William F. Scanlan, a father of four, grandfather of 12, and great-grandfather of 10, died June 6, 2021, of cancer at age 83. He was surrounded by his loving family at home in Walpole, MA.
Bill cared for his large family deeply. He was gregarious, good natured, fair to a fault, and so easy to like. He loved to tell funny old stories and jokes, and to play occasional pranks. His deep belly laugh would fill the room.
Born in Boston on April 28, 1938, he was the son of William F. Scanlan Sr. and Frances (Willgoose) Scanlan. Bill grew up in Jamaica Plain with his older siblings, Kenneth Kynett and Alma (Kynett) Lehane. After graduating from Jamaica Plain High School in 1956, he enlisted in the US Air Force and served in the 647th Radar Squadron at Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., until he was honorably discharged in 1959.
While he was in the service, Bill proposed to and married his high school sweetheart, Margaret “Peggy” Myers, a girl he knew from his Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Eager to see his fiancée while he was serving in the Washington area, he would hitchhike home to Boston during his weekends off and then hitch back. Bill made lots of friends while playing on a base softball team, which sometimes came in handy. “He was buddies with the provost marshal,” his youngest son, Tom, recalled. “If he was late getting back to base after visiting my mother, his buddy would get him out of trouble because he was a good softball player.”
Bill and Peggy were married for 60 years, they raised their family in Jamaica Plain and Needham, and then moved to Walpole in 1984. He loved to joke that he’d married “an older woman” since Peggy was born the day before him. Peg would roll her eyes when he told friends and new acquaintances this.
When their kids were young, he’d come home from work on summer days and light his charcoal grill in the backyard. Then he’d spend hours grilling while simultaneously playing catcher for the kids’ Wiffle Ball games. He’d even sneak in a few at-bats – hitting home runs and gleefully rounding the bases in their Needham backyard.
As a Papa, he’d get down on the ground to play with the kids, for hours on end. He’d surprise them with donuts on weekend visits. He’d read the little ones Sandra Boynton’s board books accompanied by funny voices and sound effects. A fan favorite was “Blue Hat, Green Hat (The OOPS Book).” He’d pretend to race their cars when they were leaving his house by running along the sidewalk as they departed. When swimming with the kids, he’d pretend to be a shark and sneak up on them. He once told his grandsons he had “werewolf teeth” when they spied him removing his false teeth.
In high school, he was a standout athlete on the ice hockey team. He even wanted to delay graduation by a year, so he could play hockey for another season and have a shot at the championship. His mother put a stop to that plan. In later years, Bill was a longtime ramp serviceman with Eastern Air Lines, and worked as the night manager for the Shell Gas Station in Needham. He retired from the gas station in 1999. In the 1970s, he earned an associate’s degree from Newbury Junior College.
Always the good Samaritan, he would look out for family, friends, and even total strangers. During snowstorms, he’d pick his sister-in-law Nancy at work to make sure she’d get home safely. When he worked at the gas station, he’d keep an eye out when the clerks at the neighboring convenience store would close up, to make sure they got to their cars safely. If he came across a disabled vehicle on his way home from work, he’d stop and help, frequently changing tires or doing minor repairs. He always hoped others would do the same for his family.
He loved listening to his police scanner, and often warned young family members to behave when they went out because he’d hear if they got in trouble on his scanner. (One or two family members may have gotten caught getting pulled over for speeding.) Each day he read The Globe and The Herald (or The Record, as he still called it) front to back. He loved the puzzle pages and the comic strips in particular – frequently cutting out comics that reminded him of someone and then mailing it to that person. During the pandemic, he made it a point to send lots of cartoons and notes via snail mail to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so he could stay in touch with them. He also became tech savvy, using FaceTime to talk to some far-flung relatives during that time.
He was predeceased by his beloved wife, parents, and siblings. He leaves his sister-in-law Nancy J. Myers and his four children and their spouses: William Scanlan III and his wife, Linda; Cheryl McDonough, wife of the late James J. McDonough; Kathleen M. Scanlan; and Thomas Scanlan Sr. and his wife, Teri. He also leaves two nieces, Stacey Myers and Danielle Beal, and her husband, Dave. Twelve grandchildren: Heather Adamski and her husband, Marc; Kyle McDonough; Thomas Scanlan Jr. and his wife, Kelsey; Sarah Anderson and her husband, Trevor; Kevin McDonough and his girlfriend, Billi Solis-O’Brien; Patricia Smith and her husband, Shawn; Andrew Scanlan and his wife, Jessica; Kathleen, Daniel, and William Scanlan; and Julia and Jillian Beal. Plus, 10 great-grandchildren: Lily, Charlotte Rose, Emma, Hayden, Lucy, Brinley, Isabel, Vera, Everett, and Charlotte Abigail.
Relatives and friends are kindly invited to attend the William’s Mass of Christian Burial in Blessed Sacrament Church, 10 Diamond Street, Walpole, on Thursday, June 10th, 2021 at 10:30AM. Interment will follow at Knollwood Memorial Park in Canton. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the West Roxbury VA Medical Center, Cardiac Clinic, 2000 VFW Parkway, West Roxbury, MA 02911.
Arrangements by James H. Delaney & Son Funeral Home, Walpole.
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