Joseph Maher was a raconteur whose commitment to public service that spanned decades took him from one of the greatest battles of World War II to a U.S. Senate hearing room. Peggy Maher, his wife of 65 years, spent those years on the homefront, raising the couple's five children in Glen Head and staying active as a volunteer.
Peggy Maher died Thursday in her sleep of a heart attack. Joseph died three days later, of heart failure. She was 88. He was three weeks shy of turning 90.
Their deaths marked the completion of a friendship that began when he was seven and she was six and they lived near each other in a Park Slope neighborhood.
During World War II, Joseph Maher served as a Navy lieutenant, receiving battle stars for participation in six invasions in the Pacific, including the Battle of Iwo Jima.
He spent 28 years working for the federal government. While much of his career was dedicated to the FBI, he also helped uncover Mafia involvement in businesses for the U.S. Senate Labor Rackets Committee, which was then run by Robert F. Kennedy, the chief counsel.
Maher's activities on the committee are memorialized in Kennedy's book "The Enemy Within."
Later, from 1965 to 1970, Joseph Maher served as Nassau County's elected sheriff.
During that time, colleagues said, he oversaw New York State's first work release program, based at the county jail.
Joseph Maher, a graduate of Holy Cross College and Fordham Law School, often spoke of the value of education.
He joined Molloy's faculty in 1989, and earned a reputation for enthralling students with history and political science lectures spiced with personal anecdotes.
"He was a lively fellow and great storyteller," said Drew Bogner, Molloy's president.
"The students loved him as a teacher because he could draw on the experiences he had in Washington and as sheriff."
Through all that time Joseph Maher also reveled in his commitment to Peggy, who remained busy raising their family.
At a wake held last night, friends and family traded stories of the enduring closeness from the time they were small children.
One story involved Joseph Maher's love for the football team at his alma mater Holy Cross College and how his love for Peggy may have saved his life after a game he attended one night in Boston.
He was attending the Holy Cross / Boston College game in November of 1942.
Holy Cross upset Boston College and he was planning to attend a celebration at the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston afterward.
Instead, he stayed with Peggy who was helping a sick relative.
A fire broke out at the nightclub, killing nearly 500 people and injuring hundreds more.
Peggy Maher's life revolved around her five children, her husband and her many activities at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Roslyn.
Peggy Maher taught catechism classes at the church and she volunteered in several areas of the parish.
The Mahers are survived by their five children, Kathy Maher, Pat Maher Arcodia, Ann Maher Barlow, William Maher and Peggy Philbin; and 14 grandchildren.
The funeral Mass for Joseph and Peggy Maher is Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Roslyn.