McCARTHY – Thomas H.
Caring for grieving families was far more than just a business for Thomas H. McCarthy, who founded and operated the Thomas H. McCarthy Funeral Home in South Buffalo and later its West Seneca branch.
“He always wanted to help people, and that was just another way for him to do it,” said his daughter Linda O’Connell, one of the four of his six children who followed him into the profession. “His family, his faith and his friends were most important to him.
“He was a wonderful man and he’s left a great legacy.”
For the first 25 years he ran the funeral home, Mr. McCarthy also was a firefighter and later a lieutenant with the Buffalo Fire Department.
Mr. McCarthy, of South Buffalo, died March 10 in Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital after an illness of several months. He was 85.
“He was very proud man,” said his son, John McCarthy. “He loved being a funeral director and was very well-respected among all his peers. He was quiet, but when he spoke everyone listened.”
Mr. McCarthy was born on Aug. 31, 1934, in South Buffalo, the oldest child of Agatha Hayden McCarthy and John D. McCarthy, a Buffalo police officer. He graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas School and was a member of the Bishop Timon High School Class of 1952, where he was an All-American baseball player and football. He attended Canisius College for several years, then graduated from the Simmons School of Mortuary Science in Syracuse in 1956.
In 1957, he opened the Thomas H. McCarthy Funeral Home on Seneca Street in South Buffalo, across the street from St. Teresa’s Church.
He and the former Mary Ellen Evans were married on Nov. 24, 1956, in Holy Family Church, and for several years raised their young children in an apartment over the funeral home before moving to Pawnee Parkway.
In 1958, Mr. McCarthy joined the Buffalo Fire Department, where he worked at Engine 35 at Clinton Street and Bailey Avenue for many years. When Mr. McCarthy was promoted to lieutenant in 1984, he was assigned to Engine 30 at Southside Parkway and Seneca Street. He retired in 1995.
In 1994, Mr. McCarthy opened his second funeral home on Orchard Park Road in West Seneca.
Through the years, he served as president of the Erie-Niagara Funeral Directors Association and chairman of the New York State Funeral Directors Advisory Board and was a member of the state and national Funeral Directors Associations.
A devout Catholic who was active for more that 60 years in St. Teresa’s Church, Mr. McCarthy was past president of its Holy Name Society, president of the Parish Council and co-chairman of the church’s Restoration Drive. He also was a member of its Financial Board, a lector and Eucharistic Minister.
He was past president of the Mercy Hospital Men’s Sustaining Society and a past member of the Finance Committee of the Private Industry Council.
Mr. McCarthy was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus Msgr. Nash Council 3875, the Knights of Equity Court 5, the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 1, the Gaelic American Athletic Association, the South Buffalo and West Seneca Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the Western New York Retired Firefighters Association and the Buffalo Fire Historical Society.
He was active in the Bishop Timon Hillery Foundation Scholarship and served as its general chairman in 1970. He was a member of the Bishop Timon St. Jude Sports Hall of Fame.
Mr. McCarthy was a past president, member of the board of directors and revered member of the Blackthorn Club, the venerable South Buffalo social organization. In 2017, on the 100th anniversary of the Blackthorns’ official incorporation, he recalled attending club meetings at McGirr’s on South Park Avenue, and later at the Abino Grill, where Buffalo City Court now stands. He held the club’s second oldest membership card from when he joined in 1960.
“Back then, I was the youngest one,” he said in 2017, recalling the members’ camaraderie centered around summer picnics, card games and corned beef dinners. To serve as president of the club constituted one of “the highest honors in the City of Buffalo,” he said.
“Nothing has changed from those days when I was a kid,” he said.
The family suffered a tragedy in 1978 when the McCarthys’ oldest son, Thomas H. Jr., died in a traffic crash in California.
Besides his son John and daughter Linda O’Connell, Mr. McCarthy is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen McCarthy; three more daughters, Ellen McCarthy, Mary Karen Stark and Molly McCarthy; his sister, Carol Goldfarb; 12 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.