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Francis L. McGonagle

February 11, 1931 October 13, 2019
Francis L. McGonagle
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Obituary for Francis L. McGonagle

On Sunday, October 13, 2019, Frank McGonagle, a loving husband, and father of 5 children, 11 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, passed away in his home at age 88. Frank led a long and full life.
Born in Boston, MA, in 1931, he was raised in the Union Square section of Sommerville, MA, by his parents, Francis McGonagle and Grace (Dardis) McGonagle. He was the brother of the late Gerard McGonagle and the late Marie McGonagle. He attended Boston College as a Greek Classics major, where he developed his love for reading, writing, and literature. In 1952 after graduating from Boston College, he entered the US Army and was eventually stationed in White Sands, NM, where he was trained in a variety of skills related to rocketry and artillery guided missiles.
He met his wife Charlotte (Carlisle) McGonagle while serving in the Army in White Sands, NM, where she worked as a civilian mathematician. Frank and Charlotte started their life together in Kansas City, MO, and relocated multiple times for his advertising career, including Rockford, IL, Overland Park, KS, San Francisco, and Costa Mesa, CA. It was during this time that Frank and Charlotte's family grew almost as fast as his career. They had four children in six years, which didn't stop them from acquiring a constant array of family pets along the way. In 1963, they headed back to the Northeast, where Frank began a 30-year long advertising career with Fram Filters in East Providence, RI. The family eventually settled into the Touisset section of Swansea, MA, a unique neighborhood that sits on the waterfront of Mt. Hope Bay. Frank and his family spent the next five decades living in this community, where he first fell in love with the water and sailing. He was active in the Coles River Club and enjoyed the social life and outdoor activities that abounded in that special place by the water.
In 1966, Frank lost Charlotte in an automobile accident in which he suffered severe burns. While it would take years to recover from his injuries, Frank spent the remainder of his life searching for understanding and meaning as to why the tragedy, that took his beloved Charlotte, happened.
In the years following, Frank married Suzanne (Heinritz) Cox, and they added Frank's 5th child, Timothy, to the mix. The busy household with five children, dogs, cats, and a constant stream of neighbors and friends in the house did not stop Frank from accumulating an inventory of sailing vessels, skiffs, boat trailers, and all of the required equipment associated with a life of boating on Mt. Hope Bay.
Frank married his wife of 41 years, Arlene (Kostek) McGonagle, in 1978. He introduced Arlene to life on the bay, where she embraced the sailing life. Frank and his family cruised and raced many different boats (Penguins, Herreshoff “S”-Class, and J/24s) around Narragansett Bay and Southern New England. Frank also participated in two Marion to Bermuda races with his sons. While they continued to be active in the Coles River community, Frank’s career provided many opportunities for business trips, as well as personal expeditions around the world to learn more about the many places he studied in his lifetime.

It was during these years that Frank, with Arlene’s support and participation, became active in the Phoenix Society, a support organization for burn survivors. He served on this organization’s board and became its president in 1993. The Phoenix Society was founded in 1977 for burn survivors and is the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to empowering anyone affected by a burn injury. The name comes from the legendary bird that lives for 500 years and is consumed by flame but rises again – reborn from its ashes – more brilliant than it was before. Frank was active with committee work and counseling after The Station night club fire in February of 2003
In 1991, Frank left Fram and eventually founded Brenton Productions, a television production enterprise specializing in creating automotive-oriented "how-to" shows. Frank stayed active in the management of this business right up until the last months of his life.
In 2007, Frank and Arlene moved from Touisset to Providence, where they would be closer to the medical services and other offerings of the urban environment. They became involved in the First Unitarian Church of Providence, where they developed friendships and participated in many activities. Frank was also a member of Hamilton House, an adult learning exchange in Providence. He served as a Board member of Hamilton House for six years, and participated in many classes they offered on a wide variety of subjects.
Frank was known for his intellect, love of writing, and a lifelong pursuit of learning all kinds of subjects. He loved to tell a story, was a prolific user of euphemisms, and despite all of the challenges he faced in life, Frank never lost his sense of humor.
While Frank was a sociable extrovert, he was also known for having deep and meaningful conversations with family members, friends, and strangers alike. Frank was generous, inclusive, and accepting of all.
Frank leaves his wife, Arlene of Providence, RI; his son Charles and wife, Elaine McGonagle of Merrimack, NH; his daughter Margaret and her husband Christopher Murphy of Burlington, MA; his son Peter McGonagle and his wife, Kirsten Wolff of Seattle, WA; his son Michael and his wife Nancy McGonagle of Wakefield, RI; his son Timothy McGonagle and his wife Megan Douglas of Queens, NY; his eleven grandchildren: Michael, Ryan, Kyle, Meaghan, Conor, Michael, Charlotte, Erin, Carly, Aidan and Alden; and two great-grandchildren: Gus and Lucy. He is also survived by his sister-in-law, Joan McGonagle, and nephews Gerard and James.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, November 16th 12:00 PM at the First Unitarian Church of Providence, 1 Benevolent Street, Providence, RI 02906 (401) 421-7970 www.firstunitarianprov.org. In lieu of flowers, donations in Frank’s memory can be made to The Phoenix Society Inc. 525 Ottawa Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 (800) 888-2876 www.phoenix-society.org or Hamilton House, 276 Angell St, Providence, RI 02906, (401) 831-1800 www.historichamilton.com.











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