Harry P. McGrath, Sr., Esq.

Harry P. McGrath, Sr., Esq., died unexpectedly September 7, 2015. Born in Washington, D.C. on August 6, 1957, he was the son of the late John T. and Margaret O’Neill McGrath. He was married to Joell Philbin McGrath, his devoted wife of 33 years. A proud graduate of Dunmore High School, Harry earned degrees from Kutztown University and Widener University School of Law, cum laude.

He was a partner in the law firm of O’Malley, Harris, Durkin and Perry PC, Scranton.
Before attending law school, Harry worked in the 1980’s as a special agent with the United States Secret Service. He received commendations for his work protecting both former President Ronald Reagan in Grenada, and former Vice President George H.W. Bush in the Khyber Pass, as well as special achievement and performance awards for noteworthy contributions to the effective and efficient operation of the Secret Service.
In 1992, Harry began his legal career as a law clerk for the Honorable William J. Nealon in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.  A member of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, he was also admitted to practice in the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, and the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Harry twice served as chairman of Senator Robert P. Casey’s Judicial Selection Committee for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
A grandson of his namesake, the late Congressman Harry P. O’Neill, Harry learned to love politics at an early age, influenced by his parents and extended family, including his aunt Lois O’Neill Kelly, a former Dunmore Councilwoman. Throughout his life, he worked in support of Democratic candidates, and was elected Lackawanna Democratic Party chairman for two terms, 2006 through 2014. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick of Lackawanna County and a former treasurer of the organization.
Having served as a public school solicitor for over 30 years, Harry was a tireless advocate for children, especially students facing any type of learning disability.  He was an early and strong supporter of the new Scranton High School project, working to ensure a quality education for generations of students to come.  He continued his advocacy upon joining the private practice of law, fulfilling a lifelong passion for helping school-age children in need. Harry was a past member of the Board of Directors of The Friendship House.
In addition to his wife Joell, he is survived by four children Harry P., Jr., Esq., and wife Stephanie, Dunmore; Pennsylvania State Trooper Robert J., Elizabeth C., and Joseph J., all of Philadelphia; his three brothers, William J. McGrath and wife Margaret, John T. McGrath, Jr., Esq. and wife Suzanne, and Christopher O. McGrath and wife Jean, all of Dunmore; two sisters, Janet Brier and husband Timothy, Dunmore, and Margaret McGrath, Moosic Lakes. Also surviving are two brothers-in-law,  Joseph Philbin, MD, and wife Mary Ellen, Clarks Summit, and John Philbin and wife Linda, Lancaster, and numerous nieces and nephews.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday at 10:30 am at St. Paul’s Church, 1510 Penn Ave., Scranton.

All attending the Mass are asked to go directly to the church.  Interment Dunmore Cemetery.

Friends may call Thursday, 3:00 to 8:00 pm in the Vanston and James Funeral Home 1401 Ash St. Scranton.

Memorial contributions may be made to Spring Break for Autism at the Friendship House, 1509 Maple St., Scranton, PA 18505, or to the Greater Scranton YMCA, 706 N. Blakely St., Dunmore, PA  18512.

For directions, to share a memory or to leave a condolence please visit www.vanstonandjames.com


  1. Richard P. McHugh

    My Mom, Jean O’Neill McHugh , and family, are praying for our cousin Harry,his wife and all the McGrath’s. Harry always had a smile and was a true American hero. I was glad to have spent some time with him at the I.H.M. fundraising Dinner August 1 at Marywood University.

  2. Ronald and Sandra Koldjeski

    Unfortunately we are away on vacation and learned of the untimely death of Harry. He was a good and honest person who will be missed by many. God speed to the family he is in our prayers today.
    May the graces of the good lord bless him.

    Ron and Sandy Koldjeski

  3. Francis P.(F.P.) Woodbridge

    Harry McGrath was always smiling,always cheerful. He was a great story teller.I never saw him cross or angry. He always made you feel welcome and wanted. He was charismatic. In a life that was full of achievements,Harry’s advocacy for children stands out as the most important. A person who did so much for others in life can only be at peace in death

  4. Kevin and Kathy Clarke

    We are truly sorry to hear of the death of Harry. He was a lifelong friend and fellow Dunmorean who always had a smile and friendly way that made him a true pleasure to be in his company. He will be missed by many far and wide but we’re sure none more than his family who he was devoted to. Our deepest sympathies to his entire family.
    Kevin and Kathy Clarke

  5. Meg Woodbridge Mills

    I am so sorry to hear about Harry. We are all in shock and cannot imagine the pain you are all feeling. What a terrible, terrible loss. I grieve for Joell and for their children. Harry was such an original–so funny, so kind. We always looked forward to seeing him–he had that rare quality of making everyone he met feel happy. He always took such good care of and showed so much love and respect to my parents. He was a truly great man, and I mourn with you at his passing. Sending you love and prayers from your Woodbridge cousins.

  6. Glenna Hazeltine, Esq

    Harry was greatly respected in the Education Bar, especially for his work on behalf of students with disabilities. We will miss him.

  7. John Gill

    My deepest condolences to the McGrath family. I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know Harry during his time with the Secret Service many years ago. Given the relatively short amount of time that Harry was with the agency, the impact that he had on those who were fortunate enough to work with him is simply astounding — a true testament to his warmth, his wit, his professionalism, and his friendship. We lost contact over the years, as often happens, but I was fortunate to reconnect with Harry by phone earlier this year, and we got caught up and told stories about the good old days. Please accept my deepest sympathies; I hope that you can take some small comfort in knowing that Harry’s memory still lives on in those of us at the agency who had the pleasure of working with him.

  8. George Schneider,Jr.

    Joell, I offer you my sincere condolences, I am so sorry that I was not able to attend the viewing, I will always remember Harry as someone who was true and loyal to the Democratic Party. My prayers are with you and your children at this time. May he rest in peace in the arms of God forever. He will be remembered in my prayers.

  9. Linda Flores and family

    Deepest condolences from my family to the McGrath family. The loss is big. May you find peace that only the LORD Jesus can give your heart and soul. As always we will continue praying for you all.

  10. Michael &Teresa Rynkewitz

    Betsy & Family – Michael and I are so very sorry to hear about your Dad’s passing. My heart goes out to you, your Mom and your family. I know that there is nothing I can say that will make you feel better, so I just wanted to let you know that we will be praying for you and your family.

  11. Tom Makowski and Family

    To the McGrath Family
    We are deeply saddened by the passing of Harry. He was a wonderful person and good friend. He will be greatly missed by all of us. Our prayers are with you.

Leave Your Condolences

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.