Arline Harvey Geaghan, the matriarch of the Geaghan family that has owned and operated Geaghan’s Restaurant in Bangor for nearly 45 years, died over the weekend. She was 98.
Geaghan was a Bangor native, born in 1920, and attended John Bapst High School, from which she graduated in 1939, 11 years after it was founded as a Catholic school. She earned her nursing certificate from Sister’s Hospital in Waterville, and worked as a nurse until 1945, when she married John Geaghan, a former classmate at John Bapst.
Arline and John went on to have 11 children — Michael, Terrance, David, Christopher, Larry, Pat, Carolyn, Peter and Richard, as well as Kathleen and Timothy, who both died as children. When Arline died, she had 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Though she worked as a nurse throughout her career, including at St. Joseph Hospital and what is now known as Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, she and her family are best known for Geaghan’s Restaurant, formerly John Geaghan’s Roundhouse Restaurant, an Irish-themed bar and restaurant located on the banks of the Penobscot River off Main Street in Bangor.
The original restaurant was named after a nearby railroad roundhouse, a structure that houses trains being repaired. Most of the Waterfront at that time was industrial — a far cry from the park, casino and concert venue that sit there today.
Over the ensuing decades, John and Arline built the restaurant into one of the region’s most beloved family businesses, famed for its “reserve” chicken wings, its classic pub food, and its warm, inviting atmosphere, proudly drawing on their family’s deep Irish roots and love of the Bangor area.
“My father was the engine of the place, but she was the heart and soul,” said Larry Geaghan, who now co-owns the restaurant with his brothers, Pat and Peter. “She was the one that was the calming voice and the voice of reason. She knew what was important, and how to keep things family-oriented and respectful and tasteful.”
Today, Geaghan’s may be most famous statewide for the brewery that opened on site in 2011, and now operates out of Brewer and sells beer in restaurants and stores all over Maine.
Arline Geaghan worked at the restaurant from day one, hosting at the front desk, showing diners to their seats, cradling nearly every baby who came through the doors and watching generations of customers have families of their own. She worked for more than 40 years — she didn’t officially retire until 2016, when Geaghan’s stopped serving breakfast. She was 96 years old at the time. Her husband, John, passed away in 1983.
Larry Geaghan said his mother kept a busy social schedule until just a few weeks before she died.
“I had her at the beauty parlor three weeks before she passed,” he said. “She had her coffee milkshake and her hair appointment on Friday, she went to Mass on Saturday, she went out to breakfast on Sunday, and Peter took her shopping on Monday. She bought a lot of birthday cards. There’s almost 100 people in our immediate family.”
Visiting hours are set for 1-3 and 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Brookings-Smith at 133 Center St. in Bangor. A funeral mass will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. John’s Catholic Church on York Street in Bangor.