Flynn, battling cancer, collapses

By Milton J. Valencia
Globe Staff / September 18, 2008
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Raymond L. Flynn, the former longtime mayor of Boston and ambassador to the Vatican, is battling melanoma and was hospitalized last night after collapsing during a speaking engagement in Quincy, his son said.

Flynn, who recently turned 69, was being treated at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center. He was undergoing testing and was under observation last night, but was resting comfortably, said his son, Raymond Jr. His father, who hospital officials said was in fair condition, was expected to spend the night.

The younger Flynn said his father has been under intense stress lately. He is grieving over his brother, Dennis, who died last month of a heart attack at 61. On Monday, the former mayor attended a Mass for his brother marking a month since his death.

Flynn has also been battling recurring melanoma, a form of skin cancer, his son said. He said that his father suffered from the disease while he was mayor more than a decade ago and that he has been experiencing symptoms recently. It was the first known disclosure that Raymond Flynn had cancer.

His son said yesterday that the case is not serious but that it may have teamed with other stresses to lead to his father's collapse.

"He hasn't been feeling well in a long time," the son said. "He's been under a lot of stress the last month."

Raymond Flynn was giving a speech at Bad Abbots pub in Quincy last night as part of the "Theology on Tap" series, a religious program that has speakers discuss theology in a bar setting, when he collapsed at about 7:30, said bar owner Peter Kerr.

Kerr said the bar was crowded, with about 120 people, and the room was hot. Flynn was about 35 minutes into his speech when he passed out.

"He didn't look well, but the speech was going well," Kerr said. "All of a sudden, he just got weak and fell back against the wall and then down" onto the stage.

He said Flynn was unconscious for about five minutes, but came to when paramedics took him outside.

Maureen E. Feeney, City Council president, said last night that she has spoken with people who have seen Flynn recently and that he seemed "wonderful."

"Hopefully, he'll be fine," she said.

Flynn's son said the skin cancer is on his hands, ears, and the side of his face. His father has long attributed the disease, his son said, to his days in the sun playing sports in South Boston, where he was a basketball star.

A Democrat born and raised in South Boston, he was elected to the City Council in 1978 and served for six years before becoming mayor in 1984.

He held that post until President Clinton appointed him ambassador to the Vatican in 1993, a post he held until 1997.

Globe correspondents Gabrielle T. Dunn, Jeannie M. Nuss, and Caitlin Castello contributed to this report. Milton Valencia can be reached at

Correction: Because of a reporting error, a story in late editions of yesterday's City & Region section about former mayor Raymond L. Flynn having melanoma and collapsing at a talk in Quincy on Wednesday incorrectly stated that it had not previously been disclosed that Flynn had cancer. Flynn had a malignant melanoma tumor removed from his hand that was reported on in April of 1993.

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