Joseph A. Durkin, 84

Northborough - Joseph S. Durkin, 84, died Monday, July 16, 2007 at Marlborough Hospital.

He leaves his wife, Marynoel Durkin; his daughter, Kathleen Borsuk and her husband, Michael; his sons, Joseph and his wife, Suzanne, Sean and his wife, Jane, and Michael and his wife, Barbara; his grandchildren, Casey, Sean, Connor and Molly Durkin; his brother, former U.S. Senator John Durkin; his brother-in-law, Joseph Gubbins and his wife, Gini; and nieces and nephews.

Born and raised in Brookfield, he was a graduate of Brookfield High and Bridgeton Academy in Bridgeton, Maine. He received his B.A. from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and his M.E.D. from Worcester State College.

Mr. Durkin served during World War II as a USMC fighter pilot and Squadron Commander in the Pacific Theater. He earned many awards, including the Distinguished Flying Cross. He was recalled back to service during the Korean War, as well.

Mr. Durkin was principal of West Brookfield Elementary School and served at the same time on the North Brookfield School Committee, during the time when a controversial decision was made by the U.S. Supreme Court banning prayers in public schools. His lone defense of that decision received national attention, including a write-up and picture in LIFE magazine. Previously, he had also received media attention when the plane he was piloting to his wedding caught fire in mid-air from an oil leak. He landed safely in an open field and both he and his co-pilot escaped injury.

He served as principal for the Woodward School in Southborough and then became Director of Field Service for the Massachusetts Teachers Association, with his staff gaining recognition as one of the premiere collective bargaining groups in the Northeast. He later joined the American Federation of Teachers, organizing teachers' unions nationwide. He was a member of many educational associations and the Notre Dame Club of Worcester County.

A funeral Mass was held July 19 from the Saint Rose of Lima Church in Northborough, with burial at Howard Street Cemetery. Hays Funeral Home of Northborough directed arrangements. Memorial donations may be made to the Joseph S. Durkin Relief Fund, c/o Commonwealth National Bank, 564 Main St., Shrewsbury, MA 01545.

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