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JAMES J. MULLAHY
May 22, 1932 – January 24, 2024
James Joseph Mullahy of Philadelphia, PA and Avalon, NJ died peacefully in his Avalon home on January 24, 2024, surrounded by his family.
Jim Mullahy was a person of deep faith, a dear friend and mentor, an esteemed professional, and, above all, an intensely loving and devoted family man. While he built his career on giving exceptionally good advice, his best lessons were found not in what he said, but by how he lived: with faith, integrity, dignity, and compassion.
Over the span of his 65-year career, Jim built a reputation as a singularly influential figure in the commercial and industrial real estate industry. He began his career as an office clerk at Freeman’s Auction House (a fitting start for a young man with a BA in Accounting); the late Beau Freeman promoted him to office manager within his first month. While working for Freeman’s, Jim started taking advertising classes at night at Drexel University. As it turned out, he was even more skilled with words than with numbers. He joined Bofinger Kaplan Advertising in Philadelphia in the 1960s, working on a variety of commercial accounts. The specialization in real estate that shaped the rest of his career began in 1969, when he established Mullahy Company with its first client, the venerable Boston-based national development firm Cabot Cabot and Forbes.
During the following decades, Mullahy Company’s client list grew to include over 80 of the most prominent commercial and industrial development and brokerage firms in the US, Mexico, and Europe. Maintaining his headquarters in Philadelphia, Jim opened offices in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Vienna to serve his growing clientele. His clients included Atlantic City Housing Authority, AEW Capital Management, Bethlehem Steel, Cabot, Cabot & Forbes, Cabot Partners, CB Commercial Properties, Colliers International, Copley Real Estate Advisors, Cushman Realty, The Ford Foundation, GE, IBM, Irving Trust Company, The Hewson Company, Korman Communities, The Linpro Company, Lockheed Martin, Maguire Thomas Partners, Martin-Marietta, Merrill Lynch Realty, Pannatoni Properties, Penn Central Properties, Prudential Property Co., The Rockefeller Group, Rouse & Associates, The RREEF Funds, Texaco, and the City of Vienna.
Jim served as national consultant to Cushman & Wakefield for over twenty years, with a special focus on its offices in Philadelphia, New York, Metro DC, California, Florida, and Georgia. His long association with The Rockefeller Group was one of his greatest professional pleasures, as was his work with the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (SIOR). He is largely credited as the architect of SIOR’s expansion into Europe. One of the highlights of his year was his annual trip to the MIPIM international real estate conference in Cannes; he loved the company of his friends and the location in equal measure.
The primary export of Mullahy Co. was Jim Mullahy himself. As his business expanded, he prided himself on remaining the key point of contact for each of his clients. His theory was that any agency could produce quality materials - Mullahy Co.’s value to clients came as much from his wisdom as his marketing expertise.
He represented a unique figure in this corporate community. Jim attended daily Mass in whichever city he was in before or after each workday. He carried a single manila envelope rather than a briefcase for many decades, an envelope often left (and almost always retrieved) on the top of the many phone booths he used along the way. Inside the envelope was his trusty yellow legal pad, which he filled with his tidy to-do/to-call lists and meeting notes. His career started with the telegram and ended with the iPhone, but he never deviated from these foundational routines. Technology might malfunction; manila envelopes can be counted upon to remain manila envelopes.
Jim became renowned for his mentorship; dozens of people have attested to his interest in and influence on their professional and personal lives. The father of four daughters, he was ahead of his time in offering career opportunities to women and took keen interest in their advancement. He was the first to offer advice before an interview or event; he was the first to call afterwards to see how it went.
Friends from Rockefeller and C&W offered these thoughts:
“He was unique and touched the personal and professional lives of so many. He was somewhat enigmatic; he was the definition of simplicity and modesty yet possessed a broad and deep intelligence, wit, and captivating charm. His sense of humor was unequalled. He possessed and extended to all he met a genuine interest in people and their lives, careers, and families. Jim’s clients were his friends; he had a great way of understanding a situation and finding simple solutions. He was always right; it seemed easy for him. As a result, many of Jim’s clients consulted him on professional and personal issues that had nothing to do with marketing expertise. He was always there for people and excelled at diffusing tension. Integrity is a word that Jim lived by and it served him and all of us so well. We are all better people because of Jim.”
Born on May 22, 1932 and raised in the Logan section of Philadelphia, Jim was a graduate of LaSalle College High School (Class of 1950) and Villanova University (Class of 1954). His fondest early summer memories centered on Ocean City, NJ; his parents regularly took he and his siblings to the shore via trolley and train. As a teenager, he spent summers pulling saltwater taffy in the front window of Shriver’s Candy on the Ocean City boardwalk. Never one for attention, Jim endured the discomfort of the crowds’ gazes so that he could go to the beach during breaks. Many decades later, that boardwalk remained one of his favorite destinations. After completing his Korean War service as an intelligence officer in the US Army, Jim married the late Marian Collins Mullahy and moved to Drexelbrook, Bala Cynwyd, and finally Merion, PA, where they raised their five children.
