Jim Shanahan recalled as a big-hearted giant of a man

New Hampshire Sunday News
March 02. 2013 8:12PM

Jim Shanahan, who died last week in Florida, is seen in this photo with his daughter Elizabeth in front of the Ted Williams statue at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla., home of Red Sox spring training. (COURTESY)

Manchester native Jim Shanahan earned two Purple Hearts serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, but refused the second one so his mother wouldn't find out he had been wounded again.

Shanahan didn't want to cause her further worry after he was first wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, patched up and then returned to action, his daughter, Gay Shanahan, recalled. He knew if he accepted the second Purple Heart, his mother would be notified.

"He was a kid. He served valiantly," Gay Shanahan said. "He loved his country."

It's the kind of story people around New Hampshire are sharing this weekend about the longtime Democratic activist beloved as a true pillar of the community - a man universally described as kind and generous as he was successful.

Shanahan, 86, died Feb. 27 in Naples, Fla., where he and his wife, Judy, spent their winters for many years before she predeceased him.

After graduating from Dartmouth College and earning his law degree from Boston University, Shanahan joined his father's accounting firm in Manchester, which later became Deloitte & Touche, where he was managing partner for many years.

Attorney Bradford Cook remembered Shanahan for his work as a senior trustee of the Norwin & Elizabeth Bean Foundation, and the many other hats he wore in service to Manchester and New Hampshire.

"He was active in every civic organization you could think of," Cook said.

The many organizations that benefited from his dedication covered a range of interests. He was president of the New Hampshire Society of CPAs, a member of the Manchester Housing Authority, a trustee of the Derryfield School and served on the New Hampshire Lottery Commission. He was also a tour guide at the Currier Museum of Art's Frank Lloyd Wright Zimmerman House.

"Jim was one of the great leaders in the community," Cook said. "He was a lovely man."

What longtime friend and neighbor Raymond Wieczorek remembers was the time they spent together scouring a Boston baseball card show seeking to add to their collections. "He was always looking for Bobby Doerr memorabilia," said Wieczorek, a Republican and former executive councilor.

Wieczorek said his Republican Party status didn't matter to his good Democratic friend. "As well as being a smart man, he was a good human being," Wieczorek said.

Shanahan was mentor to many, according to attorney Kate Hanna, who served as legal counsel for former Gov. John Lynch.

In fact, it was Shanahan who encouraged Lynch to serve, Hanna said.

"Jim Shanahan was one of my favorite people in the world," Hanna said. "He was such an astute and smart business person while being always kind and gentle toward everyone with whom he interacted."

At a meeting to discuss Lynch's run for governor, Hanna remembered Shanahan's enthusiasm. "He said, 'Let's make this happen.'?"

Shanahan was always generous with his time and money in backing candidates he respected, she said.

"He was a giant and had such a big heart," Hanna said. "You don't always see those qualities in one person."

His son, James Shanahan III, said his father's sports memorabilia and baseball card collection - along with his love of the Red Sox - were legendary.

"You have no idea. My mother referred to the guest room as the shrine to Bobby Doerr," he said.

His father was also interested in political leaders such as Harry Truman and John Kennedy.

Shanahan Jr. said his father encouraged him and his siblings, Gay, Thomas and Elizabeth, to serve their communities as well. The Shanahan family wrote his obituary, summing up a good man's life well-lived.

"Jim's life was a series of well-hit baseballs - his influence was steady and incremental, but he made the plays that make the difference," the Shanahans wrote.

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