SPOKANE, Wash. – Hundreds of people gathered in St. Aloysius Church on Friday, Nov. 1 to pay homage to former House Speaker Thomas S. Foley, who was born and raised in Spokane, attended Gonzaga Prep and Gonzaga University and rose to become one of the most influential leaders in the region’s history. Gonzaga President Thayne McCulloh said the University was honored to co-host the memorial service with St. Aloysius Church.
Congressman Foley served 15 terms, from 1965 to 1995, as Democratic representative from Eastern Washington’s 5th Congressional District. He served as party whip (1981-87), majority leader (1987-89), and the last five years as the 57th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. A U.S. Ambassador to Japan (1997-2001), he died at age 84 on Oct. 18 in Washington, D.C.
The speakers, introduced by U.S. District Court Senior Judge Justin L. Quackenbush, included his wife Heather Foley, Gov. Jay Inslee, Washington Democratic Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., former Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Washington, Spokane Superior Court Judge Michael Price (a cousin of Rep. Foley), and Rep. Foley’s nephew John Latimer.
“I so appreciate you all being here to honor and celebrate Tom’s life,” Heather Foley said. “I also have to thank our longtime friends Father (Bernard J. Coughlin) and Father (Frank) Costello who were so helpful to both of us over the years. I think I must have called Fr. Costello countless times and said, ‘we need an intern, please, please help’ and he always did.”
Heather Foley said she came to understand her husband as a man of near endless patience and understanding.
“He was a man of principle who was not afraid to compromise and he felt there was honor in compromising,” she said. “Thank you so much for coming to salute the life of a great, great man.”
Sen. Murray called Rep. Foley “a statesman in the truest sense of the word” who helped bring the World’s Fair to Spokane in 1974, expand markets for Eastern Washington wheat throughout the world, and “an honest consensus-builder” trusted by both Republicans and Democrats.
“He gained stature not because of his relentless thirst for power but because he was fundamentally decent and because he was honest and because he had a common personal touch,” Murray said. Although Rep. Foley thought of himself as the “Congressman from Spokane,” he was a brilliant and courageous leader who belonged in the halls of power and foreign palaces but at the very same time he also belonged here in Spokane with the family, friends, and neighbors he represented. I will remember him as one of us.”
McMorris Rodgers called Foley, “A man who did what he thought was right, not what he thought was easy.”