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Andrew J. Foley, 100, of Brookline, MA, passed away peacefully in the David James Hospice Care unit of the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bedford, MA, on Monday, June 27, 2022. The cause was due to the advancing effects of prostate cancer. Please consider making a donation to The Jimmy Fund (directed to the area of greatest need) supporting the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. And now, let us try to sing the eventful story of a man whose life spanned a century.
Born, February 10, 1922, in Boston, MA, youngest of Michael F. (founder and owner of M. F. Foley Fish Company, of Boston) & Helen A. (Moloney), he was extremely gifted in writing and public speaking. He was notably athletic, with early achievements in skiing and mountain climbing; however, his favorite hobbies were love of jazz music and of photography, which he combined together to photograph live jazz performances without the use of distracting illumination. While the entire family was enveloped by and nurtured by the rituals of the Catholic faith, Andrew chose a more complex route and found himself in his youth rejecting the life of faith practiced by the family. He was adventurous, boundary-breaking, even difficult at times. He was such a charming and extraordinary character that life was always an adventure with him.
While he was the active beneficiary of a superior education, at the Newton Country Day School and Amherst College (Class of 1944), he was, as most of the so-called Greatest Generation were, motivated to serve in the greatest world crisis of the 20th century before completing his degree. He decided, however, that he could not be a combatant, and thus volunteered in 1942 to join the American Field Service (AFS), not an official unit in the US Army, which would complicate securing his official status as a war veteran. For decades, he never said a word about what he saw and had to live through at the front lines of combat. In his last years, he finally began to share a few of the searing stories that shaped his urgency and business of living. We only saw Andrew weep a few times ever, and it was the shattering instant loss of comrades to a stray bullet or mortar shell that broke his heart all these years.
He transited from Jersey City on the troop ship, SS El Nil, to Cairo, Egypt, and once arriving there, his company, 485 Coy, was attached to the British 8th Army command in Baalbek, Syria. The company was briefly attached to the US 5th Army during the invasion at Salerno, Italy, in July 1943, and then reattached to support British, Canadian, French, and Polish units in the British 8th Army. His tour of duty ended after the famous Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino, in May 1944. AFS deployed three-quarter ton ambulances in platoons to support ferrying wounded soldiers from front-line field stations to the rear, which meant that he was in constant danger.
While combat represented the gravest risk, one of the singularly life-altering moments occurred in Naples. The drivers usually worked 36 or more hours at a time without a break. The platoon was gathered in the rear for a brief rest, when a devotedly pacificist driver Andrew revered burst into the quarters to share the news that a supply dump with ammunition was on fire, exploding constantly, and that small children were wandering homeless through the streets. He called for volunteers to join him to save the children in the night from the firestorm. Only Andrew joined him. He said that this was the moment that kindled the embers of his faith.
The traumatic crisis of war and faith drove him for some years. Immediately after the war, he sought to live the radically prayer-focused life of a monk with the Carthusian order at St Hugh’s Charterhouse in Parkminster, England. His novice master recognized his passion for philosophy and metaphysics, and guided Andrew to the University of Cork in Ireland. He entered under the tutelage of Father James O’Mahony, OFM Cap, a highly regarded Thomist metaphysical thinker, and completed his BA degree in Philosophy. This choice set him decidedly on the side of Aristotelian reality as the philosophical ground for experience – both human and divine conjoined in the real. As a result, he gained his resolute footing to investigate the actual effectiveness of prayer and meditation, his true life work for which countless many know him.
He continued to examine his experience by attempting to live the balanced work-and-study life with the Benedictine order in Collegeville MN. He also attended the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome to study Latin, which had a lasting impact on the unique, poetic nature of his writing. After a few years, he realized that his calling was to live a faithful life outside a monastic setting. He decided to continue his searching journey at the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, where he specifically went to study under the guidance of two great philosophers, Étienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain.
It was there that he met his future wife, Marie, and as we remember him saying a long time ago, their first conversation lasted all evening, all night into the next day, some dozen hours without cease. O, how he found his truest best friend, what a happy moment. They married and then lived in Avila, Spain, for time for deep study of the works of prayer and mysticism by St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila (for whom their first two children were named). Practicalities called, a family was started, and time to embark upon a career in business (should he find an actual employment!). He struggled to make his way and learned the necessary basics to enter into a brokerage firm as a stockbroker. In a short time, he outworked so many others (following the example of his extraordinary father) and eventually become eminently successful at Tucker, Anthony, and R. L. Day.
