April 28, 1941 – Feb. 18, 2019
John J. Dempsey wasn't just the life of the party; he was the center of a large circle of family and friends that could include anyone he met.
"His friends would say that when he walked into a restaurant, he would end up meeting every person in that restaurant on the way to his table before he ever sat down," said Kevin Dempsey, one of his seven children.
Mr. Dempsey was known for his devotion to God, his Roman Catholic faith and Irish heritage, his family and friends, the University of Notre Dame and South Buffalo, where he was born and raised his family.
Mr. Dempsey, known as "Jack," died Feb. 18, 2019, in the Mary and Ralph Wilson Hospice Inpatient Unit in Cheektowaga, where he had lived for eight days after a period of declining health. He was 77.
"He was always super outgoing, super positive, didn't hold grudges, never met a stranger," said his daughter Maureen.
Mr. Dempsey was born on April 28, 1941, the third of four sons of Lawrence B., an inspector for the New York Central Railroad, and Margaret McEneany Dempsey of Okell Street in South Buffalo. He was the brother of Patrick, Lawence and Donald.
Mr. Dempsey graduated from St. Ambrose grade school and Bishop Timon High School, where he excelled in cross-country running. In November 1956, as a sophomore, he was the fifth Timon runner, finishing a school sweep of the five top spots in the Monsignor Martin Catholic High School League cross-country race.
After graduating in 1959, he considered entering the priesthood but instead married Mary Lou Finnegan in 1960 in Buffalo. They raised their seven children on McKinley Parkway.
Mr. Dempsey worked as a manufacturers representative for tool and die makers, first with Regal Beloit Corp., then Parlec, Inc. He later opened his own company, Jack Dempsey and Associates.
About 30 years ago, he moved to Canton, Ohio, where he moved his company. He sold the business about 10 years ago and retired.
He was a devout Catholic whose high school yearbook quote was "Trust in God." His daughter Maureen recalled sitting in the front pew of St. Thomas Aquinas Church with her six siblings while both her parents did readings. After retirement, he took several pilgrimages to Medjugorje, in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, then led about a dozen pilgrimage groups to the shrine himself.
He loved Notre Dame football. He took his daughter Karen, who attended Boston College, to the 1992 game at which the final scenes of the movie "Rudy" were filmed. To the end of his life, said his daughter Maureen, Mr. Dempsey considered "Rudy" the best movie ever made.
When he married Nancy Reed Violard in Ohio in 2013, the Notre Dame fight song was played at the reception. "He was crying, shaking his hands and bawling tears when they played it," said Maureen Dempsey.
When Mr. Dempsey's maternal grandparents immigrated from Ireland, they bought some land in north central Pennsylvania. That land was so important to Mr. Dempsey that he bought out his brothers' shares after they inherited it.
He brought his children to the Pennsylvania home many time to visit their great-uncle, explore and fish. "After he retired, he spent much of his free time there," said his son Terry.
Mr. Dempsey was "a great father, always positive, always encouraging," his son Kevin said. His daughter Karen said that Mr. Dempsey shared his sense of adventure with his family. "He insisted on taking us to Lake Erie when a huge storm was rolling in, and we watched it crash into shore and were amazed," she said.
Mr. Dempsey was a member of the Monsignor Nash Council of the Knights of Columbus, and marched with the organization in the St. Patrick's Day parade every year. He led a Boy Scout troop for years when his sons were young.
A friend of Mayor James Griffin, Mr. Dempsey unsuccessfully ran for an at-large City Council seat around 1970, his family said.
He moved back to Western New York in 2015.
Mr. Dempsey is survived by his wife, Nancy Reed Violard; sons Jack, Terry and Kevin Dempsey; daughters Carol Ann Hill, Maureen, Karen and Megan Dempsey; their mother Mary Lou Hooper; stepdaughters Kathy Blind and Gail Violand; stepson Tom Violand; brother Donald Dempsey; and 15 grandchildren.
Services will begin at 10:15 a.m. Friday in the Sieck, Mast and Leslie Funeral Home, 250 Orchard Park Road, West Seneca, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 11 a.m. Friday in St. John Vianney Roman Catholic Church, 2950 Southwestern Blvd., Orchard Park.