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AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
CANADA $4.95 / U.S. $3.95
OPERATION “NO EXCUSES” A Wounded Warrior’s Inspirational Journey To Ultimate Fitness. “I believe in being better, not bitter.” – Noah Galloway
The Health Care & Life Sciences
TOP PROFESSIONALS LEADING THE WAY IN MEDICAL ADVANCES
INSPIRING STORIES ON Caring For the Uninsured Battling Alzheimer’s Breast Cancer Survivers Natural Medicine and more . . .
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contents | august / september 2015
10 Irish Eye on Hollywood
Johnny Depp, Carey Mulligan, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farrell, and more. By Tom Deignan
Golfer Pádraig Harrington
A Master’s champion on his skin cancer battle. p. 21
30 Noah Galloway: No Excuses
An Iraq veteran has rebuilt his body and life after losing an arm and a leg to a roadside bomb. By Patricia Harty
Healthy eating with a celebrity chef. p. 76
35 Healthcare + Life Sciences 50 Honoring the best Irish and Irish American healthcare professionals.
56 Dublin’s Croke Park
Behind the scenes at the center of Irish sporting for more than 100 years. By Frank Shouldice
A 94-year-old Irish mother shares her secrets. p. 80
60 Health on Wheels
A mobile healthcare unit has provided services to uninsured rural Virginians for more than 30 years. By Leslie McCrea
64 Rowing Back to Life
Breast cancer survivors join a dragon boat racing team to restore their bodies and souls. By Mary Pat Kelly
70 The Long Shadow of 9/11
FDNY’s 150th anniversary year is overshadowed by ongoing health conditions suffered by 9/11 first-responders. By Tom Deignan
86 “I Believe in Her”
Kevin Jack McEnroe on his debut novel, based on his grandmother, the actress Joanna Moore. By Adam Farley
6 8 13 24 88 92 94 96
First Word Readers Forum Hibernia Those We Lost Sláinte Crossword Books Family Album
LAST WORD: “W
ho the Irish Really Are” By Thomas Cahi ll p. 98
90 What Are You Like?
Award-winning author Anne Enright takes our questionnaire. By Patricia Harty
4 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
74 Wonder Woman
The story of Margaret Higgins Sanger, who opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. By Rosemary Rogers
The healing powers of Lughnasa. p. 82 A man’s struggle to document his Alzheimer’s. p. 84
68 Darkness into Light
Ireland’s Pieta House has begun a muchneeded dialogue about suicide in Ireland. By Sharon Ní Chonchúir
A Tyrone native’s novel wellness center in New York. p. 78
Cover Photo: Courtesy Noah Galloway
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the first word | By Patricia Harty
Darkness Into Light
”I believe in being better, not bitter.” – Noah Galloway.
f you have your health you have everything,” my mother Norrie used to say. She said a lot of things that used to annoy me. Another catch-phrase when some difficult task was at hand: “It will build character,” or the adage, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk.” As I grew older I realized that my mother was giving me survival tips, reminders that life doesn’t always break your way but you can’t let it break you, so keep on going. Working on this issue of Irish America another of her dictums came to mind: “Don’t be bitter. Bitterness corrodes.” No one wants to be bitter, but since we are human it is easy to get caught up in self pity and ruminate on problems large and little. The antidote to such self-centeredness is to turn our attention to those who have experienced adversities that dwarf our own and not only survived, but thrived. This issue is full of such stories. I came away with such a positive frame of mind from my conversation with Noah Galloway, the subject of our cover story, and full to the brim with admiration at how, despite having lost an arm and a leg in a roadside bomb in Iraq, he has channeled his anger into action and ultimate fitness. Now at the height of his physical power, he’s inspiring others to drop the “pity party” and accept a healthier lifestyle and attitude. “I believe in being better, not bitter,” Noah says. No excuses. Mary Pat Kelly profiled a group of women rowers – all breast cancer survivors – whose journey to recovery involves racing “dragon boats” while at the same time cleaning up Flushing Bay, one of our most toxic waterways. It is another inspiring story, as is Sharon Ní Chonchúir’s piece on Joan Freeman who turned the tragedy of her sister’s death into a suicide prevention project, and is now bringing her “Darkness Into Light” awareness message to the U.S. Also in this issue, Rosemary Rogers writes
6 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
