Celebrating 19 Years as Barrington’s Signature Magazine


Honoring Francis J. Houlihan

words by David Bearden

Photography BY Linda M. Barrett

Francis J. Houlihan.

What We Give

A popular expression is: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.” The Marine’s motto is Semper Fidelis, or Semper Fi…literally, “Always Faithful.”

Winston Churchill was quoted: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

And his calls to me, “How are things at the Elgin Symphony Orchestra? What can I do to help?”

I have just described Francis J. Houlihan.

For nearly two decades, ‘Fran’ Houlihan has remained one of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s most respected, appreciated, and outstanding ambassadors. He has worked tirelessly in the Barrington community to introduce the Elgin Symphony Orchestra to a new group of listeners and donors.

Fran fully embraces the spirit of philanthropy, values the gifts of time, talent, and treasure, and truly wants to help make life better for others. While keeping the Elgin Symphony in the top tier of philanthropic priorities, Fran remains a committed supporter of Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, where the Chapel of the Good Shepherd is named to honor him and his wife Patricia. He supports Mount Carmel High School (Alumnus, ’52), Mother McAuley High School (Life Trustee, 2014), Saint Anne Catholic Community, and various charities around the Chicagoland area.

Last fall, he helped guide the ESO to produce a “free concert for Barrington” for Saint Anne Catholic Community at holiday time, which attracted more than 1200 guests and three new sponsors.

A Man of Service and Family

Fran left high school and headed directly to the United States Marine Corps. “I’d go back tomorrow,” he said of his service. He loved the military leadership, direction, and being part of a unit. The camaraderie was important to him. He attended night school upon return, then embarked on a sales and management career in the paper and packaging industry.

Throughout his career, Fran has led, bought, turned-around, and sold companies—in one case, taking a business out of bankruptcy. Earning the role of president for the National Paper Trade Association, a luncheon he organized surpassed all records based on association attendance, and was the first time a former U.S. President, Gerald Ford, spoke to the group.

Fran’s dear wife, Patricia, passed away on January 8, 2022. Pat was an auxiliary president at Advocate Good Shepherd and helped connect Fran to hospital leadership through her work. The Chapel of the Good Shepherd, named for Fran and Pat, has a bronze statue in its nearby garden and the Chapel was recently dedicated at the hospital. He is passionate about supporting children’s hospitals, including St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis, and Shriners Children’s Chicago.

A long-time Barrington Hills resident, Fran built his dream home there for his family, and loved his countryside lifestyle. Today, he lives in The Garlands. Fran can always be found surrounded by his daughters, Kathleen, Mary, Maureen, Aileen, their husbands, 10 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. His four daughters are each tasked with learning the art of stewardship for charitable funds that Fran set up, giving them the responsibility to decide how to put their resources to work.

An Extraordinary Gesture

There is a wonderful anecdote that will give you a fuller understanding of a man who lives his faith and practices the simple commandment, “Do unto others…”

Raymond Greenwald, a homeless man, died in the morning hours of January 2002.

It reached a low of 6 degrees the January day Greenwald, 53, curled beneath the pedestrian bridge where Albany Avenue crosses the North Branch of the Chicago River and fell asleep for the last time. Days later, his body was identified by the staff of a nursing home where he once lived. His body had gone unclaimed for three months in a Cook County morgue, and he had been scheduled for a mass paupers’ burial along with 30 others.

That month, Fran learned of the unclaimed body in a newspaper column and decided to provide funding to give Greenwald—a stranger—a decent burial. On May 12, 2002, Raymond Greenwald was given a proper Catholic burial, complete with holy water, committal rites, and a neatly carved plot in Holy Sepulchre Catholic Cemetery.

“No one claimed him,” Fran said. “They were going to put him in a potter’s field. I did not think anyone should have that type of ending.”

