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Monday, December 5, 2022


Sept. 10, 2002 – Alexander A. Farrelly, the territory's first elected Democratic governor and the only chief executive to have served in the legislative and judicial branches as well, died Tuesday at his home in Arlington, Virginia, following a long illness. He was 78.
Late Tuesday, Gov. Charles W. Turnbull declared a period of mourning throughout the Virgin Islands to continue until sunset on the day of Farrelly's interment. Turnbull also directed that flags in the territory be flown at half staff for the same period.
Farrelly, a native Crucian, served as governor from 1987 to 1995. He was the territory's fourth elected governor, and the first elected as a Democrat. He also was one of just two governors to have been re-elected to a second term thus far — the other was his immediate predecessor, Juan F. Luis.
Farrelly grew up in Frederiksted, graduating in 1940 from St. Patrick's Parochial School. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving with distinction until his honorable discharge six years later. He went on to earn a bachelor of laws degree from St. John's College in New York City and then a master of laws degree from Yale University Law School.
In 1955, he began his legal career in New York. Soon after, he became a Caribbean specialist at the United Nations, with responsibility for preparing studies evaluating the constitutional, economic, social and educational development of territories administered by France, Britain, the Netherlands and the United States.
He returned to the territory in 1962 to become an assistant U.S. attorney and was named a judge of the Municipal Court of the Virgin Islands in 1965 by Gov. Ralph Paiewonsky. Two years later, he became a partner in the St. Thomas law firm of Birch, Maduro deJongh and Farrelly.
In 1966, he was invited by the Unity Democrats to run on their senatorial slate. Running as an at-large candidate for the 7th Legislature, he amassed, 7,324 votes, at the time the most ever received by an elected official in the territory. He was returned to the 8th Legislature as a Democratic senator representing the St. Thomas-St. John district.
It took Farrelly three tries to win election to Government House. He was the Democratic Party standard bearer in the first election of a Virgin Islands governor, in 1970, losing to Republican Melvin H. Evans. Four years later, he ran again, losing in the run-off to Independent Citizens Movement candidate Cyril E. King.
He was elected president of the Virgin Islands' Third Constitutional Convention, in 1977, and served as general counsel for the Fourth Constitutional Convention, in 1980.
He was elected a Democratic national committeeman for the Virgin Islands in 1976, a position which he held until l998.
The late Earle B. Ottley, long a Democratic Party kingmaker in the territory, described Farrelly in his 1982 book "Trials and Temptations" as "a brilliant attorney and effective senator, widely respected as a man of great intelligence, charm and strength and possessing a mind of his own and the courage to carry out policies even if unpopular."
Among his accomplishments, Farrelly is remembered for spearheading the effort to purchase The West Indian Co. from Danish interests that had owned it from the days before the territory was acquired by the United States from Denmark. The acquisition gave the Virgin Islands control of the cruise ship dock in Havensight and provided future chief executives with a new official residence, on Denmark Hill.
In a Pride magazine article in 1986, during the campaign that would lead to Farrelly's first term as governor, he was quoted as saying one of his priorities would be to reform the education system, including the delegation of authority to school principals. "The specific concerns of schools can be addressed by those who know them best," he said.
Today, the lack of such "site-based management," as it is now called, is an issue in the territory's efforts to secure reaccreditation for three high school and first-time accreditation for the fourth.
The governor's final days in office were mired in controversy as he issued several controversial pardons, including one for Raphael Joseph, one of the men serving multiple life terms in mainland prisons for the 1972 murder of eight people in the "Fountain Valley massacre" on St. Croix.
Farrelly and his wife, Joan Harrigan Farrelly, were married while he was in office. They moved to Virginia several years ago so that the former governor, who had Parkinson's disease, could get specialized medical care. Death came at about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
His daughter Allyson Farrelly Catanzaro said Tuesday afternoon that funeral arrangements are pending. Catanzaro, the owner of a travel agency in Connecticut, said her father's body would be returned to the territory for services "but at this moment those arrangements haven't been finalized."
Farrelly's son Richard, an attorney on St. Thomas, said he would like everyone to remember his father "for the great person he was, not only as a politician, but as a father."
Told of how kind and helpful Alexander Farrelly had been to another lawyer's legal secretary when she was new to the island many years ago, Richard Farrelly said Tuesday evening, "That sounds just like him. He would do anything to help anybody."
Alexander Anthony Farrelly was born in Frederiksted on Dec. 29, 1923. He is survived by his wife, Joan; daughters Allyson Catanzaro and Velma Dunbar; sons Richard and Philippe Farrelly; brothers Stanley and Ivan Farrelly; sisters Mary Jones, Ann Christian and Eugenie Farrelly; grandchildren Seth Farrelly, Luis and Catherine Catanzaro, Keno Walcott and Nefertiti OBryan; and great-grandchildren Nhaquifa and Sekani Russell.
He was preceded in death by a son, Steven Farrelly, in 1975, and by his first wife, Catherine "Betty" Spenceley Farrelly, in 1982.

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