about Margaret Higgins Sanger and her long struggle to legalize birth control in the U.S. Meanwhile, Leslie McCrea shines a light on Sister Bernie Kenny who founded St. Mary’s Health Wagon, a service that brings mobile healthcare to the uninsured in rural Virginia. Tom Deignan’s story takes us back to 9/11 and the on-going health effects suffered by firemen who were part of the clean-up effort. But here too is inspiration in the creation of a community center on Long Island to honor the last wishes of firefighter Johnny Mac. We don’t know what’s around the corner for us, or how we would meet adversity should it come our way, but these individuals serve as lighthouses that show us the grace and beauty of what it is to be human and just how precious life and wellness are. The same can be said for our 50 honorees in Healthcare and Life Sciences who are on the cutting edge of research – challenging Alzeimer’s, diseases of the eye, heart ailments and other afflictions. In their capacity as scientists, doctors, and caregivers, they are on the frontlines, touching people’s lives every day. My mother was a health care professional too. A graduate of St. Vincent Hospital’s first class of women radiographers, she loved her profession and the world of medicine so much that where her last child, Ciaran, the youngest of 13, went off to school, she returned to work. It wasn’t easy, yet she saw to it that we were all loved and fed and well read. Though there was much in her life that she could have been bitter about, she always rose above it. This one’s for you, Ma. Mórtas Cine,
Vol. 30 No. 5 •Aug./Sept. 2015
IRISH AMERICA Mórtas Cine
Pride In Our Heritage
Founding Publisher: Niall O’Dowd Co-Founder/ Editor-in-Chief: Patricia Harty Vice President of Marketing: Kate Overbeck Art Director: Marian Fairweather Advertising & Events Coordinator Tara Dougherty Deputy Editor: Adam Farley Copy Editor: John Anderson Contributing Editor: Matthew Skwiat Financial Controller: Kevin M. Mangan Editorial Assistants: Julia Brodsky Cliodhna Joyce-Daly Siobhan Peters R. Bryan Willits 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York NY 10001 TEL: 212-725-2993 FAX: 212-244-3344 Subscriptions: 1-800-582-6642 E-MAIL: email@example.com www.irishamerica.com Irish America Magazine ISSN 0884-4240) © by Irish America Inc. Published bi-monthly. Mailing address: P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. Editorial office: 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Telephone: 212-725-2993. Fax: 212-244-3344 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subscription rate is $21.95 for one year. Subscription orders: 1-800-5826642. Subscription queries:1-800582-6642, (212) 725-2993, ext. 150. Periodicals postage paid at New York and additional mailing offices. Postmaster please send address changes to Irish America Magazine, P.O. Box 1277, Bellmawr, NJ 08099-5277. IRISH AMERICA IS PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.
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letters | readers forum Great Hunger in the North
Concern in Nepal
A Challenging Response: t the time of the massive earthquake in April, I was in my room at Kathmandu and my son and granddaughter were in their bedroom upstairs. My house shook to and fro and up and down for about a minute. Although we were scared to death we managed to reach a safe place inside the house. Then after the main shock, we rushed to our small kitchen garden to be safe from aftershocks. While rushing to the backyard, we saw our boundary wall was already collapsed by the main shock. This is the largest earthquake I have ever experienced in my lifetime. We experienced several continuous aftershocks on that very day. The frequent aftershocks made us more terrified. The next day, my daughter, daughter-in-law, granddaughter, and I were at Mahamohan Cardio Thoracic Vascular Transplant Center in Kathmandu where my wife was staying at ICU after an aortic replacement type. My wife was very worried about us as she was at ICU. Although the hospital building is designed to withstand a strong earthquake, it shook and terrorized us after a 6.9 magnitude aftershock. No structural damage was reported within the hospital territories. The effects of the Great Quake are too enormous to handle alone. In the face of such crisis, there has been a generous outpouring of assistance from all around the world to minimize the sufferings of hundreds of thousands of the Nepali people hit by the tremors followed by collapsed building. Various countries, international organizations, private organizations, and even individuals both Nepalese and foreign are doing their best to help in the rescue, relief, treatment, and rehabilitation of the victims. Without the outpouring of financial, technical, and other relief materials from all over the world, the scale of quake-induced human tragedy and other losses would have been much higher. Thank you, Concern, for coming to our aid.
