Between his day and side jobs, Michael Lehane put in the hours to make sure his children had an easier go of it than he did in Ireland, where he was the 17th of 18 children and grew up on his family's farm in County Cork.
"One of the things I can say about Dad was that he raised the bar kind of high for us in terms of how you behave as a man," said his son Gerry of New York City. "He pretty much was somebody who said, 'It's got to be done,' and he did it. He didn't whine about it, he just did it."
Come Sunday, Mr. Lehane set aside work for God and family. The day began with Mass at St. Margaret's Church in his Dorchester neighborhood, followed by an impromptu gathering at the home of one of the handful of Lehane siblings who lived in Dorchester or Jamaica Plain.
"Sunday was always family day, that was guaranteed," said his son Thomas of Medway.
"Family was the most important thing to him," said his daughter, Maureen Welch of Plymouth. "On Sunday afternoon, we'd go visiting. It wouldn't be announced. Somebody would just show up at somebody's house. And there were always stories. Morning, noon, and night, there were stories."
Mr. Lehane, who spun fond memories of childhood but was glad to live in a place where a pension came with his 35-year pin at Sears, died Monday in the Life Care Center of Plymouth of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 88 and in retirement divided his time between homes in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Cape Cod.
"That's where I think I got my love of storytelling," said his son Dennis, of Tampa, Fla., and Boston, whose best-selling crime novels such as "Mystic River" and "Gone, Baby, Gone" were made into movies. "One thing they say about my father is that you never heard a bad story out of him."
Still, for Mr. Lehane there was a difference between massaging truth into a better tale and outright fiction, for which he had little use.
He didn't read fiction (even mine), didn't watch movies, and after they canceled 'Bonanza,' the only TV show he ever watched was '60 Minutes,' " Dennis wrote in an e-mail. "When I told him and my mother that Clint Eastwood was going to make a movie out of one of my books, my mother said, 'Oh my!' And my father said, 'Who's Clint Eastwood?' "
Shrugging off popular culture, Mr. Lehane preferred to read newspapers, particularly when there were plenty of stories about President John F. Kennedy, whose framed photo was a fixture in the Lehane household.
His own stories usually were "about the old country and how it was over there," Thomas said. "There was no heat, and they heated with peat, which they dug out of the fields. He'd tell us how he grew up and just how dramatically different it was from how we were growing up."
To ensure a they had a better life, Mr. Lehane worked as a shipping and receiving supervisor at a Sears distribution center near Fenway Park. He supplemented that income with landscaping and house painting on weekends, or by taking occasional part-time jobs.
"The guy was always working," Thomas said. "My biggest memory is that he worked and we never wanted for anything. We weren't rich, but there was always food on the table, and of course, we all went to parochial schools. He never made a whole bunch of money at Sears, but he somehow managed to put us all through parochial schools and Catholic high schools."
Michael Joseph Lehane was born in Drimoleague in County Cork and raised on his family's farm in Clonakilty, but there was no agreement as to when he was born.
Officially, his birthday was Jan. 1, but the story goes that the town hall burned and, absent documents, babies born around that time were assigned a Jan. 1 date of birth. Mr. Lehane thought he was born Oct. 5; some of his sisters insisted it was Oct. 9.
Four of the 18 Lehane children died as infants or very young. The age range for the other 14 was such that "the legend is -- and I think this has been mostly confirmed -- that the youngest brother never met the oldest," Dennis said. "The oldest brother was in America by the time the youngest was born, and in those days, you didn't just hop across the pond."
As the second-youngest, Mr. Lehane harbored no hopes of taking over the farm, so he boarded a boat for the United States in his mid-20s and found a new life in Boston.
One night, Ann Folan attended a dance for Irish-Americans, and "as I hear the story, my father came laughing across the room and my mother got interested and he was interested in her," Maureen said.
They married a year later, in 1952.
"My mother pretty much was the rising and setting sun for him," Gerry said. "I've never seen a man never lose that adoration. This is a guy who would come home with flowers for no reason at all. It was just astounding to see that level of continued devotion."
In addition to his wife, daughter, and three sons, Mr. Lehane leaves another son, Michael Jr. of Braintree; a brother, Jerry of London; and six grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Friday in Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta at St. Margaret's Church in Dorchester. Burial will be private.
Mr. Lehane, it should be noted, "was never a self-conscious person," Gerry said.
"My God, the way he would dress sometimes. He'd wear shorts and white tube socks and Oxford shoes, but he had such a jaunty confidence in himself that it worked,'' Gerry said. "It was, 'This is what I'm comfortable in, and I don't give a hoot what you think.' He knew what made him happy and was very comfortable in his skin. That's something that wasn't cultivated, it was just part of who he was."
And although he was an authority figure by necessity, particularly when he needed to keep teenaged sons in line, Mr. Lehane was cheerful and "one of the most charming guys I've ever met," Dennis said.
"He couldn't go anywhere without talking with everyone he met," Gerry said. "Strangers or people he knew, it didn't matter. He really just loved people's company."
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