Thomas H. Fallon, known as a champion of education during his terms on the School Committee and as mayor in his hometown of Malden, died Monday surrounded by his family after a short illness. He was 68.
Mr. Fallon, who was mayor of Malden from 1982-1986, served as United States administrative law judge for the Social Security Administration from 1994 until the time of his death.
He got an early sense of community from his late parents, Catherine and Henry G. Fallon, who was a sergeant with the Malden police. After attending Malden Catholic High School, he graduated from Boston College and became a Woburn High School teacher. He then served overseas with the Army before getting his law degree from Suffolk University.
Mr. Fallon and his wife of 45 years, Janice, raised 11 children, inspiring Mr. Fallon’s interest in schools “well before early childhood education became stylish to talk about and for the state to fund,’’ said his brother, state Representative Christopher Fallon.
“I always had the impression that he had a great commitment to the school system. That was probably his greatest contribution,’’ said current Malden Mayor Richard C. Howard. “He always wanted the school system to be as well regarded as possible. I think his service on the School Committee is as important as his service as mayor.’’
Thomas Callaghan Jr., a Malden lawyer who worked for Fallon during his mayoral administration, noted his love of his hometown.
“He was a very intelligent man, obviously, but also a leader who gave responsibility to the people who worked for him, and had great trust for the people who worked for him,’’ Callaghan said. “He was a great man, and really made his family and his community a priority over himself, and had Malden very much in his heart.’’
Two of Mr. Fallon’s daughters are in public positions in Malden. Kathryn is the city solicitor and Deborah is a member of the the City Council.
“He had a personal mantra, that he instilled in us: God, family, country,’’ said Kathyrn. “And he completely devoted himself to us. He tried to instill that sense of commitment to the community in us.
“Schools were important,'' she added. "Supporting the staff, supporting the teachers. Making sure the education was progression. It was how he raised us, and that’s basically the motto he used when he was the mayor. He was an educator.’’
After serving eight years on the School Committee, including two terms as chairman, Fallon was elected mayor at a difficult time, just as cities and towns statewide were facing cuts and layoffs when the tax-limiting law, Proposition 2 1/2, took effect in 1982.
He was 39, and already had 11 children.
“There were layoffs of police, fire, teachers, public works. I remember those times very well,’’ said Deborah Fallon. “And in fact, why I remember it is that prior to going to the high school, in junior high, my whole class walked out because of the layoffs of the teachers. It was that type of time. Ninth graders, walking out almost in the form of a picket, because their favorite teachers were being laid off. And that was a situation he couldn’t ignore.’’
Soon, his daughter recalled, police, teachers, and other city workers were being rehired as the new mayor found ways to streamline expenses and tap other funding resources.
As mayor, Mr. Fallon also established a Human Rights Commission, spearheaded adoption of the first Human Rights ordinance in Malden, and the appointment of the city’s first affirmative action officer. He also established a beautification program that continues today and has served as a model for many other communities.
“I think [his] legacy continues on in a political way,’’ said Howard. “But for anyone who has met his children, the impression you get is that they’re so well raised and
professional in the positions that they hold, and are very respectful. And I think that’s the nicest thing I can reflect upon, what a family he raised.’’
Visiting hours will be held at the Immaculate Conception Church, 600 Pleasant St. Malden from 4-8 p.m. Friday. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated in the church at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Burial will be at Forest Dale Cemetery, Malden.