Joseph J. McLaughlin, 93, of Gladwyne, a retired president and board member of Beneficial Bank, and a devout Catholic who prayed often to Beneficial founder St. John Neumann, died Thursday, Aug. 19, of asymptomatic anemia at Lankenau Medical Center in Wynnewood.
Starting at Beneficial as a clerk in 1951, Mr. McLaughlin rose to become the bank’s president in 1974. He remained on its board of directors after 20 years as president, and ended his active career in 2014 with more than 60 years at the bank, more than 40 as an employee or president.
During his tenure as president, Mr. McLaughlin worked hard to keep the bank operating despite the financial struggles of the 1980s, when the prime lending rate reached record highs and many small banks faced merger or closure.
He met with President Ronald Reagan in 1983, and Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank, in 1985, and urged them to reduce lending rates and ease regulatory burdens so banks could remain open and jobs be saved.
“My father refused to sell the bank as he had greater concern for the 500 employees of the bank and their continued employment and livelihood,” his son Joseph McLaughlin Jr. wrote in a tribute.
His family traced Mr. McLaughlin’s dedication to the bank, its employees, and customers to his own troubled childhood during the Great Depression. Born in 1928, Mr. McLaughlin grew up in Southwest Philadelphia. One of four children, his family struggled during the 1930s, moving from one home to another as his father sought more work.
“My brothers and I believe the loss of their home on Greenway Avenue during the Great Depression was foundational to our father’s compassion and empathy for others and his actions as a CEO,” his daughter, Anne Kennedy, wrote in the tribute.
Beneficial Bank was acquired by WSFS Bank in 2019.
Mr. McLaughlin also believed in the intercession of Catholic saints, and he prayed often to St. John Neumann, the founder of Beneficial in 1853. He was a frequent visitor and speaker at the national shrine of St. John Neumann on North Fifth Street in Philadelphia, and was president of the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute, which was founded in 1850 to help destitute Irish and German Catholic immigrants.
He attended West Catholic High School for Boys, Temple University, and later the Brown University School of Banking. He served in the Army after World War II, and married Agnes Small in 1954 after meeting her at a dance. They were married for 61 years until her death in 2015, and lived in Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, and Rosemont.
Mr. McLaughlin served on boards at the Philadelphia Electric Co., Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, Jefferson University Hospitals, Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home, the Citizens’ Crime Commission, Immaculata University, St. Joseph’s University, and others.
He also was a member of the council of managers and executive committee of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Mr. McLaughlin was honored for fund-raising efforts by the National Coalition of Christians and Jews, the City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles, and others. He received the 1988 John M. Schubert Memorial Award in recognition of his business and community contributions.
On weekends, Mr. McLaughlin liked to cook breakfast for his family, take his children food shopping at the farmers market, and putter around in old clothes doing yard work.
“He was a selfless guy, humble, always optimistic,” said his son John. “He put his family first, but he loved banking and his job. He was grateful, and never forgot his roots.”
In addition to his children, Mr. McLaughlin is survived by nine grandchildren and other relatives. Two brothers and one sister died earlier.
Services were held Aug. 27.
Donations in his name may be made to Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Family Home, 5300 Chester Ave., Philadelphia, Pa. 19143, and the National Shrine of St. John Neumann, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 1019 N. Fifth Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19123