John Martin McGough, an early resident of Columbia and longtime employee of both juvenile and adult criminal justice branches, died June 8 at his home in Columbia of an apparent heart attack. He was 85.
Mr. McGough was born John Martin Pierson in Hartford, Conn. He was adopted by John and Elizabeth McGough of Holyoke Massachusetts as a baby. His birth mother was Edna A. Pierson.
Mr. McGough was raised in Holyoke. And he struggled at times as a result of his adoption, according to his daughter, Genevieve Elizabeth McCardell.
"He had a very difficult childhood," Mrs. McCardell said.
Mr. McGough attended high school at Mount Saint Charles Academy, a boarding school in Woonsocket, R.I., where he played ice hockey.
"The priests there were very instrumental in his formative years," Mrs. McCardell said.
It was this positive interaction that strengthened his faith as a Catholic, and directed him into social work.
"I think he had a lot of insight to how important it was to have good moral character," said Mrs. McCardell, who followed in her father's footsteps and works as a probation officer for the Department of Juvenile Services in Howard County. "You could withstand a lot if you held onto your faith. He always said 'It's important to do the right thing even if it wasn't the easy thing.' Even though he had a rough beginning, he was very strong in his faith and was a very moral person."
Mr. McGough received a bachelor's degree from St. Michael's College in Vermont. He also served in the U.S. Army for three years during the Korean War, where he worked stateside in psychiatric hospitals where soldiers returned from combat.
"My dad would tell stories about having to administer shock therapy to soldiers who were suffering from the emotional toll of war," Mrs. McCardell recalled.
"I talked to John just a few weeks ago," he said. "We both discussed our various illnesses as old people tend to do. He was happy to be alive and working through his stuff. I've been wanting to go visit him. But obviously I didn't visit him in time, which is a great regret of mine."
Mr. McGough and his family fell in love with the concept of Columbia shortly after moving there in 1971. He lived in the same home in the Stevens Forest neighborhood until his death, according to his daughter.
Although he retired from the federal government in the late 1980s, he continued to work for various youth detention centers and programs.
"He was able to really put his heart in it," Mrs. McCardell said.
In 1993, his first wife died of lung cancer. By then, he was fully retired. He then began to do volunteer work. He also became very involved with his church, St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Columbia.
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