CORNER BROOK — It’s not unusual for 20 or more people to gather at the Farrell family home to celebrate Christmas, a birthday or just being a family.
And even though they gathered on Monday to mark the loss of the head of the family, they did so not by mourning, but by celebrating his memory.
Dr. Tom Farrell died on Saturday at the age of 87. The well known and well-loved family physician practised in the city from 1955 to 1971 when he entered provincial politics. After retiring from politics in 1979, Dr. Farrell returned to his practice for a short time.
Born in Sligo, Ireland on Nov. 25, 1924, Dr. Farrell studied medicine at the University College of Dublin.
He came to Newfoundland in the 1940s and spent time in Bonavista and St. John’s before answering the call to practise on the west coast.
He set up first in Aguathuna and it was while in that area he met his wife Margaret. They would later go to Montreal where Dr. Farrell started studies in orthopedics before returning to Newfoundland and settling in Corner Brook. Here they raised their children — Cawley Hallegraeff, deputy-principal of a private school in Tasmania; Robert, a surgeon in Carbonear; Patricia Jean Finestone, a nurse; Moya Farrell, a radio announcer in Halifax; Tom, a local physiotherapist; and Kerry Yates, a local nurse.
His first practice in the city was on Main Street and he later opened the West Coast Medical Clinic. He also served as a city councillor.
Margaret said anyone who knew her husband will remember him going out on house calls. Not only did he visit patients, but if they couldn’t afford to pay for their medications, he would pay for them himself.
“So we were broke all our lives,” she said with a laugh.
That his family says, was just the type of man he was.
“He would give the shirt off his back to anybody,” said Kerry.
“He believed in giving. He was very fortunate and because of that he gave to others.”
Moya said her father was “the kindest gentlest soul you could ever imagine.”
She said growing up their home was the place that everyone wanted to go.
Dr. Farrell suffered from lupus and when he was unable to drive he’d enlist his children as chauffeurs.
“They loved seeing him coming,” said Moya of the patients they’d visit. She said they’d often have a meal waiting for him and paid him in bottles of jam.
Dr. Farrell was also a great storyteller and teller of jokes. He was an avid fisherman who loved to spend time at the family’s property in the Codroy Valley.
During his eight years in politics Dr. Farrell represented Humber East as a member of the Progressive Conservatives. He held many portfolios and served as president of the executive council and as deputy premier.
He was also a leader in the establishment of Western Memorial Regional Hospital and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.
Dr. Cliff Westby said Dr. Farrell is the “sole reason” he decided to go to medical school.
Dr. Farrell was his uncle.
He started working with him in 1970, and when Dr. Farrell retired Westby took over the practice.
The thing he’ll miss most is the advice his uncle was only too willing to give.
“If I had a medical problem I used to love to chew it over with him.”
He said Dr. Farrell was like a medical encyclopedia and after talking for a half-hour your problem was mostly solved.
“He was an all round great human,” he said. “He had tremendous faith and love for his family, I think he had tremendous faith and love in the province and he dearly loved his church.”
Dr. Michael Maguire agreed that Dr. Farrell was a very spiritual man in his Catholic faith.
Maguire, a retired St. John’s dentist, met Dr. Farrell in 1953. Being Irish they shared a connection that lasted many years.
He described his friend as a very honest man with a beautiful mind.
“He became a great Newfoundlander and reared a great Newfoundland family and loved them dearly and loves this country dearly.”
The two shared many a laugh over the years, including jokes about their various ailments.
Just recently Maguire said Dr. Farrell told him ‘I’m ready to go. I have the bags packed.’”
He said this was quite fitting and characteristic of his friend.
Besides his wife and children, Dr. Farrell leaves behind 10 grandchildren.
Visitation will be held on Thursday at Fillatre’s Funeral Home on St. Mark’s Avenue with the funeral service on Friday at Holy Redeemer Cathedral on Mount Bernard Avenue.
The service will be followed by a celebration.
“Because that’s what he wants,” said Kerry. He wants us to celebrate his life. He doesn’t want us to mourn. He wants us to celebrate.”