Dirgha Raj Prasai (Submitted online)
8 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
One of the largest extenuating circumstances of the Famine in northern Ireland was the fact that tenants were compensated for any improvements made to their holdings, a practice known as “tenant right.” And according to the book The Great Hunger: Ireland, this was one of the main reasons the North was perceived to have been less affected – “the superior prosperity and tranquility of Ulster, compared with the rest of Ireland, were due to tenant right.”
The Willis Clan
At first I watched this wonderful family, so full of love and joy. I was so envious of all of them. I watched the older girls and thought of my daughter, Liza. She had taken her life in October 2002. Part of me died with her. Then I learned about the death of most of Toby’s siblings, and asked, “How do you survive such a nightmare?” It caused me to be more aware of how other people handle heartache. My sadness is part of my life, but it doesn’t define who I am. Now I think of Toby and his great loss and how he lives his life, with renewed joy and love. Thank you, Toby.
Suzy de Lancey (Submitted online)
Mikel Solab (Submitted online)
LEFT: Concern Worldwide's Humanitarian Coordinator Ros O'Sullivan with logistician Grahan Woodcok in Nepal last May. Concern is working with local partners to reach affected communities with relief supplies. BELOW: Statue of W.B. Yeats in the Sligo city center.
This is the best show I have seen in a long time. The family not only has amazing talent, but are drop dead gorgeous. The little ones are too cute for words. I am looking forward to the next episode.
The Willis family, with father Toby Willis pictured back row, left.
Laurie Gillette (Submitted online)
150 Years of Yeats’s Sligo
Thank you, Irish America, for celebrating the great Yeats. On the approaches into Rome, back in the day, great people were buried alongside the roads that led into the city leaving wise inscriptions on their tombs for passing horsemen to read. Ergo, Yeats’s words: “Horseman pass by.” My mother, rest her soul, used to see Jack Yeats, W.B’s brother, hurrying around Dublin with a canvas under his arm. Thank God for giving us the amazing lists in literature, our little country, and our people, one of the oldest in the world, as old as the Greeks and the Jews and such an elder brother to England and all the rest of Europe.
Peter Garland (Submitted online)
Visit us online at Irishamerica.com to leave your comments, or write to us:
Send a fax (212-244-3344), e-mail (email@example.com) or write to Letters, Irish America Magazine, 875 Avenue of the Americas, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001. Letters should include the writer’s name, address and phone number and may be edited for clarity and length.
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood Johnny Depp Goes Green
-lister Johnny Depp is going through some kind of Irish phase. The Pirates of the Caribbean star – who played an Irish gypsy in the 2000 French flick Chocolat – has two films with heavy Irish themes coming out, including a big-screen version of a beloved classic of Irish-American literature. First up is Black Mass, slated to hit movie theaters in September. Black Mass (based on the bestselling book by Boston Globe journalists Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr) is based on the FBI’s notorious relationship with Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger. Depp plays Bulger in a role that is already garnering Oscar buzz. Black Mass will explore how FBI agent John Connolly (who grew up in the same housing project as Bulger) cultivated the South Boston criminal as an informant, only to get sucked into the temptations of the underworld himself. Black Mass has a star-studded cast, including Kevin Bacon, Sienna Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dakota Johnson. Meanwhile, reports also indicate that Depp is looking to bring J.P. Donleavy’s classic The Ginger Man to the big screen. Lilliput Press in Ireland recently published a 60th anniversary edition of The Ginger Man, “which comes with an introduction by Johnny Depp, who is also planning to make a movie out of it,” The New Yorker recently noted. “Depp, in the intro, describes the novel as ‘a bedeviled, timeless jewel of scandalous misdeeds.’” The Ginger Man is about the romantic and sexual escapades of Sebastian Dangerfield, an American law student who ends up living in Dublin. Donleavy himself was born in New York to Irish immigrant parents but ended up living in Ireland, flipping the traditional Irish immigrant narrative, one of many elements that make the novel so fascinating. The Modern Library hailed The Ginger Man as one of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. And The New Yorker recently noted: “Sixty years later, the work remains a hilarious and upsetting portrait of postwar Ireland and the American G.I.s who showed up there, with the prerogative and the wherewithal to carouse and copulate on a level that the locals did not appreciate.” Let’s just hope Depp does better with The Ginger Man than he did with The Lone Ranger.
