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The inspiring journey of philanthropist, historian, and elevator safety advocate James Fay Comley

Now a retired entrepreneur, Comley is known for his dedication to elevator safety advocacy, philanthropy, and historic preservation

Virginia and James F. Comley outside their home. Photo courtesy of James Fay Comley
Virginia and James F. Comley outside their home. Photo courtesy of James Fay Comley

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The world will always benefit from a sense of community and an appreciation for history. Still, it will only improve with more people like James Fay Comley. A man of many accomplishments, Comley is known for his dedication to elevator safety advocacy, philanthropy, and historic preservation. Now a retired entrepreneur, Comley’s journey from a devoted soldier to the reserved resident of the Elijah Stearns Mansion and pillar of his community is a story filled with as much honour as inspiration.

Born on November 9, 1930, in Massachusetts, Comley’s life has been marked, perhaps most notably, by a deep commitment to public service and a passion for preserving history. His early years were shaped by his service in the US Navy aboard the USS Hawkins from 1951 to 1955. After leaving the Navy, Comley evaluated multiple avenues and ultimately embarked on a career in the elevator industry, working at Payne Elevator from 1955 to 1968. In 1969, he decided to demonstrate his entrepreneurial spirit and genuine commitment to excellence as he founded his own company, City Elevator.

However, Comley’s role as an advocate for elevator safety truly set him apart in this industry. In 1984, he was appointed by the Governor to the Massachusetts Department of Public Safety’s Board of Elevator Regulators. Over the following 20 years, he staunchly dedicated himself to ensuring elevator passengers’ utmost safety and security, culminating in his appointment as Chairman of the Board in 2006. Comley’s impressive contributions and radiant passion were recognized with the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour in 2011. The honour proved one of many testament to his impact on the industry.

Beyond his numerous professional achievements, Comley is also a dedicated philanthropist and avid champion of historic preservation. He co-founded the Elevator Museum in 2012, further exhibiting his unparalleled devotion to preserving the fascinating history of the elevator industry. With eyes for remarkable real estate, Comley and his late wife purchased and restored the Elijah Sterns Mansion in Bedford, MA, a historic building over two hundred years old. Their efforts have preserved a marvellous piece of history and enriched the community in ways beyond words.

Of course, Comley’s impact extends beyond his professional and philanthropic endeavours. He has also volunteered at the First Church of Christ and St. Michael’s Parish in Bedford for over 40 years. Furthermore, he has served on the board of the Bedford Grange for over 30 years, demonstrating his untiring commitment to serving his beloved community.

As the days turn into years, Comley’s legacy continues to inspire. His ardent dedication to public service, historic preservation, and philanthropy is a model for future generations. No matter where you are, James F Comley’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, service, and passion. His immense contributions to elevator safety, historic preservation, and philanthropy have left a permanent mark on the elevator industry, his loved ones, and his community. And while he continues to inspire, Comley’s legacy serves as a reminder of the impact one individual can have on the world around him.

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Jon Stojan is a professional writer based in Wisconsin. He guides editorial teams consisting of writers across the US to help them become more skilled and diverse writers. In his free time he enjoys spending time with his wife and children.

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