This obituary originally appeared on O’Neill Hayes Funeral Home.
William Walsh Corcoran, “Bill” to his friends and “Pop” to his family, (91) died after a suffering a heart attack on Tuesday morning January 19, 2021.
Born on October 16, 1929, Bill was a life-long resident of Newport and a graduate of Rogers High (1947), the Portsmouth Priory (1948), Brown University (1951), and Boston College Law School (1958). He served as a deep sea diver in the US Navy, specializing in submarine rescue, before embarking in a long career as an attorney and senior counsel to Corcoran, Peckham, Hayes, Leys & Olaynack, P.C.
William served as a member of the Newport City Council from 1967-1971, and he was a member of the Redevelopment Agency of Newport, which was responsible for the transition of Goat Island from a derelict torpedo plant to a hotel, marina, and public space, the development of Brick Market Place, the renovation of Bannister’s and Bowen’s Wharves, and the upgrading of Newport’s sewage system, ending of the practice of dumping sewage into the harbor. These efforts, coinciding with the construction of the Newport Bridge, resulted in the overall transformation of Newport’s waterfront from an industrial center to the beautiful harbor and shopping district that we know and love today.
As the lawyer for the Newport Preservation Society and staunch advocate for historical preservation, Bill brokered the purchase of some of the most significant properties in the organization’s collection, including the purchase of the Elms in 1962 and the Breakers a decade later. He remained an active member of the Preservation Society for decades as well as a member of the Board of Directors of Bank Newport from 1963 – 2005. He was also the council for the Visiting Nurse Service for multiple decades.
Bill also served as a trustee for the John Clarke Trust for more than 40 years. As a member of the Thompson Scholarship Committee, he had the pleasure of awarding hundreds of college scholarships to deserving (and probably some non-deserving) residents of Aquidneck Island.
Bill’s life serves as a testament to his love of his family, his love of Newport, his deep religious faith, his unwavering belief in democracy, his love of sports and sportsmanship, his love of learning, and his unyielding respect for nature. He was an excellent father to seven children and raised them, with varying degrees of success, to love sports and the outdoors. And, though none of his children have matched his list of accomplishments, at least none of them voted for Trump.
Perhaps Bill’s greatest contribution to the community that he loved was his opening of his property to allow public access to the Lily Pond for fishing and ice skating. Nothing gave him greater pleasure than to look out his window to see hundreds of people skating on the pond on a cold winter’s day.
Bill is predeceased by his beloved wife, Mary, his daughter, Anne Corcoran Galvin, his brother Rev. John Corcoran, and his grandson, Matthew Breede. He is survived by six children and their spouses: Mary Ellen (Ellie) Corcoran of Portsmouth, William and Karen Corcoran of Newport, Andrew Corcoran of Newport, Mardie Corcoran and Paul Leys of Newport, Frank Corcoran of the Bronx, Jane Corcoran and Tony Leach of Newport, and son-in-law Dave Galvin of Newport’s Fifth Ward. He is also survived by two brothers, Michael R. Corcoran and Edward B Corcoran, and his sister, Sr. Anne B Corcoran. Bill is also survived by 13 grandchildren, and anyone who loves Newport or has fond memories of hockey games on the Lilly Pond.
Due to safety concerns, there will be no public viewing. A mass of Christian Burial will be held on Friday, January 22nd at 10:00AM at St. Augustin’s Church, Newport, RI (seating will be limited).
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to Meals on Wheels of Rhode Island, 70 Bath Street, Providence, RI 02908, the Rogers Boosters Club, c/o Rogers High School 15 Wickham Rd, Newport, RI 02840. Or KIPP Academy Middle School, 250 East 156th Street, Bronx, NY, 10451.