Conal Cormac Foley of Winthrop, Massachusetts, the son of Daniel Foley and Elizabeth Verkampen, was born on March 12, 1927, and passed peacefully on August 27, 2022 with his loving and grateful family surrounding him. He was the last surviving sibling of ten, with seven brothers and two sisters: David, Robert, Martha, Roger, Maura, Padraic, Donal, Mel, and Evin. His childhood in Winthrop, aided and abetted by his at-home gang of siblings, was full of adventures usually reserved for storybooks. Seven of his siblings, including Conal, served in WWII.
After lying about his age and enlisting in WWII, he returned from the occupation of Austria (where he claimed that he spotted his future wife and apple of his eye - who was about 5 years old at the time - while skiing down the Italian side of the Alps) and spent his remaining youth traveling the continent and attending Catholic University in Washington DC with his brother Mel, achieving a BS in Biology. Among other adventures, his travels found him on a shrimp boat in the Gulf of Mexico, riding as a cowboy on a farm in California, and, to his later regret, helping break ground for the soon-to-be Logan Airport. Conal’s career path ultimately landed him in the Boston Public Schools, teaching Biology at various schools including East Boston High, and finally, Boston Latin Academy. He was a favorite teacher of many, and thereby got out of many a speeding ticket on Bennington Street because he was recognized by former students who became policemen.
Conal was a life-long activist, educating us all on the perils of pollution of all kinds, extreme capitalism, and selfish waste. He marched (with his wife and children) against nuclear power, and helped found the Green Party in Massachusetts. He was an alternate delegate for McGovern in the 1972 Democratic Convention in Miami. His local environmental focus was Belle Isle Marsh between East Boston, Revere, and Winthrop. He was also active with Veterans for Peace, marched to oppose segregation and in the very first Walk for Hunger, and worked for many other justice and environmental movements. He ran (and lost) for State Representative three times. He sued the Boston School Committee in 1966 because he refused to adhere to any political ideology, including taking the Anti-Communist and Loyalty oaths, which he called “unconstitutional and obnoxious.” Conal never backed down from a political fight that he truly believed in, and was influenced mostly by Dorothy Day who started a newspaper called Catholic Worker to raise awareness of church teachings on social justice.
He was a dedicated and mischievous father, husband, and uncle. With the looks of James Garner and the humor of Walter Matthau, he loved games (playing backgammon and chess in tournaments), wordplay, jokes, tennis, music, and company in the house (as long as they didn't overstay, in which case he would flick the lights to make his point). Conal and his wife Luisa married in 1963 and raised their family of three daughters in the house where he grew up. He was a Renaissance Man, cooking and cleaning along with his wife and daughters without a thought of gender roles. He took in pets of all kinds, carrying baby chicks home on the subway from his incubation project in the classroom. The sounds were confusing to his fellow travelers, but he never let on that they were coming from his own briefcase, looking around in confusion like everyone else. In addition to chickens, he brought home ferrets, rabbits, homing pigeons, an octopus (discovered in the refrigerator by his youngest daughter), a snake (pulled from his briefcase) and more at various times. He loved to climb trees (to prune) and telephone poles (to set up osprey nests at Belle Isle Marsh), much to his wife’s horror. Around town in Winthrop, Conal could be seen well into his eighties riding his bike to coffee in the Center. He was an avid reader (notably of Native American life, laws, and culture), a prolific poet, a frequent letter-to-the-editor writer, birdwatcher, and true nature lover, taking his family on extended camping trips each summer.
Conal is survived by his wife Luisa Garberoglio (Bologna, Italy) and their daughters Leonora, Daniela, and Erica; his grandchildren Cormac and Fiona MacPhail, Theo and Bitanya Shah, and Eloise Farnsworth; his sons-in-law Christopher Farnsworth and Nikhil Shah, and numerous nieces and nephews. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. As he would say, “Checkmate, my friends!”.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend the visiting hours at the Maurice W. Kirby Funeral Home 210 Winthrop St. Winthrop on Friday September 9th from 4:00 to 7:00 pm. A private burial will take place at Belle Isle Cemetery at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations in his name may be made to the Friends of Belle Isle Marsh, PO Box 575, East Boston, MA 02128, or the Natural Resources Defense Council. https://act.nrdc.org/donate/force-for-nature/ Celebration of Life will be held later in the year.