North Andover, Massachusetts — John J. Costello, a lifelong resident of North Andover and for many years the dean of Democratic officeholders in Essex County, passed away on Thursday, January 16, 2014, at the Sutton Hill Center in No. Andover, MA. Costello was born in 1916, the son of Irish immigrants, John J. Costello and Agnes (Brown) Costello.
Costello graduated from Johnson High School in 1933 and then spent a year at St. John’s Prep before moving on to college. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Harvard College and a Master’s Degree from Boston College, before signing on with the Boston Municipal Research Bureau in 1942.
Costello’s interest in government and politics at the local level was evident at an early age. In 1939, as a 22-year-old junior at Harvard, he was elected to the North Andover Planning Board and to the North Andover School Committee. In 1942, at the age of 26, he was an unsuccessful candidate for State Representative. Several years later, he would gain County office, being appointed by Governor Tobin as Essex County Register of Probate to fill an unexpired term. In 1948, he ran for the office in his own right and was elected overwhelmingly by County voters to a six-year term. He went on to notch victories in 1954, 1960, 1966 and 1972 elections, retiring in 1978 after more than 30 years of public service.
Costello was particularly proud of his friendship with President John F. Kennedy, a Harvard classmate. They were on the Democratic ticket together in several elections, and Costello and his mother, Agnes, campaigned actively on Kennedy’s behalf throughout Eastern Massachusetts.
Costello was a communicant and strong supporter of St. Michael’s Parish and held special esteem for Merrimack College, where his brother, Phillip, served as the head librarian of the McQuade Library. Over the years, Costello was active in numerous civil and fraternal organizations, as well as the alumni councils at Harvard and Boston College. Throughout his lifetime, John was a philanthropist of some note, donating nearly $500,000 to well over 200 religious, educational, civic and political causes.