"Marie, say hello to my friend..." is how thousands of times Marie Hartigan was introduced to a friend of her father. William J. Hartigan, "The Chief," helped more people during his lifetime than most people ever came to know.
The only son of James and Mary (Bodie) Hartigan, both Irish immigrants, he grew up with his four sisters in The Hill section of New Haven. A WWII veteran who served in Patton's Third Army in Europe, he became involved in veterans affairs upon his return home, becoming Amvets State Commander in 1953.
Not forgetting his roots, he founded and was first President of the Hill Community Council, later expanding his service to athletic and civic groups throughout the New Haven area, and helping gain full athletic scholarships for several dozen local scholar-athletes. "Your father literally shined the light upon the Walter Camp Awards Weekend," a group director recently noted, in recognition of his help in expanding that group's scope and profile.
Year one of his leadership saw the local University of Notre Dame alumni club increase its annual dinner from a dozen to 731 attendees. He went on to become yet another campus legend, the beloved "Chief," at college football's most hallowed ground in South Bend, IN. "We all know of the thousands of people your father helped," a local sports administrator recently commented. "You'll never know of the many others, including my family members."
He served in the New Haven Fire Department for 30 years, attaining the position of Battalian Chief. For four years he was President of Local Union 825, IAFF. His late wife Mary D. (Spinaci) also came from the then predominantly Italian Hill section. Her family soon learned that husband Bill knew Italian better than most.
Her family immediately recognized his know-how and can-do qualities: none ventured far without first seeking his advice and guidance. Mary's husband would later be admitted into the Sons of Italy 'Hall-of-Fame.' A complete listing of the groups he was a member of can't be compiled; the awards and plaques he received are housed in two states.
With daughter Marie and son Bill by his side, he peacefully passed on November 5, 2012, at CT Hospice in Branford. He was 89. He also leaves a sister, Mary H. Young, of Wallingford.
A private ceremony was held in his memory. Colonial Funerals of Hamden, In charge of arrangements. Colonialfunerals.com