He traveled expansively for pleasure as well as commerce, visiting 135 cities in 36 countries multiple times. He walked each city with great curiosity, getting to know its best restaurants, its most beautiful parks, assembling a mental list of tips to pass on to the next traveler. New Orleans was a favorite destination for jazz; Jim played the piano and harmonica by ear. Passengers in his car were treated to his eclectic music collection on every ride, with country, jazz and Irish music in heavy rotation. He valued his Irish heritage deeply and gained dual citizenship in Ireland. Despite this loyalty, London was his favorite international city, closely followed by Vienna. He was deeply thrilled when one of his grandchildren moved to London and gained dual British citizenship.
While Jim never stayed in one place for more than three days, he never lost sight of his most important interest: his family. His weekends were always reserved for family, and all the best weekends were spent with them in his favorite place on earth, his 125-year-old house in Avalon. His daily pilgrimage down 16th Street - with his green beach chair tucked under his arm and trusty canvas bag slung over shoulder – is forever etched in the collective memory of his family.
A grandchild wrote:
"They say childhood is measured in summers. For us, summers meant two things: they meant Avalon & they meant T. While we were planted in Avalon during summer weeks, we learned to ask where our T-Pop ( our ‘T’) was on the spinning globe. We loved to know where in the world he was spending his Tuesday, but we knew with certainty where he’d be by Friday: back in Avalon. Thanks to these many summers, we of 1618 Avalon Ave share the unfiltered intimacy usually reserved for immediate family. I knew exactly how much cereal he liked in his morning bowl, how many jiggers of Beefeaters he took over crushed ice in the evenings. He was wholly with us those many weekends, yet he carried with him the undeniable scent of a big world waiting to be explored. He was our grandfather, but he was also our dear friend."
Jim often started the beach day bodysurfing in the ocean with his grandchildren before retreating to a good book in his chair, an airline ticket stub serving as his bookmark, his chair always set towards the sun. His uncanny ability to predict both time and weather was especially handy mid-Saturday afternoons, as he rarely missed a 5:30 mass. The Avalon house was and is the ‘forever’ home for his family: it contains fifty years of front porch entertainment, basketball games, piano playing, book reading, shelf money, very long dinners, and (to his continual dismay) countless shoes left carelessly in the hallway rather than put away in their duly assigned closet. When family members hesitated before taking a financial risk, Jim always encouraged them to go ahead: “You can always live here if it doesn’t work out.” This sense of security was one of his biggest gifts to those he loved. His generosity knew no bounds, extending beyond his family and friends to people he met along the way. His esteem for education was unrivalled. Jim paid many, many tuition bills for those who could not afford it otherwise. “I’ll loan you the money,” he would insist, and then he immediately forgave the loan.
Those who knew Jim best understood he was a man of distinct dualities. He was a brilliant conversationalist and storyteller yet treasured comfortable silence. He was pious but not preachy. He was hysterically funny yet always sincere. He was unfailingly practical but wonderfully sentimental. He was worldly and accomplished yet boyishly innocent. He was emotionally reserved but intensely loving. It was this unwavering depth of love that defined him best. Of all his accomplishments, Jim was most proud of his family; he took utter delight in the highlights of their travels, their work, and their lives. If anyone had some good news to tell, one phone call to him assured that this news would travel to all circles within the hour.
Jim was the beloved father of Marian Mullahy (Ardmore, PA), Kathy Mullahy Barker (Jeff Barker) (Merion, PA), Eileen Mullahy (Michael Brazunas) (Wynnewood, PA), Barbara Mullahy DeNault (Narberth, PA), and the late Matthew Mullahy (Philadelphia, PA); a devoted companion to the late Rosalie M. Minder (Avalon NJ); loving grandfather T to Michael (Christine), Sean (Moira) and Kate (Max) Barker, Sara (Ryan) and Robert DeNault, and Grace Brazunas; tender great-grandfather to William, Paige, Patrick, Jack, Charlotte, Benjamin, and Caroline Barker; and dear uncle to a host of loving nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.
He was predeceased in life by his parents, John Mullahy and Genevieve Hillegas Mullahy, his brother John “Jack” Mullahy (Betty), his sisters Mary Mullahy Healy and Anne Mullahy Waller, and his brother-in-law John Waller.
Jim Mullahy leaves behind legions of dear friends and a legacy of deep, abiding love.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his visitation (9am-11am) followed by a Mass of Christian Burial (11 am) on Friday 2/2/2024 at Old St. Mary’s Church, 252 S. 4th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106. In lieu of flowers, his family gratefully appreciates memorial contributions in his name to Bread & Roses Community Fund (www.breadrosesfund.org) or Why Not Prosper (www.why-not-prosper.org).