Fran, true to his faith and his values, saw a situation where he could help someone in need. He did not seek accolades or praise for his actions. He felt we all can do small things to help each other—that we all sometimes depend on ‘the kindness of strangers.’ inspiring the Next Generation

“Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption” is a 2010 non-fiction book by Laura Hillenbrand. “Unbroken” is a biography of World War II veteran Louis Zamperini, a former Olympic track star, who survived a plane crash in the Pacific Theater, spent 47 days drifting on a raft, and then survived more than two and a half years as a prisoner of war (POW) in three Japanese POW camps.

Fran first learned of Louis when he was featured on a “60 Minutes” segment. He was so impressed that he contacted the producer to get a contact for Louis. Fran reached out to him. They became great friends, visiting, skiing together, and sharing stories of their lives and children.

Fran was so impressed by Louis and his story that he wanted a younger audience to hear what patriotism, honor, and love of country sounded like. Fran arranged for Louis to speak at Barrington High School, relating his experience as a POW during World War II.

Fran has touched the lives of many strangers. He touches and has touched so many people and organizations in his active life.

Fran Houlihan’s love for others is deeply embedded in his faith and his humanity. He is a man of action and results.

On a personal level, he has remained a steadfast friend and confidant. We remain close friends and speak on a regular basis. As the CEO of the Elgin Symphony, I frequently called on Fran to assist in meeting potential attendees and donors. In every instance, he organized meetings, made sure proper contact and follow-up protocols were practiced, and always had a new set of ideas for outreach and involvement of others. He’s a man who gets things done.

Fran always says, “To be successful, find your passion.” Fortunately, and for so many, he found his passion—one of great leadership and generosity—and we are all better for it.

David Bearden served the Elgin Symphony Orchestra as its CEO from May 2012 to October 2019. Bearden is also the former president and COO of Rex Stores, Inc., and the former President/Group Sales for Panasonic Corporation of North America.

Here are some words that others shared about Ellaine Sambo-Reyther.

Aileen Fitzgerald, Daughter

Proud to call this honoree “Dad,” thank you so much QB! Our parents
Patricia and Fran, both from the South Side of Chicago, attended Catholic schools and had four daughters. They always made sure God and faith was at the forefront of their daughters’ lives. Whether involved in a church event, helping support Catholic schools, or assisting a family in need, their demonstration of generosity and love for the community was always a constant.

Moving to Barrington years later and barely settled in, they were already making roots at Saint Anne, House of Hope, and Good Shepherd Hospital. These first encounters brought beautiful friends and helped blossom so many future opportunities to give back. Behind every great man there is a great woman! Our Dad’s outgoing, charismatic personality partnered with our mother’s creativity fostered relationships that are still going strong today.

My husband Kevin and our four kids have had the joy of living close to my parents in Barrington for over 25 years. It’s a true blessing for our kids to witness their grandfather in action. They admire the love he has for his family, his sense of adventure, his always teaching the value of a dollar, and that a firm handshake with good eye contact goes a long way! Our Mom passed away a couple years ago, and while we all miss her dearly, our almost 90-year-old father amazes his whole family because he is always looking for his next adventure! Cheers Dad and thank you again QB for allowing others to see a glimpse of Fran Houlihan.

Karen Lambert, President, Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital

Fran Houlihan is someone I have been privileged to call a friend for 20 years. I met Fran through his lovely wife, Pat, who was a volunteer and president of the Auxiliary at Good Shepherd Hospital. Lifelong volunteers and committed to service, Fran chaired our Development Council and our golf outings. He helped to develop our music therapy program, knowing the benefit to our patients, their families, and our team.

A successful business owner and entrepreneur, Fran expects much of himself and those who make commitments. We all value his integrity and the passion he brings to his projects. He and Pat were committed to giving back with their time, talent, and treasure. So many of us have benefited.

