Thomas F. Harrigan
August 19, 1925 – October 8, 2014
A Daughter Remembers Her Dad
Shortly before he passed away, I thanked my father for giving me a love of history and reading; my fondest memories of him are intertwined with history. I can remember sitting with him when I was very small, paging through Meredith’s “Mr. Lincoln’s Camera Man: Matthew B. Brady.” Echoing the portrait of Lincoln and Tad, my dad explained who these famous people were, and the importance of this era. My dad’s interests ranged from the Civil War (his primary interest), to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as American history from the Revolution through World War II. There wasn’t a historic home or site in North Jersey that my brother and I didn’t visit with him!
His collections – weapons and military items, redware and stoneware, ship models, furniture, candlesticks and antique glass, and pretty much anything he found interesting, could be found in all the rooms of our home. The basement, where he built his workroom and a large rec room, was a small museum. Most nights, he could be found at his workbench, cleaning or repairing a new find, usually listening to Jean Shepherd on WOR radio. I loved to hang over the workbench and listen to him talk about his treasures.
The collecting had begun when he was 16. Born in Long Branch, New Jersey, he grew up in the boroughs of New York. At Bannerman’s, he bought Union surplus jackets—the cavalry and artillery jackets in this auction—from the original packing crates.
One of the youngest members of the Greatest Generation, he joined the Navy on July 1, 1943, when he was 17. He was sent to officer candidate training at Hobart College in New York and Northwestern in Chicago. As an Ensign, he taught weapons and ordinance handling before being posted as officer-in-charge on USS LCT 1274, part of ServPac under the Pacific Fleet Atoll Command. After the war ended, his ship was tasked with inspecting atolls from a base on Eniwetok—his papers include his painstaking diagram of Eniwetok and its anchorages. He loved ships and the sea, and valued his time in the Navy.
He left the service in 1946 to finish college, marry, and raise his family in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He worked in traffic control for Asiatic Petroleum, then as a personnel and office manager for Marconi and later Toyota’s New York Region. But his family and his collections were the focus of his life, and he never stopped learning. He was an officer in the Fort Lee Arms Collectors and New Jersey Arms Collectors, as well as local historical societies, and enjoyed target shooting at the local police range and occasional deer hunting trips.
My parents retired to Jefferson, Maine in 1990, where my dad continued his collecting until illness and a spinal cord injury made it impossible. Tom Harrigan passed away from colon cancer in 2014 at 89; my mom, Ruth, passed away at 94 in September 2018. We appreciate the Poulins’ care of his collection, and I know that my dad would want these items to go to people who will appreciate them as he did.