John Corcoran, 1923-2003
No. 3700 John Corcoran
In Remembrance of John Corcoran
Past President, Director, and longtime supporter of the Dorchester Historical Society, John M. Corcoran passed away on October 22, 2003 at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 80 years old.
John Corcoran was born and grew up in a three-family house across the street from St. Margaret’s Hospital, a sprawling complex of brick buildings atop Jones Hill. He would acquire the site later in life after the hospital ceased its operations and convert the complex into St. Mary’s Women and Infant Center, which, under his guidance, became a highly successful non-profit enterprise providing close support for unwed mothers and their children.
A graduate of St. Peter’s Elementary School and English High School, John became a decorated member of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. As one of a handful of “pathfinders” he parachuted behind enemy lines into Normandy the night before the D-Day, June 6th, 1944, invasion of France. Receiving a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart for his service, he returned home to earn a degree at Boston College in three years. He entered the real estate business in Upham’s Corner and in 1951 formed the John M. Corcoran & Co. Real Estate and Insurance, with offices above the Oriental Theater Building in Mattapan Square.
Joined by his brothers Leo and Joe, John expanded his company into one of the largest and most prominent real estate development firms in the Northeast, constructing over 15,000 apartments as well as substantial office and research and development facilities in New England and the Southeastern United States.
John was a leader, proponent and advocate for the real estate industry on the national, state and local level. He held various offices in the Greater Boston Real Estate Board, founded the Real Estate Council at Boston College and in 1981 was named Massachusetts Builder of the Year. He was a Trustee of Suffolk University, served as chairman of the University’s Building Committee, and later received an honorary Doctor’s Degree from that institution.
John Corcoran never forgot his Dorchester roots nor lost any of his deep and abiding interest in Dorchester’s history. He was an earnestly committed Director and patron of the Dorchester Historical Society, serving as its President in 1978. The Society enjoyed his beneficence, usually sub rosa, on a number of occasions over the years. His contributions ranged from providing the properties with protective windows, to presenting the Society with an antique Simon Willard banjo clock, to bequeathing young Elizabeth Clapp’s 1818 memorial needlework which he had conserved, then donated in memory of Josephine Bellamy Severy. John’s sustaining interest in the James Blake House, particularly in its architectural aspects, led him recently to provide a major gift, one of the Society’s largest, to fund a comprehensive Historic Structures Survey of the property, which he often would refer to as a “neighborhood treasure.”
John’s many philanthropies in different areas caused Boston College President William Leahy to say of him: “He was very giving and generous. He didn’t like the limelight, but he did so much good. He was just a fine human being.” A long-time trustee of Boston College, he helped establish the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning there in 2002.
Husband of the late Mary F. (Lovett) Corcoran, he leaves two sons, John M. Corcoran and Thomas M. Corcoran, both of Milton, five sisters, Sister Theresa Corcoran S.C. of Quincy, Mary Corcoran of Dorchester, and Claire Carten, Bernadette Richards and Frances Richer, all of Milton; two brothers, P. Leo Corcoran and Joseph Corcoran, both of Milton, and five grandchildren.