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Goodbye to the Good Doctor of 24th Street
Michael J. McFadden Dies
By Laura McHale Holland
Noe Valley lost one of its finest on Dec. 9, 2002, when Dr. Michael J. McFadden passed away. He spent 44 of his 77 years contributing to this neighborhood through his profession, his parish, and his family.
"This neighborhood was the first place he came to when he came from Scotland via New York," says his wife Mary McFadden, a third-generation San Franciscan who grew up on Elizabeth Street.
"It seems most people find the first place they settle is the one they like best, and he preferred this neighborhood to any in the city. He was always here. He liked to be involved in what was going on, and he was a member of the Noe Valley Merchants and Professionals Association."
McFadden was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1925, but his family moved to Scotland when he was small. Shortly thereafter, his father died, and his mother raised Michael and his five siblings on her own.
Though he grew up in an impoverished section of town where discrimination against Irish Catholics was rampant, McFadden excelled in school and ultimately graduated from University of Glasgow's medical school.
While touring Ireland in 1955, he met his future wife, Mary McKenna, who was on holiday in Europe. The two married at St. Philip's Church in San Francisco in 1957, and then spent a year in New York City so McFadden could complete his residency at Metropolitan Hospital.
Once ensconced in a home on 24th Street, the family grew to an even dozen, and McFadden's medical practice flourished from his office on the ground floor.
For many years, Dr. McFadden held drop-in office hours on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons. And scores of neighborhood residents availed themselves of his medical services. He once saved the life of a local bar patron who had been hit by a speeding car on 24th Street. "There was a thud. He hopped out of bed, ran outside, and rushed to help him," his wife recalls.
To be a devoted husband and father and a caring doctor would be enough achievement for one man's lifetime, but McFadden didn't stop there. He also attended Lincoln Law School at night, and passed the California state bar exam in 1976. He founded the San Francisco Glens Soccer Club in 1960, and was a founding member of the United Irish Cultural Center. He marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade each year, rain or shine. He also was appointed to the San Francisco Parking Commission in 1972.
Unlike most of his colleagues, McFadden made house calls to his patients' homes and convalescent hospitals until his retirement in 1997. His fee for a visit was a modest $10 for those who could pay, and for those who were unemployed, his fee was zero.
"People who knew him remember him with a lot of love and good feeling," says Mary McFadden. "He was kind to a lot of people. He was always sympathetic to their problems. He listened to them to find out what was bothering them."
Hundreds filed into St. Philip's Church on Diamond Street to attend his wake the evening of Dec. 12. And the church was again standing-room-only at the funeral mass the next day.
In addition to his wife Mary, Dr. Michael J. McFadden is survived by nine of his 10 children: Margaret Hogue, James McFadden, Joseph McFadden, Kathleen McFadden, Leo McFadden, Mary McFadden, Monica McFadden, and Anne Mitchell, all of San Francisco; and Patricia Chamberlin of Oakland. He is also survived by nine grandchildren, and by his sister Rose Carroll of Glasgow. The McFaddens' son Michael McFadden Jr. died in 1987.
The family asks that memorial contributions be made to St. Philip's School, 665 Elizabeth Street, San Francisco, CA 94114; St. Ignatius College Preparatory, 2001 37th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94116; the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, 5340 Geary Blvd., Suite 206, San Francisco, CA 94121; or to a charity of your choice. h