Joseph McLaughlin

Obituary of Joseph J. McLaughlin

Joseph J. McLaughlin, 93, of Gladwyne, a banker and longtime supporter of the Catholic Church, died Thursday, August 19 with his children and caregiver at his side. Throughout his life, Mr. McLaughlin always instructed new friends and acquaintances to call him “Joe.” Born in Southwest Philadelphia in 1928, Joe McLaughlin was one of four children. His father, Joseph, was an orphan and his mother, Mary Peters, was an immigrant from Germany. Their family lost their house on Greenway Avenue during the Great Depression and his father’s employment was cut to one day of work per week so that his employer, a printing engraver, was able to retain as many employees as possible. The times were difficult and his family was given 30 days to evict their home. Miraculously, they found a home on the 5900 block of Chester Avenue to rent for $5 week. While the notice of eviction and the loss of their home created great anxiety for Joe’s family, especially his parents, this event was foundational to Joe McLaughlin throughout the remainder of his life - both in his decision making as a future CEO, as well as his compassion for others, especially those in poverty. Joe attended Most Blessed Sacrament grade school which he claimed was the “largest grammar school in the World.” His first grade class had 600 students overseen by six nuns. He learned first-hand that one nun for each classroom of 100 pupils was sufficient to educate grade school students in religion, math, reading and writing, yet maintain order and discipline. He also attended West Catholic High School for Boys, Temple University, and the Brown University School of Banking. Joe served his country in the US Army as a Corporal in occupied Japan – Post-WWII. However, he would often cite the service of his older brother Jack, who enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corp at the age of 17 and fought in the battle of Iwo Jima for 22 days, and survived. Joe married Agnes Small in 1954. Agnes was one of six children born to immigrants, Henry Small and Mary Agnes O’Neill, who fled from Northern Ireland in 1923. Joe and Agnes raised three children (Anne Kennedy, Joe McLaughlin and John McLaughlin) and were very proud of their nine grandchildren. Joe became a clerk for Beneficial Savings Bank at the age of 23 and was soon promoted to teller. He became President of the Bank in 1974 and served as its president for 20 years. Ultimately, Joe continued to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for another 20 years and retired from the Board well before the sale of the Bank to WSFS. Ultimately, Joe served Beneficial Savings Bank for nearly 65 years. However, after becoming President of the Bank in 1974, Beneficial Savings Bank faced its most challenging times since the Great Depression. “The Prime Rate reached a record high of 21 or 22 percent in 1980 which created an enormous amount of pressure on Beneficial and many other thrifts and savings & loans across the Country,” said John McLaughlin, his youngest son. While many other banks were failing throughout the period due to extraordinarily high interest rates, Beneficial Savings Bank survived through a contrarian strategy of shrinking in size rather than growing. “Our father was encouraged by larger competitors to ‘fold…sell the bank to us…you and Agnes will never have anything to worry about’. He received a letter on Christmas Eve 1983 by the US Bank Examiner insisting the bank cease to operate and seek an exit through merger. The letter made him sick to his stomach. He felt faint, but didn’t share the letter with anyone until the holidays had passed,” his son John added. “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. He knew the Bank was strong enough to survive, and he often cited his team and devotion to St. John Neumann as key elements of the Bank’s survival and success,” said his son Joe McLaughlin, Jr. “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,” said his daughter Anne Kennedy. “The Bank was founded by St. John Neumann in 1853 to hold money for immigrants. I would argue the Bank’s survival was miraculous,” she added. While President of the Bank, Joe McLaughlin was asked to meet with President Ronald Reagan for an hour at the Bellevue Hotel in 1983, given his involvement in the Citizen’s Crime Commission. Thatcher Longstreth joined him. “In addition to discussing the Citizens Crime Commission, our father took this rare opportunity and implored President Reagan to revise regulatory barriers like reducing Federal Reserve lending rates, easing constricting bank regulation, etc. to aid the Savings & Loan sector,” said his son John. Reagan responded by invoking his father’s struggle with alcoholism and analogizing it to working with the Federal Reserve Bank. “Our father was fortunate enough to meet with Paul Volker in 1985, when Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. Well prepared, our father imploring Chairman Volker to revise regulatory burdens,” said his son Joe. Volker was considered at the time to be the 3rd most important person in the world. “Chairman Volker left the meeting saying to his aide, ‘Martin, get these people some help!.’ Not too long after the meeting, the Federal Reserve Bank began to ease interest rates and the regulatory burden faced by many thrifts and savings & loans began to subside,” added his son Joe. As St. John Neumann was a founder of Beneficial Savings Bank, Joe and Agnes McLaughlin developed a great devotion to the Saint and the shrine in his name at St. Peter the Apostle Church at 5th and Girard Avenues in Philadelphia. “Our father was instrumental in what appeared to be a miracle at St. John Neumann Shrine in the 1980’s,” said his son John. For several years, the church and Shrine needed a new roof according to rector, Father Brown. The cost estimate at that time was $70,000 which was quite a bit of money, especially for an ailing parish. “Every so often, an officer of the Bank would give a talk regarding Bishop John Neumann’s founding of Beneficial Savings Bank in 1853. On one occasion, our father gave a talk to about 50 individuals visiting the Shrine. A women approached our father after his talk and said, ‘I have an old passbook account at Beneficial. Please take whatever is in the account and donate the entire balance to the Shrine.’ Our father took the information back to the Bank. The passbook balance was $70,000. The outcome seemed miraculous to us and others.” “Our parents often prayed the rosary and implored the intervention of St. John Neumann. Our mother was a cancer survivor for over 30 years…again, another seeming miracle,” added his son John. Joe McLaughlin spent his remaining years in retirement with Agnes, traveling with friends and enjoying time with their nine grandchildren. Joe and Agnes were married for 61 years upon Agnes’ passing in 2015. Joe McLaughlin served on many boards over the years including but not limited to: Philadelphia Electric Company; National Savings & Loan Association; Chairman of Magee Hospital; Jefferson University Hospital and Health System; Little Sisters of the Poor, Holy Family Home at 5300 Chester Avenue, Philadelphia; Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute; Citizens Crime Commission; Immaculata University; Saint Joseph’s University. Joe McLaughlin also served on the Finance and Audit Committees as well as the Real Estate Committee of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for many years spanning the leadership of John Cardinal Krol to Archbishop Charles Chaput. He was given the titles Knight of St. Gregory the Great and Knight Commander of St. Gregory, the highest honor given to lay personnel by a pope. Joe McLaughlin was also recognized over the years by a number of non-profits and honored through fund raising efforts including but not limited to The National Coalition of Christians and Jews and The City of Hope Cancer Center Los Angeles, California. Mass of Christian Burial is scheduled for Friday, August 27, 2021 at 11am at St. John Vianney Church, 350 Conshohocken State Road, Gladwyne, PA; visitation will proceed the mass from 9am to 10:45am at St. John Vianney Church. The Mass of Christian Burial will be livestreamed on the St. John Vianney Parish website and at Contributions in Joe McLaughlin’s name may be made to: Little Sister of the Poor - Holy Family Home, 5300 Chester Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143; The National Shrine of St. John Neumann, St. Peter the Apostle Parish, 1019 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123