John F. Feeney III died peacefully at home in Provincetown on March 20, 2022, surrounded by his family and friends. The cause of death, confirmed by his husband, Paul, was small cell prostate cancer, a rare form of the disease that he had been battling for years. John was 63.
The son of John Feeney II and Rita (Colleran) Feeney, John was born on April 8, 1958 in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston. He was, Paul said, “Dorchester through and through,” a fact that John celebrated by putting an OFD (Originally From Dorchester) decal on his car.
As a child, John was known for his sense of humor and especially for his smile. Both sustained him throughout life. He attended Boston public schools and graduated from Northeastern University with a degree in toxicology.
After college, John had a long career with the Mass. Water Resources Authority, starting as a lab technician, then moving into regulatory work throughout eastern Mass. His work focused on the environmental ramifications of water quality. He was an active member of the Mass. Organization of State Engineers and Scientists (MOSES) Union, Unit 9. He served as a project source manager until his retirement in July 2021.
John and Paul were together since 2001. John had two children from an earlier marriage, a son, John Feeney IV, and a daughter, Christina Mary Feeney. Both children died young and unexpectedly, Christina at 19 in 2008 from an undisclosed cause, and John, a Natick firefighter, at 30 in 2021 in an event described by his firefighters union as “an active-duty death.” No further details were given.
After Christina’s death, John and Paul settled in Provincetown year-round. “Johnny’s strength, courage, and healing during those terrible times served as a powerful example for everyone,” Paul said. “His strong spirituality and belief that he would be united again with his children gave him peace and the courage to carry on.”
In Provincetown, John became part of a large and thriving “underground” recovery community, as Paul put it, that is remarkably supportive of its members. In July 2021, John celebrated 20 years of sobriety.
In the winter of 2012, John joined the Provincetown Fitness Challenge. With cooperation from businesses and volunteer groups, the challenge supported a new lifestyle of exercise and healthy eating for many in the recovery community. John embraced it, and up until this past September he could be found daily at the gym, or at a Tower Pilates class, or on a bike ride or hike on the trails of the Cape Cod National Seashore.
In the last several years, John set out to see more of the world, traveling with Paul to Prague, Paris, Berlin, London, Dublin, Madrid, and Rome. He also became something of a YouTube autodidact, learning to do everything from home maintenance to making papier-mache whale tails from online instruction videos.
In 2015, John and Paul purchased their dream retirement home in Provincetown. Known locally as “Gracie House,” it was built in 1872; the same family had lived there for its first 143 years. Located at the corner of Bradford and Conwell streets, the house serves as the gateway to the town.
To welcome visitors and townies alike, John created seasonal décor, such as his hand-painted seven-foot giraffe, his 12-foot snow people, an independence eagle with a 15-foot wingspan holding an American flag, and a 20-foot rainbow arch. His yard décor would often make the local papers. He welcomed countless visitors who would stop to photograph the house, making him an unofficial town ambassador.
John volunteered at Ruthie’s Boutique, a nonprofit supporter of local social service agencies. He was named Provincetown’s Volunteer of the Year in 2021.
He is survived by his husband, Paul Yates of Provincetown; his mother, Rita Feeney of Milton; his sisters, Carol McGrath and husband Larry of Bridgewater and Donna McLaughlin and husband Peter of Milton; his sister-in-law, Barbara Yates of Provincetown, and brother-in-law, Brian Yates of Raymond, N.H.; his nieces and nephews, Steven and Lauren McGrath, Leah and Julia McLaughlin, Mark and Casey Yates, Gregg Yates, and Ashley Yates; and his great-nephews, Griffin and Gavin Yates, and great-niece, Miley Yates.
John was predeceased by his two children, Christina Mary Feeney in 2008 and Jake (John IV) Feeney in 2021, and by his brother, Steven, in 2014.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at 5 p.m. on Friday, April 1 at the Venezia Waterfront Ballroom, 20 Ericsson St., Dorchester; dinner will follow. On Saturday, April 2, a 1 p.m. service will be held at the Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, 236 Commercial St., Provincetown, with luncheon to follow.
John requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in his name to Ruthie’s Boutique, P.O. Box 474, Provincetown 02657.
To share a memory or leave an online condolence for the family, visit gatelyfuneralservice.com.