10 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
By Tom Deignan
Ciaran Hinds Keeps Moving Up
orthern Irishman Ciaran Hinds remains as busy as ever. In August, he co-stars in Hitman: Agent 47, about a ruthless assassin who partners with a desperate woman in search of family secrets. Hinds will also appear in the upcoming biopic Bleed for This, about American boxer Vinny Pazienza. Bleed for This will also star Katey Sagal and BAFTA nominee Miles Teller (Whiplash). Hinds and Liam Neeson will also team up for Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming religious epic Silence.
Ciaran Hinds in Hitman: Agent 47
Johnny Depp in Black Mass
Another Murder on the Orient Express
enneth Branagh is
getting back to his literary roots. The Belfast-born lover of Shakespeare – who in recent years has turned to popcorn fare like Thor and Cinderella – is planning to make a new version of the Agatha Christie mystery Murder on the Orient Express. Branagh is hoping the fourth time is a charm, as Christie’s tale of death on a train has been thrice made already. No word just yet though on a cast or release date for Branagh’s latest.
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Clones & Detectives, Priests & Vigilante Bones
Colin Farrell on True Detective
he Irish are playing an outsized role in a number of the most-buzzed about TV shows these days – the socalled “golden age of television.” Of course, there’s Colin Farrell on True Detective as well as numerous Irish actors on Game of Thrones (Michelle Fairley, Liam Cunningham, Aiden Gillen, Conleth Hill). But there’s also Clontarf native Maria Doyle Kennedy on Orphan Black, the sci-fi series which explores the moral and dramatic implications of cloning. Another Dubliner, Jason O’Mara, recently starred in the USA network’s Complications, which seems to have been inspired by Liam Neeson’s Taken franchise. O’Mara plays a grieving father motivated to become a vigilante, in an effort to save another child’s life. Complications was planned as a 10-episode run and is still available on various streaming services. Finally, there’s County Down writer Garth Ennis, whose graphic novel Preacher has been slated to become a pilot for the AMC network, which has developed critical and popular smashes such as Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Ennis teamed up with comedy legends Seth Rogen and Adam Goldberg to develop Preacher, which has already stirred up some controversy. The graphic novel’s plot revolves around a Texas preacher named Jesse Custer who befriends an Irish vampire – who (naturally) took part in the Easter Rising. Oh, and they plot to kill God. Not surprisingly, Ennis has voiced a pointed disdain for organized religion. How this will all play to American audiences remains to be seen. Ethiopian-born, Irish-raised actress Ruth Negga is among those who have signed onto the cast of Preacher.
Maria Doyle Kennedy on Orphan Black
A Pregnant Catastrophe
hen there is Sharon Horgan. The Meath-raised triple threat (actress/writer/director) stars alongside Boston-born Irish-American comic Rob Delaney in a new sitcom which streams on Netflix called Catastrophe. In the raunchy show, Horgan plays an Irish woman who has a fling with an American advertising executive. When Horgan ends up pregnant – wait for it – these two strangers decide to give marriage a try, much to the surprise of their family and friends. Catastrophe earned raves when Netflix released it earlier this summer. The New York Daily News said the show is “the latest confirmation that some of the best TV these days isn’t on traditional TV.” Up next for the BAFTA Award-winning Horgan is an even more highly-anticipated project, the upcoming HBO series Divorce, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Horgan serves as a writer as well as co-producer on Divorce, which is Parker’s first big project since she left TV after a long run on a little show called Sex and the City.
Sharon Horgan in Catastrophe
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hibernia | irish eye on hollywood Eve Hewson in Bridge of Spies
No Escape in September
n September, look for Pierce Brosnan in the action film No Escape, which had previously been titled The Coup. Also starring Owen Wilson and Lake Bell, No Escape is about a straight-laced businessman trying to keep his family safe in an area that has suddenly become a war zone. Director Gavin O’Connor’s western vengeance flick Jane Got a Gun – starring Natalie Portman and Ewan McGregor – will also be released in September.
