John P. Shanley

John Patrick Shanley, 77, of South Kingstown, beloved husband of Elaine (Davis) Shanley, passed peacefully at home on August 3. A former Supervisor in the Rhode Island Department of Corrections, entrepreneur, state legislator and associate professor of criminology, “Pat,” as he was affectionately known, was a man of myriad interests, many talents and boundless love for his family, friends, and community.  

Born in Providence in 1944, he was the son of the late Esther Joyce (Sweeney) and John Patrick Shanley. Pat graduated from Bishop Hendricken High School in 1962 and received his BA in Political Science from Providence College in 1966.  His studies inspired his lifelong commitment to political action and social justice as exemplified by his legislative career and leadership roles in the Democratic Party. After serving with the United States Army from 1966 to 1968, with a tour of duty in Vietnam, Pat earned his master’s degree in Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice at the University of Rhode Island.

Pat’s career, like his life, was in service to others. He began working at the RI Department of Corrections in 1968 as a Probation and Parole officer specializing in juvenile cases.  During the next 25 years, he took on roles of increasing responsibility within the agency before retiring as Supervisor in 1994.  A people person with an entrepreneurial spirit, he was actively involved in local government, and owned and operated several businesses throughout these years. His initial “retirement” proved to be an active one, and Pat went on to hold part-time positions as Associate Professor at the Roger Williams University School of Justice Studies and Grant Writer for Justice Assistance Corporation.  From 2000 to 2008, he was a Representative in the Rhode Island Legislature.    

These achievements, however impressive, are only a part of John Patrick Shanley’s life.  He was proud of his Irish heritage and embodied the best of Celtic culture with his charisma, humor, generous spirit, and eloquence. A gifted speaker, he was equally at home addressing a legislative committee, giving a eulogy, telling a joke, or spinning a tale for his grandchildren.  Pat was a big man, with a big voice, and a huge heart. 

The iconic Irish poet, William Butler Yeats wrote: Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, and say my glory was I had such friends. Indeed, Pat counted many devoted friends of differing ages, disciplines and points of view.  His loyalty and generosity drew people to him as much as his wit and magnetism. He was the “Go to Guy” for many.  

Pat’s commitments spanned the Board of Governors, Rhode Island Blue Cross and Blue Shield; the Board of Directors, United Cerebral Palsy Association; Juvenile Advisory Board, RI Governor’s Justice Committee; and the Rhode Island Emergency 911 Commission.  He was on the Town of South Kingstown Board of Canvassers at the time of his passing, and previously served as Town Moderator and Treasurer on the Board of Parks and Recreation. He was a member of the Sons of the Irish Kings, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Elks Lodge in Wakefield, and Pinecrest Golf Club in Richmond, and he dedicated his time to a variety of local charities including South County Community Action, Seniors Helping Others, and the Johnycake Center.

Family and friends were Pat’s core. He loved being a father, and grandfather. Besides his wife, Elaine, he is survived by his daughters, Ann Gardner and her husband Richmond of South Kingstown, and Margaret Murphy of Newport, and his grandchildren Delia and Declan Foley of South Kingstown. Pat was a cherished brother to Mary McDonald and her husband Arthur of East Greenwich, and Miles Shanley and his wife Madeline of Charlotte, NC.

His Mass of Christian Burial was held on Tuesday, August 10th at St. Francis of Assisi Parish. Burial took place in the Rhode Island Veterans Memorial Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests memorial donations be made to Providence College. Visit for online condolences.

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