Leo Mahoney, owner and founder of Eastern Minerals, dead at 82

June 10, 2010
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Leo D. Mahoney, a Lowell businessman with substantial holdings in Chelsea and throughout the world – and with a long history of philanthropy here and wherever he did business – has died.

Mr. Mahoney, whose salt pile on Marginal Street is perhaps one of the best known, most easily recognized and at times controversial landmark along the Chelsea waterfront, had been fighting ill-health for the past two years.

Complications from lymphoma and congestive heart failure, in addition to a half dozen maladies that added to his physical difficulties, succeeded in bringing the story of his life to an end at the Boston Medical Center last Wednesday with his family gathered around him.

He was 82.

Mr. Mahoney did not want to die. He loved life. He loved his life and his family. He fought his illnesses with the courage and strength that made him a successful businessman. He never gave in to the illnesses any more than he was inclined to give in when he was part of a business negotiation or when he found himself in the middle of a good fight.

His body gave out but his spirit to live never left him, according to family members. Not until the very end.

Recently, Mr. Mahoney reached a Pax Americana with the city government of Chelsea after fighting off and on for 30 years to maintain the right to conduct his business on Marginal Street.

In a complicated but generous business arrangement with the city, Eastern Minerals will maintain its position on Marginal Street in return for the Mahoney Family donating a public park along the waterfront as well as donating $500,000 toward the completion of a new playing field in addition to the total refurbishment of Highland Park.

“He worked until the day he went into the hospital for the last time,” recalled his daughter, Shelagh.

“My father was a very persistent man with a great imagination who never gave up. He wasn’t just my Dad. We were buddies,” she added.

Mr. Mahoney’s relationship with Chelsea began in the late 1970’s when he purchased the former Coast Guard Station on Marginal Street by the Meridian Street Bridge.

At this time during his life, he had already worn the vestiges of what would become part of local lore and legacy – the black bowler hat and the fine cigar for which he was so well known and identifiable.

In many respects, he was a common man without affect of any kind who rose from humble beginnings to preside over Eastern Minerals, which he founded with his brothers David and Daniel in the 1950’s, housed their entire operation in a trailer located between the salt piles on their Marginal Street property.

This is where Mr. Mahoney and his team conducted their business for many, many years and felt very comfortable. Although he had become a wealthy man over the years, the trappings of wealth were unimportant to him.

Only recently did the company take on new surroundings in a wonderfully appointed suite of modern offices in a historic brick building in downtown Lowell.

Mr. Mahoney was born into an Irish American immigrant family in Lowell. He was the third of four sons born to David and Beatrice (McCann).

His father came to the United States from Ireland, from Rock Chapel, where the Mahoneys had lived for centuries.

Rock Chapel is a small village in the North of County Cork near the Mullaghareirk Mountains. The area is famous for its traditional musical heritage. Rock Chapel got its name from the penal times in Ireland when the Catholic religion was banned in Ireland. Mass was said on a rock in a remote area.

Mr. Mahoney’s mother came from Fermanaugh, the home of Irish literary greats Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde.

They left Ireland at the turn of the 20th Century and settled in Lowell.

Mr. Mahoney’s father went into the coal and oil business.

From his earliest youth, Mr. Mahoney worked for his father’s fledgling company.

“He was delivering oil and coal by the time he was 13,” his daughter recalled. “And as he remained close to me and my children and to all of his children, he was extremely close with his mother and father as well.”

This child of what might be referred to as Old Irish type immigrants to the new land would spend his life in Lowell.

“This is where he was born. This is where he stayed. Lowell was home. It was where he was from. He saw no reason to live anywhere else,” his daughter recalled.

During a long life, Mr. Mahoney was a daily communicant at St. Patrick’s Church in Lowell where he attended mass every day when he was in the city.

He lived on the same street as his daughter – and he took great pleasure in spending time with his grandchildren – and with all his grandchildren – who considered him the king.

He was a medium sized man with very fair skin and sparkling blue eyes.

It was those sparkling blue eyes, and his hearty, personal, down to earth manner that helped him to become friends with those he met all over the world.

And there was his voice, strong and distinct, hearty and captivating, right to the end.

He had his enemies – but as City Manager Jay Ash said: “There wasn’t much to hate in Leo Mahoney.”

Mr. Mahoney was waked Tuesday afternoon at the Dolan Funeral Home in North Chelmsford.

He was buried Wednesday morning in St. Patrick’s Cemetery following a burial mass in St. Patrick’s Church.

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