Denis P. Cronin, police officer, building rehab specialist; Dead at 76

By Tom Long, Boston Globe | October 16, 2004

Prospective real estate speculators sometimes went to Quincy policeman, plumber, and building rehab specialist Denis P. Cronin for advice. One fellow dutifully took notes on a laptop as Mr.Cronin pontificated about the ins and outs of the business.

"I don't think he's going to make it," he told his son Daniel after the gentleman left."Why not?" his son asked."Because there's no button on that computer for hard work," said Mr.Cronin. Mr. Cronin died Thursday at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was 76.

He was a stocky man with a heavy brogue and remarkably thick arms, a result of growing up on a farm in County Kerry, Ireland."He was the third child of a dairy farmer," said another son, John G. of Manchester, N.H., "and you know what they say, 'The oldest son gets the farm, and the others get the heck out.'"

Mr. Cronin immigrated to the United States when he was 22 and lived with an aunt and uncle until he got his bearings. After training as a pipefitter, he served a stint in the US Army,where he made the rank of staff sergeant. He married Margaret M. Riordan, who had grown up on an adjoining farm in County Kerry, though they didn't become close until they were reacquainted at a dance in the United States. They had eight children during 47 years of marriage.

He joined the Quincy Police Department in 1956, shortly after leaving the service, and began his career walking a beat on Quincy Point in the shadow of the 10-story cranes of the Fore River Shipyard. He was a sergeant for 23 of his 36 years on the force.

In 1971, he was commended for apprehending a couple of robbery suspects after they blew out the windshield of his cruiser with a shotgun. Taking classes primarily on weekends and driving back and forth in a car pool with buddies on the force, he earned a bachelor's degree from New Hampshire College, now Southern New Hampshire University, in 1985.

Mr. Cronin worked the night shift and devoted days to his plumbing business. In addition to fixing leaks, installing sinks, and replacing hot water heaters, he rehabilitated buildings. "He bought and sold 38 houses, while raising eight kids," said his son John. The most promising houses he held on to and rented. The others he fixed up and sold. But some were beyond salvation. "You can't make a race horse out of a donkey," as he also said. His sons sometimes helped out on his home improvements projects. "He said, I'll pay you what you work for," said Daniel of Cohasset, "but after the day you might owe me money."

Mr.Cronin's billing system was vague. "People would pay the best way they could, sometimes with a bag of lobsters or a box of cookies," his son Jeremiah J., of Marshfield, said yesterday. At breakfast each Sunday, Mr. Cronin would ceremoniously announce who Notre Dame would play in college football that afternoon and how much they would beat them by, or vice versa. The youngsters were dumbfounded by their father's flawless prognostications, until they realized that the games had been taped the day before and Mr. Cronin was reading the scores in the Sunday paper. Mr. Cronin enjoyed returning to Ireland and marched in St. Patrick's Day parades in Dublin, Galway, and Cork with fellow members of the Emerald Society.

In 1980, he fulfilled what some suspect is every Irishman's dream: He became the proprietor of a new pub, Cronin's Publick House on Quincy Point. But, although he had breakfast there with friends each morning, Mr.Cronin was still too busy with his plumbing and rehab business to hang around much."He was a great guy with a good sense of humor," his son Jeremiah said. "He was a hard worker who earned a lot of sweat equity over the years." In addition to his wife and three sons, he leaves two other sons, Denis M. of Hamilton and Michael J. of Quincy; three daughters, Denise M. McGuiggan of Marshfield, Eileen P. McGrath of Quincy and Margaret M. of Quincy; a brother, John F. of Quincy; and 16 grandchildren. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Ann's Church in Quincy. Burial will be in Hall Cemetery in Quincy.

© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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