Man in Tragic Story Once Lived in Area


Jack Cunningham (left) & Paul Flanagan (center) with corn cob pipes.
On the right is Paul's brother, Richard Flanagan.


Submitted by John W. "Jack" Cunningham.
His sister, Helen McCormick, now deceased, gave him the photo.


Wheeling News-Register
October 23, 1994

By Diane Vargo Wallace
News-Register Staff Writer

The male counterpart of a couple, miraculously reunited 50 years later only to meet their death together last week, once lived in Marshall County, according to several area residents.

After seeing the front page story and photograph of Paul Flanagan and Dorothy Thompson in The Intelligencer on Saturday, Benwood resident Helen McCormick contacted the Sunday News-Register to report that she recognized Flanagan as a schoolmate.

According to an Associated Press wire story, World War II divided Flanagan, 71, of San Jose, Calif., and Thompson, 69, of Owensboro, Ky. After being separated 50 years --Thompson turned down Flanagan's marriage proposal because he was going overseas with his Coast Guard unit-- the couple died together Wednesday night when they were struck by a car while crossing a seven-lane highway in Quantico, Va. Earlier this year, the couple began exchanging letters and decided to meet on Oct. 13 in Pittsburgh to visit Civil War sites along the East Coast and attend the 50-year reunion of Flanagan's Coast Guard class on Thursday.

Lisa Rihn, Thompson's daughter, told the Associated Press that she had spoken to her mother on the telephone Monday when her mother and Flanagan were in Wheeling. She said the couple's final days apparently were happy ones.

"To put it plainly, you couldn't understand a word she was saying because she was giggling so much," Rihn said Friday. "I talked to Paul, too, and he said he lost his Dottie 50 years ago, and he wasn't going to let her go now."

"Perhaps there was some wishful thinking on Dorothy and her children's part," said Bruce Flanagan, one of Flanagan's sons from California in a phone call to the Associated Press, "but Dad never had any intentions other than seeing an old friend on a visit through the area. Dad has a long-term, loving relationship with a woman in San Jose."

Bruce Flanagan described the pizza dinner the two shared on the 50th anniversary of his father's proposal to Thompson as "old friends getting together for dinner."

Meanwhile, McCormick, 68, who still has photographs of Flanagan from her elementary school days, said Flanagan, who was older than her, attended Boggs Run Grade School. She said her brother had gone on camping trips with Flanagan.

"I know that's Paul," she said.

The Flanagans had resided on Boggs Run for "quite a few years," according to McCormick.

Flanagan's mother was employed at one of the Griest Drug Stores on Market Street, she added.

To confirm her belief that the Paul Flanagan featured in the article once was a fellow Marshall County resident, McCormick placed a call to a Wheeling woman whom she knew had been a neighbor of the Flanagans on Boggs Run.

"He (Flanagan) was raised here and graduated from Union High School in Benwood," said the Wheeling woman, who declined to be identified. "I had not seen him in 45 years."

After the Flanagans lived on Boggs Run for a period of time, the family moved to McMechen, the Wheeling woman said.

Martha Christianson of Wheeling also recognized Flanagan from the Saturday newspaper article. She identified Flanagan as the son of Helen Flanagan who married Edward Hoffman, both of whom were residents of the area. Christianson said she is a cousin of Maryland resident Nancy Otto, who is Hoffman's daughter.

"When I saw the name Flanagan, that immediately drew my attention," she said. "I was sure that was the Paul Flanagan I had once known. It was a very tragic ending to a very lovely story."

According to the Associated Press, Thompson was widowed in 1987 and Flanagan was divorced. Christianson said she believed that Flanagan had married a Wheeling woman.

The Wheeling woman who had been a neighbor of Flanagan as a child confirmed Flanagan's parentage and the fact that he had divorced a Wheeling woman. She adds that Hoffman had lived in the Woodsdale section of Wheeling. The whole family moved to California later, she said.