Posted: June 6, 2003


By Celia Cohen

Grapevine Political Writer

John P. "Pat" Healy, a state Democratic and union leader with a sunny disposition and a knack for peacemaking in the rough-and-tumble scramble of politics, was killed early Friday morning in a one-car accident near Rehoboth Beach.

Healy, 52, of Whethersfield near Bear, was alone in his Dodge Durango at 12:55 a.m., when he apparently drove too fast to negotiate a curve on Bay Vista Road and hit a tree. He wasn't wearing a seat belt and was thrown from his car, according to the state police.

Friends believe Healy was on his way to stay at his parents' house in the area after a long day Thursday of political and union activities that took him from upstate to downstate and were going to continue into Friday.

Healy was the Democratic Party's state vice chairman, a post he held since 2001. He also was the business manager of Local 313 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, headquartered on Basin Road near New Castle, and a director of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority. He was a family man, too, leaving behind his wife Lois and three daughters.

Healy's life was an inseparable mix of Democratic politics and labor unions, and wherever he was, he was considered indispensable. Word of his death left everyone from the governor to union workers stunned and mourning as it burned like a flash fire through the state.

"Pat Healy was a very, very good friend, and I am just shocked and devastated today," said Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, a fellow Democrat. "He was a person whose easygoing personality helped people around him get along, so he was great to work with. But he always was looking out for the working people he represented. I can't believe he's gone. I will miss him terribly, and I hope everyone will keep his family in their thoughts and prayers."

"He could light a room up sometimes," said state Rep. Michael P. Mulrooney, a New Castle area Democrat who also had served as an IBEW officer with Healy.

Like so many others, Mulrooney considered Healy to be just the sort of leader needed by the labor unions, someone comfortable with business executives and workers, someone versed in the ways of Legislative Hall, someone who was intelligent, personable and progressive.

"He was one of the brightest young leaders of the union movement, that new breed that would rather avoid confrontation. There are a hell of a lot of people who are going to miss him," said John D. Daniello, the New Castle County Democratic chairman who also was grounded in the labor unions.

"He was the very essence of a modern, effective labor leader. He had the unusual capacity to make people think cerebrally instead of viscerally," said Democratic State Chairman Richard H. Bayard. "I wish we had a million like him. We have suffered a very serious loss, the labor unions and the Democratic Party."

Steven J. Horgan, the IBEW assistant business manager, said Healy made the union hall run. "Everyone was in the loop here. He'd let us do our job. If we made a mistake, he took the heat for it," he said.

If there was to be one way to remember Healy, Horgan knew what it was. "He always kept smiling, even when the chips were down."