students, passed away at Care Dimensions Hospice House in Lincoln, Mass. on the evening of April 10 due to complications from a cancer diagnosis for which he underwent treatment. He was 66.
Named Patrick Joseph because he was born on March 18—the day that falls between St. Patrick’s Day and St. Joseph’s Day—Henaghan was a devoted Catholic and a natural at cultivating classroom conviviality. He taught at the Prep for 34 years from 1983–2017 following three years at Bishop Fenwick High.
In his time on campus, he served as both World Languages Department Chair (1993–2005) and Lay Faculty Association President (1998–2007). He was also a member of the search committee that hired Dr. Ed Hardiman P’19 ’21 ’26, now the Head of School, as the Prep’s first lay principal in 2003. Hardiman remembers Henaghan as a man “committed to modeling the Xaverian call and one who carried on the legacy of Xaverian education as the number of the Brothers who were teaching declined.”
The son of a teacher, Henaghan called for discipline and attention in his classroom, but tempered that mood with a lightning-quick wit and buoyant sense of humor. Among those he admired most was the late Brother William S. Lyons, C.F.X., his former Spanish teacher at Malden Catholic and later a colleague at St. John’s Prep. He closely emulated the Brother’s style in the school room.
“For Pat, if you weren’t at the front of the room covered in chalk dust with a sore throat at the end of class, you weren’t teaching,” says Chris Lynch, a close friend and colleague of Henaghan’s who teaches German at the Prep.
That technique made an impression.
“From a student perspective, he captivated the classroom with humor,” says Ted Costigan ’08, a friend, former student, and commercial property tax manager at Ryan Financial Strategies. “He could paint pictures with his memories. You wanted to get to class a little early because you could get him going on a story, but then you wanted to work hard to achieve what he wanted. He wanted success for us, so he made sure he developed a relationship with students where everyone could succeed. No one was made fun of, but everyone laughed and he developed lifelong relationships with so many that he taught.”
Henaghan held dear the notion that teachers play a broader role in young people’s lives than pedagogy alone. Longtime colleague Wendy Larivee, who retired from teaching Spanish in 2018, distinctly recalls him putting off retirement in 2016 expressly to help see a student through his senior year. “I asked him if he was retiring and he said, ‘I really can’t. I gotta be around for next year.’ There was this one student he felt he needed to care for, to nurture. And I remember saying, ‘You’re going to stay around for an entire year?’ He said, ‘I really feel like I have to. This boy is really struggling.’ That’s who Pat was.”
Henaghan also shared his compassion and generosity of spirit with his colleagues. Leslie Tremblay, a retired Spanish language teacher, looks back on her late co-worker as a calming influence on fellow members of the World Languages department.
“As chairperson, he supported us so completely and made us feel valuable and valued,” she says. “He was the same way in his Lay Faculty Association role. Any issues you had, whether you were a veteran teacher or new, he was always about keeping people feeling safe and appreciated. He let you know that all the time.”
In a thank you note to fellow faculty members after his retirement, Henaghan wrote, “Know that you make a huge difference in the lives of so many kids every single day, whether it’s through teaching, coaching, moderating, or counseling. As someone once said, ‘Some kids come to school to learn, others come to school to be loved because they don’t get enough.’ You are very special people and I’m proud to have been part of such an outstanding and loving group of professionals.”
RHYTHM AND BLUES
Until moving to hospice, Henaghan lived in the Medford house he grew up in as the youngest of two sons born to Patrick F. Henaghan and Veronica (Byrne) Henaghan. His father was a high school vocational teacher in electronics. Henaghan graduated from Malden Catholic High in 1975 before earning his B.A. in Spanish and Secondary Education at Boston College in 1979. His Master’s degree in Spanish Language Literature was from the Middlebury College School of Spanish in Madrid (1980).
A self-taught musician, Henaghan was a passionate fan of The Beatles and David Bowie, and attended The Rolling Stones’ concerts multiple times. He played the electric bass in a band called The Blues Barons from 2002–2016. Close friends Gene Baron ’70 (vocals /guitar), a Latin teacher at the Prep, and Lynch (keyboard/vocals) were also in the group, along with Prep science teacher Gary Smith (lead guitar).
His love of music carried over to St. John’s, where he attended many student performances and founded a bass guitar club. He was a regular at Prep athletic events and also moderated the Young Republicans Club. Club members Jason Recher ’98 and Tom Hoare ’03 eventually worked in the George W. Bush Administration.
From the moment his teaching career began at Bishop Fenwick, Henaghan garnered a reputation for his deep belief in community as the backbone of the student-teacher relationship. Former student and Prep physical education teacher Danny LeTarte ’86 P’17 P’19, also Henaghan’s colleague for 19 years, recalls the power and enduring nature of the friendships and connections he built.
“Life pulls us in so many directions, yet he always had time on a Friday or Saturday to meet alumni and have a sit-down dinner and talk to them and see how they were doing,” he says. “You’d look on Facebook and every week, he had a meeting with somebody. And this is in addition to being close with his own family. That’s a testament to the relationship he built between teacher and student and mentor and alum. He did it phenomenally. Just a very kind human being.”