Suffrage and Steroids
inally, and also in October, the film Suffragette chronicles the early days of the movement to win the right to vote for women. Starring Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, Suffragette also features the indomitable Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as well as Anne Marie-Duff, born in England to Irish parents, and familiar for Irish roles in films such as The Magdalene Sisters and TV shows such as Shameless (the British version) in which she played Fiona Gallagher.
Hanks to Play Donovan Spy
n October, which is when Oscar-buzzed movies really start to hit the screens, two-time Best Actor winner Tom Hanks plays Irish American lawyer James Joseph Donovan in the Steven Spielberg movie Bridge of Spies. (The name of this flick has also changed; it was originally known as St. James Place.) Irish American Amy Ryan and Irish actress (and Bono’s daughter) Eve Hewson also star in Bridge of Spies. It centers on Donovan, the Cold War diplomat and New York City native with roots in Clonakilty, Cork, according to Donovan’s biographer Phillip J. Bigger. Donovan, Bigger writes, “was reared in a conservative Catholic home where concepts of family, religion, educational attainment and patriotism were key essentials – and he lived up to all of them.” Donovan was later tabbed by the Kennedy administration to meet with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. He had to negotiate the release of prisoners who were captured by Cuban authorities during the Bay of Pigs invasion, which U.S. officials had supported in the hopes that it would lead to the overthrow of Castro’s Communist regime.
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Brendan Gleeson at Cannes
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on the stage | hibernia
Gabriel Byrne when he starred in O’Neill’s Touch of a Poet
Long Day Due Back on Broadway
ugene O’Neill’s Irish American epic Long Day’s Journey into Night is coming back to Broadway. Oscar and Emmy winner Jessica Lange will join Irish stage and screen veteran Gabriel Byrne as well as Irish American John Gallagher Jr. for the Roundabout Theater Company production, scheduled to hit the Great White Way next spring. Irish American director and producer Ryan Murphy, best known for the TV dramedy Glee, will also have a hand in the production. The match is more fitting than it may seem on the surface. Murphy and Lange worked together on the last four seasons of the cable smash show American Horror Story. Jonathan Kent is slated to direct. The play – which has run close to four hours in past productions – is O’Neill’s most brutally autobiographical, purging many of his family demons, from alcoholism and drug addiction to his father’s struggles with money and artistic accomplishment. Lange will tackle one of the great female roles in the American theater, made famous by Katharine Hepburn on stage and in film – Mary Tyrone, a woman with a veneer of respectability but addicted to morphine. Byrne will play the role of Tyrone family patriarch James, an actor who has made a fine living performing a single role (just like O’Neill’s own successful father did) but regrets not challenging himself. He is also extremely, um, careful with his money. This is not Byrne’s first time tackling an outsized O’Neill role. He starred in another Roundabout revival of O’Neill’s A Touch of the Poet. Byrne also starred alongside Cherry Jones in Moon for the Misbegotten. Long Day’s Journey into Night was not completed until late in O’Neill’s life, though he worked on it for years. It is widely seen as a purging of the many personal demons that drove O’Neill, including the battles he fought with his Irish immigrant father. The play was never actually performed until 1956 – three years after O’Neill died. It was a sensation when it was finally produced, winning a Tony Award as well as a Pulitzer Prize. Not only is the play considered O’Neill’s best, it is often mentioned alongside Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman and Tennessee Williams’s Streetcar Named Desire as one of the greatest American plays. – Tom Deignan
ony-Award winning director Garry Hynes and Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company brought Shakespeare to the Lincoln Center Festival this summer. Making their fourth appearance at the festival, Druid Theatre Company debuted their epic DruidShakespeare: The History Plays in New York July 7th. The seven-hour production condenses Shakespeare’s “Henriad,” Richard II, Henry IV (parts 1 & 2), and Henry V. Thirteen actors perform multiple roles through the production, which first played in Galway in May. Hynes and screenwriter Mark O’Rowe developed the epic into a distinctly Irish interpretation, marking Druid’s first tackling of Shakespeare. “I’m personally attracted to the histories, because of what they tell us about things that interest me in the theater – family, fathers and sons, the mix of the great kings and those outsiders at the tavern. These plays felt very Irish to me,” Hynes told The New York Times. Druid Theatre celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, first founded in Galway by Hynes, Marie Marty Rea as Richard II in Mullen, and Mick DruidShakespeare. Photo: Lally. – T.D. Matthew Thompson
Irish-American Broadway actress Kelli O’Hara (above) finally took home a Tony award for her performance of Anna in the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I in June after six previous nominations. “Broadway’s Irish Colleen” beat out fellow rivals Kristin Chenoweth (who hosted the event), legend Chita Rivera, and Beth Malone.
