Matthew C. Gannon, who along with his wife, Miriam, adopted 23 children and were foster parents to 51 others, has died. He was 88. A long-running joke in the family is that Maryanne, the couple’s only biological child, kept asking her parents for a little brother or sister. When she was 6 years old, they obliged. And they kept on obliging until they had adopted 23 children and been foster parents to 51.
It’s been a long-running joke among the two dozen children of Matthew and Miriam Gannon.
Maryanne, the couple’s only biological child, kept asking her parents for a little brother or sister. When she was 6 years old, they obliged. And they kept on obliging until they had adopted 23 children and been foster parents to 51.
“My brothers and sisters ask me why I didn’t say at some point, ‘OK, that’s enough,’” Maryanne Zeller said with a laugh.
Matthew C. Gannon died Tuesday night at home in Braintree. He was 88.
“As one of my brothers said, 'He was a giant of a man,'” Zeller said of her father. “That’s what he was.”
The Gannons, both devout Catholics, began as foster parents in 1964, and during the next three decades took in children of all ages, races and backgrounds, many of them with disabilities.
“I never thought I’d have this many kids,” Mr. Gannon told The Patriot Ledger in 2000. “You get used to it after a while.”
Regardless of how crowded the house got, Zeller said, her father managed to make each one of his kids feel special.
“He had a different relationship with each one of us,” she said. “He really knew each one of us.”
Mr. Gannon himself was orphaned during the Great Depression and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps when he was 16. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1941 and served in the African, European and Middle Eastern theaters. He was severely injured in 1943 when his plane was shot down over Italy.
Mr. Gannon grew up in the Readville neighborhood of Boston and settled on the South Shore after World War II. He ran Gannon Radio and TV in Braintree and later sold Fords for three different dealerships. He married Miriam Smedile in 1955.
The family lived in Hingham before moving to Braintree.
Mr. Gannon built the family home on Bradley Road and he and his children renovated it several times to make room for more kids.
The Gannons received the Congressional Recognition Award in 1999 and the United Way Courage Award in 2000. The Knights of Columbus recognized the Gannons as the Family of the Year in 2000. In 2001, the Boston Celtics gave the Gannons a Heroes Among Us award.
In addition to his wife and 24 children, he is survived by 20 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 12:30 p.m. Friday at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Braintree. Burial will be in Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne.
Visiting is 2 to 4 p.m. and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Thursday at Clancy-Lucid Funeral Home, 100 Washington St., Weymouth.
The Patriot Ledger