Scott Hunter ’17 says Henaghan is someone he’ll remember as more than a teacher or friend.
“Honestly, he was like an uncle to me,” says Hunter, who’s now studying dentistry at Boston University. “I’ve never had a professor who was as interested or cared as much about the well-being of their students the way he did. He was there for me during a really tough time in college. Since I’ve graduated from the Prep, we pretty much got together monthly to talk about old times, his classes [through the years], and what was going on with me. They don’t make them like him anymore.”
Even to the people who knew him best, the breadth of Henaghan’s network of friends wasn’t fully apparent until the final weeks of his life.
“I knew Pat was beloved, but I didn’t know the dimension to which he had impacted so many,” says David McBride, a Danvers-based attorney and Henaghan’s closest friend since they met in their freshman year of high school. “Either his niece, my wife, or I were with him ’round the clock over the last few weeks and we were keeping track of his cell phone. It was just amazing the number of colleagues and former students who have stayed in touch and who sent him these very poignant and meaningful messages. It was a demonstration of just how loyal he’s been and how much he cared. He worried about them like a parent would worry about children.”
Adds Lynch, “Pat’s attitude was: ‘Just because you’ve left Spring Street doesn’t mean I stop caring about you.’ He was a people person and a champion of the underdog. There just couldn’t be a more loyal person as a friend and mentor.”
LEAVE ’EM LAUGHING
Henaghan grew up in a blue-collar Medford neighborhood and his sensibilities and conversational banter reflected those roots. It was common for him to quote lines from movies and TV shows, especially Saturday Night Live and the Carson era of The Tonight Show. It seems Henaghan found comfort in comic relief, especially throughout his illness.
“Pat’s most redeeming quality was his sense of humor,” says McBride. “His wit was unmatched. It was his calling card. He could have easily been a comedy writer or even a standup comedian. He kept that up even when he was very ill. He’s shown in the last couple years that he’s a very, very brave and courageous guy the way he’s faced this thing. I hope when my time comes, I can face it as well as he has.”
Henaghan’s lightheartedness betrayed his keen interest in matters of both academia and music. At St. John’s, he gained a reputation as a strict grammarian and brought an exacting approach to his AP Spanish class. “If I had a grammar question, I’d go to Pat because I knew he’d know,” says Tremblay. Henaghan’s class was long considered the pinnacle of the student experience in Spanish studies at the Prep—the final tier in four-year progression that began with Br. Lyons followed by Ms. Larivee and then Ms. Tremblay.
“I knew every day going into his class that it was never going to be boring,” says Hunter. “He always kept it interesting, always kept it funny. He always had some joke to help us remember conjugations. It was rigorous, but always very lively.”
As a blues aficionado, Henaghan traveled far afield to find the authentic sound. He visited the Mississippi Delta many times over the years during school breaks and in summertime. His most frequent destination was Clarksdale, considered by many to be the birthplace of the genre. A favorite haunt was the Ground Zero Blues Club, owned by five-time Academy Award winner Morgan Freeman. Henaghan befriended multiple Mississippi-based musicians and musical acts in his travels.
“With his health struggles over the past few years, Patrick and I grew closer than ever,” says niece Marissa O’Connor. “I hadn’t been exposed to his St. John’s Prep life much before that. It was incredible to see his relationships with past students and witness their respect, trust, and love for him. It was beautiful. His impact on thousands of students will live on for years to come. He innately mentored them to be the best version of themselves.”
In the 1948 stage drama “Death of a Salesman,” playwright Arthur Miller’s protagonist articulates his view that the most important quality for achieving success is being well-liked. “Be liked and you will never want,” he says. Miller means to portray this motif as reductive and tragic. It’s a pity, it seems, that he never met Patrick Henaghan.
“Hearing from him was always something you looked forward to,” says Costigan ’08. “He was the consummate mentor. He’d check in on us. He’d say, ‘Let’s grab dinner.’ He’d relate to you through music, history, language, and humor. He would always have funny anecdotes, and advice, or just take a few minutes to call and give you a quick story. We’ve lost a very, very good mentor and a friend and it’s painful, but I think, well … when I last saw him at Mass General, he looked at me and winked and said, ‘Catch you on the flip side.’ I think he knew that he’s going to a good place.”
Henaghan is survived by his brother, Michael, his niece Marissa O’Connor and her husband William of Rhode Island, great nieces Delaney and Everly O’Connor, and his nephew Daniel Henaghan of Denver, Colo.
Visiting hours will be held on Friday, April 14 from 4 to 8 pm at Gately Fungeral Home, 79 W Foster St., Melrose, MA. Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Mass of Christian Burial on Saturday, April 15 at 10 am at Immaculate Conception Church, 600 Pleasant Street, Malden.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to tuition assistance or “greatest need” within the Fund for St. John’s.
Listen to your brothers and sisters,
be compassionate with them in their difficulties,
bear with them in their weaknesses,
encourage and support them.
Affirm your brothers and sisters in their gifts,
for by doing so you enable them to realize the
gifts that God has given them for service.
Fundamental Principles of the Xaverian Brothers