Army, advertising shape centenarian’s life
YOUNGSTOWN — The AMC television series “Mad Men” was a fictional representation of the advertising business in New York City in the 1960s, but Youngstown native William Farragher had a very real career in the industry in the city where he lived.
Farragher turned 100 on July 22, and he now lives in a nursing home near his oldest daughter, Kelly Paras, in Manchester, N.H. She said his body is physically strong, but he suffers from dementia and there are days when he doesn’t even know who she is.
That is why Paras wanted to tell her father’s story before it’s too late.
He was born at home on Canfield Road on the South Side on July 22, 1922, the only son of William E. Farragher Sr. and Sally Selby Farragher. He moved to the North Side for a short time and then he and his parents moved in with his paternal grandparents in Girard just before the Wall Street stock market crash in October 1929.
“There was a precursor to the crash in 1928 for those people, like his dad, who bought on the margins, so the Great Depression hit his family earlier than most even though his dad worked on the railroad in the steel mill. My father spent most of his middle childhood very poor,” Paras said.
Farragher attended St. Patrick Elementary School and Princeton Junior High. He graduated from South High School in 1941 and then attended Ohio Wesleyan University. He was a freshman at the university when the attack on Pearl Harbor came in 1941 and he tried to enlist in the Army, but he was not accepted because he had rheumatic fever as a boy, Paras explained. He was, however, drafted into the Army the following summer and did his basic tranining at Fort Hays, Kansas.
“My dad was a conscientious objector and didn’t want to carry a gun. So they sent him to Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, where they trained him to be a lab technician. He was a lab technician in Alaska from 1942 to 1946,” Paras said, recalling stories her dad had told her and her siblings.
It was at Fort Harrison while doing physical therapy for an injury that Farragher met his future father-in-law, but he didn’t know him at the time. His wife was Arden Smith, daughter of Dr. Ivan Smith, who had a booming physiatrist practice in downtown Youngstown.
After being discharged from the Army, Farragher returned to Ohio Wesleyan, where he earned a degree in philosophy in 1949. He had studied medicine before the war, but his military experience changed his perspective, Paras said. He took some graduate courses at Kenyon College in Gambler, Ohio, and then went to the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he met his future wife, Arden.
The couple got married in December 1951 at St. John Episcopal Church in downtown Youngstown.
“Dad was raised Catholic, but he said he was too liberal for the Catholic Church, so he joined my mom’s church because she didn’t want to convert,” Paras said.
The couple moved several times, first to Chicago, then to Marion, Ohio and then Columbus before settling back in Youngstown by 1955. They had four children — Kelly, Allison, Mark and Kate, who died in a car accident when she was 18. They also had a foster son, Robert Shellenbarger, who became part of the family after Kelly already had moved out.
Farragher worked as the director of advertising for Youngstown Sheet & Tube until 1970 when he and a co-worker decided to start their own advertising firm — Thomas-Farragher Advertising — in a storefront near the corner of Belmont Avenue and Gyspy Lane on the upper North Side. In 1974, he struck out on his own and started Farragher Marketing, which he operated until the late 1990s when he was pushing 80 years old.
“His longest standing client was McDonald Steel, and he retained them as a client even after he retired. He was still writing its annual report up until about seven years ago,” Paras said. “The show ‘Mad Men’ was real for him. That whole sector of the economy exploded with the advent of television. People with liberal arts backgrounds like him were highly sought after following World War II. He was well read, and the ad agencies were looking for those types of employees.”
She said his first job in the advertising world was at Magnavox in Chicago.
Paras’ mother died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2010. Paras brought Farragher to New Hampshire after her father was in a serious car accident in 2018. Her sister, Allison, and brother, Mark, live in the state of Washington and her foster brother, Bob, lives in Wisconsin. Allison’s two sons are Patrick Gray of Pittsburgh and Colin Gray, who lives in Vermont. Allison also has two granddaughters, who are 2 1/2 and 9 months. Paras also has two sons: Harrison (Betsy) of Manhattan and Alexander “Sandy” of Los Angeles.
Farragher was a longtime volunteer for Habitat for Humanity and was on its board. He was involved in obtaining parcels of land for Habitat to build houses on, for which he used some of his marketing skills. He also volunteered for the Youngstown Symphony and was very active at St. John Episcopal Church well into his 80s, Paras said.
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