Fran’s North Star is his faith and family. They have grounded and guided him his entire life. He and Pat raised four amazing daughters who along with their spouses and children are Fran’s cherished inner circle. He prioritizes family time, vacations, holidays, and Lake Geneva. Fran is known for his memorable trips like his annual NYC visits with his daughters, seeing the northern lights with his sons-in-law, and the annual ski trip to Park City. An avid sportsman, we are all glad skiing and softball are now behind him and there is plenty of time for golf!

Fran is a person whose concern is outward facing—his family, his friends, asking “what can I do.” Great lessons for all of us—and I am a grateful friend.

Brian Long, Friend

Fran Houlihan was one of the first people I met when I started working in Barrington over 20 years ago. He is a true Barrington Renaissance man. Always dressed to the nines and carrying a briefcase or classy bag of sorts, one could only imagine what he was up to on a day-to-day basis. But aside from all that, he always had time to give a young guy a hello, a chat, and a little advice that was always spot on. He’s the kind of guy that knows how to get things done, and it’s always good to know and learn from someone like that. You can tell a lot about a man by the fruit he bears, and he bore some of the best. I’m blessed to call Fran Houlihan a friend!

Mary Mattoon, Daughter

I am happy to see my father being honored in Quintessential Barrington, and I thank you for doing so.

My father has always demonstrated great love for God, family, country—and community as well. His bringing together the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and Saint Anne Catholic Church the past two years for a wonderful Christmas concert that is open to all and at no cost, is just one example of his love for community.

Growing up, my sisters and I observed our father’s consistent involvement and efforts towards the betterment of our parish and our schools. He is very much a “people person,” and has always been at the ready to assist where he sees a need!

Another of my father’s gifts throughout our lives has been that of time—frequently and well-spent with family and friends. My sisters and I, as well as our children and grandchildren, have all remained close, in large part, due to having been raised in a culture where family is highly valued, and friends are treasured. Regular family gatherings and large group vacations are very bonding indeed! My father has greatly blessed and enriched our lives, and those of so many others as well! Thank you again for honoring him in this way.

Brad Stetson, Chairman & CEO Barrington Bank & Trust

Let me first say I have the utmost respect for Fran Houlihan; he is a man of faith, family, friends, and community. I was introduced to Fran by Bill Mitchell. Fran was looking to finance the purchase, a reacquisition of a company he had formally owned and had sold. This introduction occurred 20+ years ago and ever since Fran and I have transcended the banker-customer relationship and have become extremely good friends and confidants.

I can’t possibly enumerate the numerous organizations and charities Fran and his family have supported over the years through the Houlihan Foundation, but his incredible desire, passion, and belief to support and lift others less fortunate or in need is a testament to this man’s true being, a desire, passion, and belief instilled and shared by his four daughters. Over the years, Fran encouraged my involvement on the Finance Committee at Saint Anne Catholic Community Church and as a member of the Governing Council at Good Shepherd Hospital, and in both instances, I understood clearly, not only Fran’s commitment to the community, but his commitment to bring people together for the betterment of all, which further underscores the core of this man…faith, family, friends, and community.

Marc Thayer, CEO, Elgin Symphony Orchestra

Fran Houlihan has been a friend and supporter of the Elgin Symphony for many years. Most recently he has sponsored a gift to the Barrington community, the Holiday Brass Concert at his church in Saint Anne Catholic Community during the past two Decembers. This past year over 1,200 people enjoyed the Elgin Symphony’s brass and percussion musicians with our Music Director, Chad Goodman, conducting holiday favorites. Fran has a huge and generous heart, he has supported our work in the community, and wants to make sure that everyone has access to education, to the arts, and to a quality lifestyle. Nobody would ever guess his age by looking at the cars he drives. Fran has an enduring spirit and energy that is a positive influence on his family, friends, and everyone around him. It’s a pleasure to know Fran and to work with him and we hope to do so for many years to come.

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If you want to be successful, find your passion. When you are passionate about your work, your chance of success is much higher. − Francis J. Houlihan

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