St. Mary's Church in Manhasset was filled on Saturday, March 13, as family, colleagues and friends said goodbye to one of Manhasset's favorite sons, a man who was known to many as "Mr. Manhasset," the Honorable Kenneth D. Molloy.
Before the Mass, the organist's rendering of Danny Boy brought tears to many eyes in the congregation. An honor guard of the Manhasset Post of the American Legion preceded the casket into the church.
The Mass was celebrated by the pastor, Msgr. John J. McCann, who said that although he had not known Judge Molloy for long he had been impressed by his quality of reaching and showing concern for others.
The eulogy was delivered by Judge Molloy's older son, Kenneth Jr., who described his father as a man of "intellect, charm, integrity and faith." Born in 1919 to a "working class family in Brooklyn," Kenneth said that his father graduated from Syracuse University and its law school. Ever the young man with an eye on the prize, Molloy was a fight promoter in his Syracuse days.
During World War II he was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy and served on the PT 326 boat which had been assigned the dangerous mission of sabotage in Japan before Allied landings. He was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.
After the war he opened a law practice in Manhasset, renting space over Wright Hardware. In 1951 he was joined by a William and Mary graduate who had recently graduated from Columbia Law School, Jim Fletcher. As Jim tells it, he walked into Molloy's office and asked if there was anything he could do. Molloy walked over to him and handed him a stack of documents. It was a "simple agreement," according to Fletcher, that lasted for almost 50 years. In the early years, Molloy bought a building on Bayview Avenue in Manhasset, formerly owned by the New York Telephone company, which still houses the firm of Fletcher, Sibell and Migatz. In 1963 Molloy and Fletcher were joined by another young attorney, Jack Dunne, who is presently a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Like Jim Fletcher, Judge Dunne says that he never had a written agreement, just a verbal one. As he recalls the practice, Molloy was out in the hustings, "at the coffee shop or down at the high school," but bringing in business. Fletcher, he says, is a real scholar, a real "Mr. Inside." He sees himself as somewhere in between the other two.
In 1983 Molloy was elected to the New York State Supreme Court from which he retired at the mandatory age of 75. He then returned to his old law firm.
Judge Molloy is remembered in Manhasset for his support of young people and his great enthusiasm for sports. The football field at the high school was named the O'Connell Molloy Field after Ken Molloy and another Manhasset sports booster, the late realtor Bill O'Connell. The story of his sponsorship of the great football player, Jimmy Brown, is legendary in Manhasset. The story has always been that Molloy was so impressed by Brown's athletic ability, especially as a lacrosse player, that he managed to get him an athletic scholarship to Syracuse. But at Judge Molloy's funeral, his son, Ken said, "there was no scholarship. He just passed the hat around Manhasset and got enough money to send Jim to Syracuse." Of course, it was not as a lacrosse star, but on the football field that Brown became famous. In later years Brown dedicated his autobiography to Molloy and invited him to present him for induction to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Brown was only one of many Manhasset athletes who found their way to Syracuse thanks to Ken Molloy.
An athlete himself, Molloy had played lacrosse at Syracuse, but it was tennis that became his game of choice in later years. Although he didn't start playing until he was in his fifties, according to a tennis playing friend, Don DeWitt, Molloy quickly mastered the game. "He was a tremendous athlete," DeWitt said. In later years he played mixed doubles with his daughter, Nancy, and senior doubles with Dick Mallory of Manhasset. The two became New York State Senior Doubles Champions a few years ago.
A regular refrain of Ken Molloy Jr.'s eulogy of his father was, "He played to win" and that has been echoed many times in the week since his death. Molloy had been honored by the American Legion, The Manhasset Chamber of Commerce, the Manhasset Community Fund. In addition to his son, Kenneth, he is survived by his daughters, Marybeth Keller of Oakland, CA; Barbara Alvayero and Nancy Geiman of Naples, FL and his son, James Molloy of Manhasset. He was predeceased in 1991 by his wife, Mary.
Contributions in his name may be sent to the Kenneth D. Molloy Fund, Manhasset R.C.C. Foundation, Post Office Box 24, Manhasset, NY 11030. The family will use the funds for needy and deserving students.