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Home » Renowned Attorney and Former Mayor, Thomas F.X. Foley, Passes Away at 78

Renowned Attorney and Former Mayor, Thomas F.X. Foley, Passes Away at 78

    Sanibel Island, FL – Thomas F.X. Foley, a distinguished attorney, retired municipal court judge, and former mayor of Colts Neck, NJ, passed away on May 30, 2023, at the age of 78. Foley, who had been temporarily residing in Alexandria, VA after being displaced by Hurricane Ian, had an illustrious career serving several municipalities in and around Monmouth County, NJ.

    Born on January 22, 1945, in New York, NY, Foley grew up in Douglas Manor, NY. Recognized for his natural athletic abilities from a young age, he achieved national recognition at the age of ten by breaking a record in butterfly swimming. During his high school years, Foley worked as a swim coach and lifeguard at the Sands Point (NY) Bath and Tennis Club, where he first crossed paths with Mary O’Callaghan and her family. In August 1970, Foley and Mary married, embarking on a lifelong journey together.

    Foley graduated from Manhattan’s Xavier High School and the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. At his graduation in 1966, he was honored with the Crusader of the Year award, the most prestigious student-athlete accolade presented by the Varsity Club of Holy Cross. He captained the swim team and participated in football and lacrosse.

    In 1969, Foley earned his law degree from Seton Hall University School of Law. Following his time as an attorney in Los Angeles, he made the decision to enlist in the United States Marine Corps when drafted. Achieving the rank of Corporal, Foley served as a lawyer, football player, coach, and mentor to young marines and their families stationed at Camp Pendleton, CA during the Vietnam War. He garnered their admiration and earned the nickname “The Reverend Dr. Thom” for his counseling efforts.

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    Upon his return to New Jersey after his military service, Foley joined his uncle Edward Bowes at Bowes, Milner in Newark. He later became the Executive Director and legal counsel for the NJ Motor Truck Association. In 1973, Foley established his own law practice in Colts Neck and, a few years later, co-founded the law partnership Foley, Shelly and Niemann in Holmdel, NJ.

    Driven by his passion for politics, Foley immersed himself in local affairs and was elected to the Colts Neck Township Committee in 1979. In 1983, he assumed the role of mayor of Colts Neck.

    Foley’s career as a municipal court judge began in 1985 when he was appointed in Colts Neck. He subsequently served as a judge in various municipalities in and around Monmouth County, including Freehold Township, Borough of Sea Bright, Hazlet Township, Marlboro Township, Old Bridge Township, and Middletown Township. He was admitted to the state bars of New Jersey and California, the U.S. Supreme Court, and Federal Circuit and District Courts. Additionally, Foley shared his expertise by teaching college courses at Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College. Even after retiring from municipal courts in 2014, he continued to serve as an arbitrator with the American Arbitration Association.

    Foley was an active member of St. Isabel Catholic Church in Sanibel and had previously been affiliated with St. Catharine-St. Margaret Parish in Spring Lake and the Parish of St. Mary in Colts Neck. He held long-standing memberships at the Spring Lake Bath & Tennis Club, the Sanctuary Golf Club on Sanibel, and the Captiva Island Yacht Club.

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    Throughout his life, Foley remained dedicated to athletics and achieved numerous accolades in swimming, triathlon, and USLA lifeguard competitions at local and national levels. Lifeguarding skills and training remained a passion that extended well into his professional career, as he continued to compete with and mentor lifeguards along the Jersey Shore for nearly five decades. His favorite sports included swimming, surfboarding, windsurfing, biking, running, and rowing.

    Foley was a devoted husband and loving father, always making time for his children. He even coached while dressed in his suit, sometimes rushing straight from court, and made every effort to never miss a game or a swim meet.

    Known for his strong moral compass, Foley approached his role as a jurist with integrity and a commitment to upholding the law impartially and fairly. He took great pride in his country and his service as a Marine, exemplifying a deep passion for serving his community, God, and his nation.

    Foley was preceded in death by his father, John J. Foley, his mother, Mary Ida “May” (Gallagher) Foley, and his brother, Col. Peter K. Foley.

    He is survived by his wife of 52 years, Mary, his daughter Myleen Foley Lankford and son-in-law L. Blaine Lankford of Alexandria, VA, his daughter Gretchen Foley Van Brackle and son-in-law Steven L. Van Brackle of Oakton, VA, his son Thomas F.X. Foley II and daughter-in-law Jean Burke Foley of Old Hickory, TN, as well as seven grandchildren: Meghan, Shannon, and Caitlyn Lankford; Heidi and Henry Van Brackle; and Ava and Mya Foley. Foley is also survived by his brother, John J. Foley Jr., and his sister, Mary “Mimi” Foley Downey.

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