March 16, 2017
Ann Regan, mother of Regan Communications Chairman George Regan, died peacefully at her home at Marina Bay in Quincy on Thursday. She was 93-years-old. Mrs. Regan was known to many as the “First Lady of Boston PR” after helping her son launch one of the most successful public relations agencies in the U.S.
Mrs. Regan’s story is a quintessential Boston story. She was born Ann Theresa Kowalski on August 27, 1924 and raised by her sister Mary in the South End after the death of their parents. The Great Depression was looming and she experienced numerous hardships during her childhood as her sister Mary studied to become an accountant while taking odd jobs to put food on their table.
Inspired by her sister’s resolve, Ann attended Cathedral High School in the South End where she discovered a passion for learning and gained the skills needed at the outbreak of WWII when men went off to war and the women went off to work.
Ann Regan got a job in the airline industry hiring and training flight attendants at Logan Airport. She had the opportunity to travel the world but told friends that “no other city compares to Boston.” Boston was her home and Boston is where Ann fell in love. It happened in an instant while taking the bus to work one day. She met a man named George Regan, who was also on his way to work at the Boston Naval Shipyard. The two struck up a conversation and then rarely left each other’s side in the decades that followed. The couple soon married and had three children; a son named George, and two daughters Marianne (Foley), and Patricia Ann.
The family bought a small home in Quincy and spent warm summer days with fishing rods in hand hoping to land a big catch. Ann was the best fisherman in the family and landed the biggest catch of the all – a giant fish that earned her an award from the local Sears and Roebuck Store. Embarrassed by the attention, she placed the winning catch in her son George’s name. Later during a ceremony at the store and with camera’s flashing, a reporter asked little George what it was like to land such a big fish. The boy shook his head and pointed to his mother.
“I didn’t catch the fish, my mother did,” he said.
Ann’s earlier embarrassment grew as the cameras and the attention turned to her. What Ann did not know then was that she had exposed her son George to the media and also to the need for good PR. George Regan is quick to share that story with anyone who asks how he got into the business.
Mrs. Regan was a strong supporter of her son’s career, first as spokesman for legendary Boston Mayor Kevin White, and then as founder of Regan Communications Group. During her son’s work for Mayor White, Mrs. Regan participated in the rebirth of her beloved city as the Mayor transformed Boston with an historic urban renewal project. She celebrated Boston’s Bicentennial with the Mayor and his wife, Katherine White, who became her close friends.
“In many ways, Ann Regan was the true heart of Boston,” remembers Katherine White. “She had such passion for the city and the progress we were making. The Mayor and I were very fond of her. I used to joke that Ann and my husband spent so much time together that I thought they were dating.”
Former Mayor Ray Flynn said Ann Regan shared her concerns and hopes for Boston with him as well.
“She truly had the pulse of the city,” Flynn said. “Ann would often comment to me about something positive that was happening in our neighborhoods. She had tremendous pride and bore much of the responsibility for making Boston a better place for families to live.”
Ann Regan also served as a “den mother” to Boston’s future leaders; former Boston and New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, and former Congressman William Delahunt.
“Like the son she was so proud of and devoted to, she was a remarkable woman and loving mother,” said Bratton and his wife, CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman.
“Ann Regan was a mother who throughout her life supported and loved her children,” Delahunt added.
Mrs. Regan collected friends like many people collect coins. She enjoyed the company of others and was always in the middle of the best conversations at her son’s many, many parties and fundraising events. Ann Regan was also a huge New England Patriots fan, attending five Super Bowls, but more importantly, forming a friendship with team owner Robert Kraft and his late wife Myra.
“I was saddened to hear of Ann’s passing,” Robert Kraft said. “She was a strong, valiant lady with great character. Much like her son, she was very personable and had a magnetic personality. I always enjoyed my time with her and I know that she will be missed by all who knew her.”
Former Massachusetts Attorney General Frank Bellotti shared that sentiment.
“She was a wonderful woman and had an amazing connection with her son George,” Bellotti said. “This will be a tremendous loss for him. She devoted her life to him and he cared for her right up to the very end.”
Mrs. Regan helped her son start his own company in the 1980’s and served as his closest counsel, guiding him through difficult life and business decisions.
“My mother had a tough childhood and she instilled that toughness in me and my sisters Marianne and Patty,” George Regan said. “If we screwed up, she told us so and when we succeeded at something, she told us not to get a big head. My mother always stressed to us what she felt was the most important thing in life, that was being good to the people around you.”
Ann Regan, was predeceased by her husband George, their daughter Patricia Ann, and her sister Mary Kowalski. She leaves behind her son George Regan of Marina Bay, daughter Marianne Foley and husband Jerry Foley (owner of J.J. Foley’s) of Wollaston, and seven grandchildren and eight great-grand children.
Relatives and friends are respectfully invited to attend the visiting hours on Tuesday 4-8 PM in the Keohane Funeral Home, 785 Hancock St., QUINCY. A Celebration of Life Service will be held in the funeral home at 9:45 AM on Wednesday prior to the Funeral Mass in St. Ann’s Church, Quincy at 10:30 AM. Burial in Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston.
Donations in memory of Ann may be made to MSPCA, Attn; Donations, 350 S. Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02130.