However, even as he drove himself in business, he and Marie devoted a major portion of their lives in active involvement in Post Vatican II teaching and reforms, especially with a community of fellow journeyers from Harvard University, MIT, Boston College and Northeastern University, taking hold their children’s intellectual, creative and religious formation. In addition, they became deeply involved in the community of modern artists, psychologists, and philosophers. As well, they nurtured and maintained lifelong associations with the Carthusians on Mt. Equinox in Vermont and the Discalced Carmelites of Brookline, touchstones of deep prayer, study and writing. The man who saved children from bombs had to find a way to understand, explain, and cause change as best he could.
A long life is sure to bring grave shocks and redirection. Deeply painful events, with the tragic loss of their daughter Teresa, the separation from their daughter Claire, and the entire loss of their home and savings, brought him to a fatefully simple proposition – understand how to pray and how it works or perish. This was a very difficult choice, for to do it, he needed the incredible strength of his wife Marie to be the bedrock for him and their family through many long years.
Sometime along this new path, a friend from Montreal learned that the monastic community at the Benedictine Priory of Montreal was practicing a form of meditation associated with their teacher and prior, Dom John Main OSB, which integrated both eastern and western traditions. The friend started an affiliated meditation group and enthusiastically shared the published writings of Dom John with Andrew and Marie. When Dom John came to the Boston area to lead a meditation retreat, it was at that very moment they both looked at each other and said, “this is the way”. They had found the life-saving basis for processing their griefs and more importantly for reaching out and caring for countless others. They then visited the Priory in Montreal, and following the visit, Andrew started a meditation group. Years of weekly of sessions starting at St Paul’s Church in Cambridge, then moving to the generously-offered meeting space by the Youville Hospital and Rehabilitation Center as well as in their own home, brought countless thousands to experience “mindbody” integration through profoundly simple mantric meditation.
A feature of their teaching involved seriously open group dialogue – if something really is worthwhile, it deserves to be examined and tested completely. This principle is the essence of Andrew. In his last days, Marie reminded him continually how so many people told her that Andrew always found some particularly crucial insight to give to each person in need. For some, the life change from his counsel was profound.
These teaching sessions and conversations evolved into a large complex body of written and recorded teaching on the deep level mechanics and nature of meditation. He worked every day to distill this body into a single work, however, as we all say, Dad won’t ever finish that book because it is an ongoing process. Indeed, he continued to write until the very day he entered hospital care for the final time. Nevertheless, we’ll publish the completed work, entitled “Lines and Points.”
When we consider the life of a philosopher, we usually expect someone to be a recluse and have no impact on their local community. To the contrary, Andrew was not only the unofficial “Mayor of Windsor Road” in Brookline, but he was also a well-known figure in preserving the community functioning of his beloved town, with strong relationships across various important personages and initiatives in town. His great community achievement came about through 20 years of advocacy for how to correct the traffic and safety problems on his street.
Andrew is survived by his beloved wife and best friend of 67 years, Marie (Seguin), and their sons, John, his wife Pamela (Friant), their children, Emily and Michael; Andrew, his wife Iris (Chang), their children, Aerin and Anya; and Thomas, his wife Lindsey (Winick), their children, Wyatt and Beckett; and numerous cousins from his two sisters and one brother (all deceased). Andrew and Marie outlived their cherished daughters, Teresa and Claire.
Andrew’s family particularly wants to remember the amazing David James Hospice team. It was under their deeply loving and attentive care that Andrew was able to live his final passage in gentle comfort. For the family, we gained many visits with him filled with peace, acceptance and final loving thanks for a long and intensely interesting life. We cannot imagine a finer care team.
A Funeral Mass will take place on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at 10 AM, at St. Paul’s Church, 29 Mount Auburn Street, Cambridge. Burial will follow at the family plot at the Cushing Knoll in Holyhood Cemetery, 584 Heath Street, Brookline. The graveside service will include military honors. There will be no visiting hours or repast. The family will hold a memorial service for Andrew at a later point, where the many people who loved him will have an opportunity to share their thoughts and memories.
Arrangements are under the direction of Lehman, Reen & McNamara, 63 Chestnut Hill Avenue, Brighton, MA.
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