Michael J. Driscoll, executive who led family construction firm, dies at 87
Mr. Driscoll worked hard at building the family business, but he knew how to relax. He liked nothing better than a tramp in the woods on a clear day with his sons, a buddy, and some bird dogs.
Michael J. Driscoll, 87, of Lafayette Hill, a contractor who led the family-owned Driscoll Construction Co., died Thursday, Oct. 1, of complications from Alzheimer’s disease at his home.
The firm’s numerous projects, carried out under Mr. Driscoll’s tenure, included the $67.5 million rebuilding of the South Street Bridge, which stretched from 2008 to 2010.
“Anybody who drives around this area has seen some of his work,” said his daughter Anita Driscoll Duquette.
Born to James Norbert and Virginia Kerns Driscoll in White Plains, N.Y., Mr. Driscoll moved with his family to Mount Airy’s Durham Street neighborhood in 1944.
He graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia, where he was All-Catholic in basketball, football, and golf and was voted the Best All-Around Athlete in the Class of 1951.
He had earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Georgetown University and was enrolled in Jefferson Medical College when his father, who had started Driscoll Construction in 1946 and was its president, died young. At that time, the firm specialized in tunnel and sewer construction.
Mr. Driscoll’s plans changed abruptly. He and his brother, Jim, took over the business. Eventually, Mr. Driscoll became company president in 1972. The brothers expanded the offerings of the Blue Bell-based company to include heavy highway bridge construction, and the attendant sound walls, retaining walls, sewers, and highway ramps.
They performed the work in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.
Among the firm’s projects were the winding Philadelphia International Airport ramps, the John F. Kennedy Boulevard Bridge over the Schuylkill, and the Walnut Street Bridge. The refurbishment of the South Street Bridge was rated the top bridge project in the nation in 2011, according to the industry magazine Roads & Bridges.
In 2000, Mr. Driscoll passed the leadership of the company to his son Michael J. Driscoll Jr. and partly retired. “He always liked to spend a day or two a week in the office,” his son said. Another son, James C. Driscoll, became executive vice president; grandsons Christopher L. Driscoll and Patrick O. Driscoll are also involved in the business.
The company continued to advance from building single-span bridge structures, to multispan bridges with sound walls, retaining walls, and box culverts, his son Michael said.
In 1956, he married Peggy O’Neill, whom he met in Holy Cross Parish, Mount Airy. “They met in fifth grade; I don’t know if the thunderbolt struck then, but they were dating in high school,” his daughter said. “My mom was everything to him.”
The couple moved to Willow Grove and Jenkintown to raise six children.
Mr. Driscoll was known for his love of family, hard work, rare beef, and freshly squeezed orange juice. Many aspired to his mastery of the grill.
He enjoyed watching the sun set over Egg Harbor Bay in Ocean City, N.J., and gatherings on the back deck of the Driscolls’ vacation home. “The grandchildren dubbed it ‘Club 120’ — the go-to place for late night laughs and storytelling,” the family said in a tribute.
He learned golf from his father when the two played at the Whitemarsh Valley Country Club.
“Mr. Driscoll grew into a fierce competitor, shooting his first hole-in-one while on The Prep’s golf team,” the family said. “He went on to shoot numerous aces, including two at the Loxahatchee Club in Jupiter, Fla., where he was a founding member.”
An outdoorsman, he liked nothing better than a tramp in the woods on a sunny day with his sons, friend Hugh Lynch, and some bird dogs.
Mr. Driscoll was steadfast in his Catholic faith. He attended Mass regularly and supported the church and its many charities.
Besides his wife and children Michael and Anita, he is survived by children Cathie Driscoll Ragg, Jim, Patti McMenaman, and Brian; 17 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter. His brother and a sister died earlier.
Services were Tuesday, Oct. 6.
Memorial contributions may be made to La Salle Academy, 1434 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19122 or via www.lasalleacademy.net.