Peace and All Good Things: Charles Fahey, 1933-2023  

Focus Area:
State Health Policy Leadership
State Policy Capacity

Chuck Fahey ended most conversations with individuals and groups with the five words that are the title of this brief celebration of his life and work. The words express his devotion to compassionate and effective health and long-term care policy and practice, as well as his profound commitment to the beliefs and institutions of the Roman Catholic Church.  

Charles Fahey

Chuck was born in Baltimore and baptized in the city at St. Mary’s Govans, as he was always happy to remind us. Despite his calling to the cloth, he also cut his political teeth there one summer working in Baltimore City Hall under Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. Tommy knew a thing or two about politics — you may have heard of his daughter Nancy Pelosi. 

Chuck’s career began in Syracuse, New York. As a diocesan priest and director of Catholic Charities, he guided the inception and growth of the Loretto Health and Rehabilitation, which began as a skilled nursing home and evolved into a system of long-term care and housing for elderly and chronically ill patients. His work in Syracuse led senior state policymakers to appoint him to the regulatory body that made and oversaw the implementation of policy for health and long-term care in New York State.  

Chuck and colleagues in the leadership of Catholic Charities USA influenced state and national policy. Their careers coincided with the creation and development of Medicare and especially of Medicaid, which emerged from a long history of policy in states. As leaders of Catholic Charities, they had substantial and effective working relationships with elected and appointed officials and managers of provider organizations. They also served on the governing boards of numerous local and national organizations. Chuck was a charter member of the Federal Council on Aging and served during the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Carter.  

When one of us (DF) became president of the Milbank Memorial Fund, an endowed foundation, he asked Chuck to join his staff to help leaders in state government across the nation collaborate to monitor and improve policy for financing and managing long-term care. Co-author Colmers, then a senior official in state government in Maryland, worked with Chuck on this project and subsequently also joined the staff of the Fund. 

Chuck’s expertise in the politics of making and implementing policy was inseparable from his dedication to his priestly calling. He improved many lives because of his profound dedication to the people with whom and on whose behalf he worked.  

His gentle demeanor was always assuring, and his way of including all in the conversation was heartening. He was loved and respected wherever he went, even outside the halls of government. We recall fondly how he was treated as a hero whenever he entered a favorite restaurant on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx, a short walk from his digs with the Jesuits at Fordham. Already waiting for him at his table was a chilled Gibson with its signature cocktail onion.   

Chuck was a wonderful golfer, a skill picked up as a child growing up at a golf course. Those who had the privilege of playing with him marveled at his skill and reveled in his stories — almost always true — told with his noted Irish wit.   

All the friends he kept throughout the years will miss him deeply. We will remember him with admiration and affection, and we hope we can even partly emulate his passion and compassion, which led to the betterment of lives and communities wherever he went. 

Peace and all good things, Chuck!