Thomas L. Flanagan, 81, spent 3 decades helping alcoholics

November 02, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

For more than 30 years, the sound of Thomas L. Flanagan's calm and reassuring manner helped alcoholics take that first important step on the road to recovery.

Mr. Flanagan, retired executive secretary of the local Alcoholics Anonymous office, died Monday of complications after heart surgery at his home in St. Petersburg, Fla. He was 81.

The former longtime Rodgers Forge resident was the only paid employee of the Baltimore AA office from 1965 until he retired in 1989 and moved to St. Petersburg.

"He really had the personality for the job, and I can't stress how important that first contact is," said Bill from Cockeysville, a member of AA for 40 years and a recovering alcoholic.

Bill explained that the alcoholic must make the first call before he can be picked up and taken to an AA meeting. Mr. Flanagan's patience, firmness and understanding made him the "ideal man for what can be one hell of a job," Bill said.

It is impossible to count how many alcoholics Mr. Flanagan eventually sponsored, Bill said. "Tom knew the benefits of the 12-step program, which is the basis of AA, because he had been there himself," Bill said.

During Mr. Flanagan's career, the public perception of alcoholism changed significantly.

"Not so many years ago, a person could lose their job because they were an alcoholic," Bill said. "There was a certain stigma that went with it until it was declared a disease rather than a weakness. He was there through all of those transitional years."

"It obviously became a very large part of his life, and he never stopped living the 12 steps," said a daughter, Mary Jo Cook of Glenarm. "He derived a great deal of joy out of his work and succeeded in helping many, many people."

Mr. Flanagan was born and raised in Charles Village, attended SS. Philip and James Parochial School and graduated in 1933 from Calvert Hall College.

He was a manger for Rice's Bakery for many years, before going to work for AA.

He was described by his daughter as an "easygoing man who was proud of his Irish heritage and delighted in telling family stories."

Family members said he remained a devoted Calvert Hall alumnus and seldom missed the annual Calvert Hall-Loyola High School football game.

He attended St. Pius X Roman Catholic Church, 6428 York Road in Rodgers Forge, where a memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, the former Isabel McCulloh; a son, Thomas Patrick Flanagan of Baltimore; three other daughters, Mary Jane Lambie of Ellicott City, Mary Agnes Flanagan of Baltimore and Mary Michael Flanagan of Augusta, Ga.; 10 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Memorial donations may be made to the Calvert Hall Scholarship Fund, 8102 LaSalle Road, Towson 21286; or to St. Jude's Children's Hospital, 332 N. Lauderdale St., Memphis, Tenn. 38105.

Pub Date: 11/02/96

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