Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Robert A. Haley, longtime paint company owner, dies at 94

He and his older brother grew Finnaren & Haley paints from a small Philadelphia company to a regional 35-store business that was acquired by Benjamin Moore in 2007.

Mr. Haley and his wife, Pat, were married in 1951, and liked to travel and spend time at the Jersey Shore in Avalon.
Mr. Haley and his wife, Pat, were married in 1951, and liked to travel and spend time at the Jersey Shore in Avalon.Read moreCourtesy of the family

Robert A. Haley, 94, the longtime former co-owner and president of Conshohocken-based Finnaren & Haley paint company, died Thursday, Dec. 23, at his home at Dunwoody Village in Newtown Square.

Mr. Haley had spent the last month in hospice care after being hospitalized in November with internal bleeding. The official cause of his death has not been confirmed.

Mr. Haley and his older brother, Daniel J. Haley Jr., took control of the company in 1958 after the death of their father, who was the company cofounder. Mr. Haley, who had started as a stock boy for his father, with his brother later helped grow the business from five retail stores to 35 in Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware. They attained full ownership in the 1970s.

In 1973, Mr. Haley told The Inquirer that specialization and personal attention to customers separated Finnaren & Haley from its competitors. He said the company then owned 33 stores, with 35 franchise dealers, and had annual sales of $6 million.

“Our employees take a six-week training course with time devoted to marketing, accounting, laboratory, warehousing, and sales so they can talk intelligently with shoppers,” he said.

As the 1976 U.S. Bicentennial loomed, the company used a renewed popularity of classic historic Philadelphia colors, as authenticated by the National Park Service, to offer its customers shades of Congress Hall red, Rittenhouse gold, cobblestone ivory, and Independence Hall quill.

Finnaren & Haley was formed in June 1913, when Mr. Haley’s father and Joseph A. Finnaren quit Gillingham’s Paint Store on Passyunk Avenue in South Philadelphia to start their own business. In 1983, Mr. Haley told The Inquirer that Article 5 of the original partnership agreement read: “Both partners shall abstain from the use of intoxicating liquor during the continuance of this agreement.”

Asked whether the article was enforced, Mr. Haley said: “Are you kidding? They were both drinking Irish. When they closed the store every night, Mr. Finnaren always stopped at the Haley house in Overbrook for a couple of drinks. And Mr. Haley always joined him. As far as Article 5 went, it was a very faulty partnership.”

Benjamin Moore & Co. acquired most of Finnaren & Haley in 2007, and Mr. Haley’s son, Robert A. Haley Jr., now owns Lancaster-based Haley Paint.

Born March 18, 1927, in Philadelphia, Mr. Haley grew up in Wynnewood and graduated from St. Joseph’s Preparatory School and Villanova University. He entered the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in 1945 and received a commission in 1947 as a junior officer in the Naval Reserve.

In 1951, he married Pat Carville, whom he had met at a party during high school, and they raised four daughters and one son in Wynnewood and then Bryn Mawr. She died in 2019.

Away from work, Mr. Haley was chairman of the board of trustees of what was St. Mary’s Hospital — now St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne — and St. Joseph’s Prep. He worked for what became the nonprofit Catholic Charities Appeal and earned the Charles E. Barton Ignatian Service Award for “outstanding dedication” to St. Joseph’s Prep.

He volunteered at Meals on Wheels and was a member of the Philadelphia Country Club and Mariner Sands Country Club in Stuart, Fla.

Mr. Haley loved golf, routinely shot in the 70s, and played twice a week for years, often taking his paint company customers out for a round or two. He took his family boating at the Jersey Shore and piled the kids into their station wagon for raucous trips to the ice cream parlor.

When a friend and neighbor died, Mr. Haley routinely invited the man’s six children along for many family excursions. “He was an organizer, a people person,” said his daughter Kathy. “He was the patriarch of our family in the best sense of the word.

“And he always told us that no matter what happens, you can always come home. We love you.”

In addition to his daughter and son, Mr. Haley is survived by daughters Patty, Mary Clare, and Susan; 13 grandchildren; three great-grandchildren; and other relatives. His brother and a sister died earlier.

Visitation is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, March 4, at St. Anastasia Church, 3301 West Chester Pike, Newtown Square, Pa. 19073. A Funeral Mass is to follow at 10 a.m. Interment is to be private.