Cantalician Center for Learning

60th Anniversary Spotlight Series

April 2016

John "Jack" KelleherJohn "Jack" Kelleher began volunteering with Cantalician Center for Learning in 1961 before the agency was officially incorporated. It was the year his 5-year-old daughter Maureen Kelleher first enrolled at the organization. The Kelleher family was referred to the Cantalician Center by long-time family friend and former school Chaplain Rev. John T. O'Shea.

"Maureen is legally blind and hearing impaired so Father O'Shea felt the Cantalician Center would be the perfect place for her to go to school," said Mary Ann Kelleher, wife of Jack and mother of Maureen.

Jack was a "well-respected" leader in the organized labor trade and a Business Agent of Asbestos Workers, Local #44 from 1972 until his retirement in 1992. His expertise in the trades and concern for his daughter compelled him to get more involved with the organization. Jack was the President of the Cantalician Center Parents Guild in the 1960s. The Parents Guild was comprised of parents and friends of the agency. Its mission was to help parents "adjust" to the stresses of having a child with disabilities. The Guild would meet monthly at the former school building on Main Street to allow parents to socialize or listen to lectures on ways to help their children.

From 1983 through 1995, Jack also served on the Cantalician Center Board of Directors and unofficially held the title of Board President in 1967. He was very connected in the local community and instrumental in helping take care of Cantalician Center's former Eggert Road facility. One year, he even spearheaded a project to replace the windows at the building.

Mary Ann Kelleher believes it was Jack's "gift of gab" that kick started his long volunteer career at Cantalician Center.

"Jack was very outgoing and very involved. He supported the things the Felician Sisters were doing with the school," said Mary Ann. "There was something about Jack that made him easy to talk to and he got things done."

John "Jack" Kelleher, Sister Raphael Marie, Eugene Wisniewski and Joseph MakiewiczBut, it was more than the mission of providing services to children with disabilities that drove the Kelleher family to be involved at Cantalician Center. Mary Ann recalls enjoying the yearly spaghetti dinners and times when families would get together every Saturday night to celebrate birthdays or socialize at the school on Main Street.

"There would be a nice meal. Sometimes the people that prepared lunch for the kids would leave us some delicious leftovers. The kids enjoyed it, but so did we. We needed it," said Mary Ann. 

With a big smile on her face, Mary Ann talked about the many occasions where the Felician Sisters would find Maureen exploring the third floor at the Main Street building.

"They would tell me, 'Maureen was found exploring the building again.' Jack and I would just laugh. We never did find out what was on the third floor, but we thought it was very funny that she was so fascinated with going up there," said Mary Ann.Jack Kelleher Building on Eggert Road

Jack passed away on September 1, 1995. The Cantalician Center dedicated its former Eggert Road facility to him on March 12, 1996 in commemoration of the work he did for the organization.

"All five of our kids were there. We got a kick out of it. They were very proud of their father. He was well-liked and had a great personality," said Mary Anne. "You don't expect a person to have a building named after them. I still pass by it today and feel very proud of him."

After Jack passed away, Mary Ann served on the Cantalician Center Board of Directors from 2000 to 2004. Their daughter Nancy Kelleher Craig also held a seat in 2005.  Mary Ann says when Maureen was little they would worry about what she would do after graduation, but "thanks to Cantalician they knew what to do with her" and she is still thriving today. Maureen is still with Cantalician Center working at its new division of employment services, Diversified Labor Solutions.

"Maureen works very hard. She doesn't like to sit around or socialize. She loves working and making money. The family is proud," said Mary Ann.

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