Painting depicts former Northampton Mayor James Cahillane and John F. Kennedy
NORTHAMPTON — The Cahillane family held a mini-reunion in the mayor’s office Tuesday as nearly a dozen members of the Irish clan gathered to unveil a painting of patriarch and former Northampton Mayor James Cahillane with John F. Kennedy.
The portrait depicts Cahillane, who was mayor from 1954 to 1960, standing next to Kennedy two years before he was elected president, when he was a U.S. senator. Kennedy was in town in June 1958 to meet with local leaders, including Northampton’s mayor, at a Prospect Street home. That home is now owned by Robert Cahillane, a son.
“I’m very honored and my dad will be honored to be back in the mayor’s office,” said James F. “Jim” Cahillane, one of his six children.
The portrait brought back many memories for family members who attended a presentation in current Mayor David J. Narkewicz’s office Tuesday.
Son Michael Cahillane recalled attending JFK’s inauguration with his father on a frigid day in January 1961. As the pair stood in front of the White House, a “cavalcade of cars” headed off to the inaugural ball.
“As the cars were making their way out of the driveway, the whole procession stopped and the window went down in the president’s limousine, and he said, ‘Hello, Mayor Jim, how are things in Northampton?’ ” Michael Cahillane said.
Daughter Maureen Cahillane remembers eating breakfast at the Hotel Northampton with Kennedy and other members of her family.
“I remember him saying to the waitress that was the best three-minute egg in two minutes,” she said.
The painting’s journey to City Hall began a few months ago after Narkewicz spotted it during a visit to Downtown Auto Sales, a Pleasant Street dealership owned by Chris Cahillane, the former mayor’s grandson. It didn’t take him long to ask if the family would loan it for display in his office.
The painting, by an unknown artist, now hangs in the office entryway directly across from a portrait of Calvin Coolidge. At the time of Kennedy’s visit, Mayor Cahillane was one of only two Irish-born mayors in the United States.
“I thought it would be really appropriate to have a portrait of a former mayor like that hanging in the office,” Narkewicz said. “I’m really honored to have members of the Cahillane family here with me.”
Chris Cahillane said the family has displayed the painting at its car dealerships over the years, but the family is glad it has a new home.
The painting was commissioned by James Flavin, the father of Nancy Flavin, a former state representative from Easthampton. He had been an employee of Cahillane Motors. It was inspired by a 1958 photo in a new book called “The Irish Legacy: A History of the Irish in Western Mass.” Jim Cahillane contributed to that book.
Tuesday’s event included James Cahillane’s sister Tess Collins, the youngest of 10 children; five of his six children including Jim, Steve, Robert, Michael and Maureen (another child, Jack, is deceased); and grandchildren Chris, Daniel, Deborah and Richard.