Obituary: Michael Folan | Voice of 'Irish Hour' for decades in 'Burgh

March 12, 1924 - Oct. 8, 2012

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Michael Folan, a prominent member of Pittsburgh's Irish community and voice of the radio program "Irish Hour" for more than a quarter century, was a man with strong Catholic roots.

Mr. Folan died Monday at his home in Forest Hills as his children were praying the rosary at his bedside. He was 88.

"That was his favorite prayer," said his son Patrick Folan. "He went to bed every night with his rosary beads."

Mr. Folan emigrated to America from Ireland in 1949 after he somehow managed to claim a one-way ticket to New York that his cousin had sent from Chicago to the home he shared with his parents, three brothers and two sisters, his son said.

He lived with his cousin for a few weeks. Then the 25-year-old took a trip to Pittsburgh to visit his aunt and uncle, and stayed.

"There was just something about this place," his son said.

Mr. Folan didn't immediately flock to the radio waves, although his family remembers Gaelic tunes filling the space in their home growing up.

He met his late wife of 45 years, Mary, on a city streetcar, and worked two jobs hand-digging graves and cutting grass at Calvary Cemetery, and another at Hussey Copper to support their family.

A man with a straight moral compass, he was strict and unwavering.

"Even when I was older I didn't want to disappoint him," Patrick Folan said. "He did not swear, he did not drink. He was somebody to look up [to]."

Michael Folan was a founding member of the Irish Centre of Pittsburgh and an active member of St. Anselm Church, later part of Word of God Parish, in Swissvale.

His son says Mr. Folan was flipping through the radio stations one day in the 1960s and stopped on one playing Irish music. He contacted the manager of the station, who heard his accent and invited him to visit.

Mr. Folan was offered a one-hour "Irish Hour" slot on WPSL every Sunday and worked in a grocery warehouse in Murrysville during the week.

"It seemed like he was made for it," Patrick Folan said. "He enjoyed playing music."

The program became the hub of the Irish community, with people requesting Gaelic tunes and sharing information on events. He hosted for 26 years.

In his retirement, he attended daily Mass, served Communion at local hospitals and became the family landscaper, driving his white pickup truck from one of his children's homes to the next, keeping the grass green and the flowers growing.

His son-in-law, Bill Grab, lived three doors down and said Michael Folan was always someone his grandchildren could count on for anything.

"Whether you talk to me, or 80 other people, they would all tell you the same thing: You will never ever, ever, ever hear a bad word about that guy."

Mr. Folan is survived by four children: Patrick of Ross and Eamonn of McCandless, daughters Maggie of Forest Hills and Sally of Forest Hills; sister Mary Horne of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; 11 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

Funeral services took place Thursday. Thomas L. Nied Funeral Home, 7441 Washington St., Swissvale, handled arrangements.

The family suggests memorial contributions to Little Sisters of the Poor, 601 Maiden Choice Lane, Baltimore, MD 21228.

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Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or


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