Oscar Wilde Play Banned in Russia
lans to stage a 1997 play based on Oscar Wilde: “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde” were halted after the Russian government barred the company from accepting any foreign funds for “artistic purposes” according to The New York Times. The much lauded New Drama theater in Moscow was attempting to put on Moises Kaufman’s play with funding from the U.S government. The Russian government did not provide any comments, but Kaufman believes its postponement has to do with the themes of homosexuality that permeate the play. Russia has been no friend of gay rights and its curious move to censor the play raises eyebrows. Kaufman reiterates, “the opportunity to re-enact the Oscar Wilde trials in Moscow at this time would have been incredibly relevant, and also would have led to the kind of dialogue that is so sorely needed there at this time.” The U.S State department voiced its disappointment with the decision but spokesman Mark Toner did say it would “continue to promote U.S.-Russian cultural exchange.” Regardless, Wilde probably would have loved the idea that his life could still strike up controversy, even 100 years after his death. – M.S. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 13
IRELAND’S ANCIENT EAST The east of Ireland is a rich treasure trove of European history from the very earliest traces of its civilization. Explore tombs older than the pyramids, unearth the Pagan and Celtic wonders that shape Irish mythology. Take in the castles of Medieval Ireland and roam the monasteries of centuries past. Ireland’s ancient east presents a backdrop for a dramatic journey through the tales of great artists and writers, rebellions and empires, religion and innovation. A compact trip, the east offers a wealth of historical sites amidst lush green scenery that make exploring a relaxing adventure. From the Rock of Cashel to the winding streets of Dublin, anywhere one turns in the east is another monument to yesteryear. A unique day trip from bustling Dublin to Newgrange and the Hill of Tara is one way to take in some of Ireland’s oldest relics. Newgrange, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, is dated 3,200BC and home to Neolithic burial chambers that predate the Egyptian pyramids. The Hill of Tara nearby
DUNBRODY, CO. WEXFORD
is the mystical seat of the old high kings of Ireland. In New Ross, County Wexford, the Dunbrody Famine Ship is an exact replica of the ship which carried famine-affected families across the Atlantic to America. For many it provides a tangible representation of what their families might have experienced emigrating from their homes. In County Offaly, Birr Castle is home to some of the most spectacular gardens in Ireland. Originally landscaped in the 18th century, the garden is now a lush living collection of history. Also at Birr Castle, the Great Telescope was designed and built by the Third Earl of Rosse in the 1840s. It remained the largest in the world for over 70 years and is still working today. Visitors to Birr Castle can marvel at the beauty of nature and the advancement of science all while taking in the gorgeous views of the historic estate. For history buffs, there is no greater destination than Ireland’s great ancient east. The adventure and stories that have inspried for generations await.
BIRR CASTLE, CO. OFFALY
Background image: Newgrange
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hibernia | high praise Huge Turnout For Women of Concern
A Powerful Ambassador
he Women’s Executive Network (WXN) celebrated the 2015 “Ireland’s Most Powerful Women: Top 25 Awards” in June, naming Irish Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson as one of the country’s most influential leaders in public service. Anderson, who received the Public Sector Leaders Award, was recognized for her impact in public service in the United States, often reluctant herself to receive praise for the diplomatic successes she has achieved. Speaking at the event, WXN founder Pamela Jeffrey emphasized the wage gap and called on the women present to continue to promote their peers, learn from the successes of these women in the workplace, and support meaningful change in the growing system of inequality. “The gender pay gap in Ireland is 14.4 percent and getting worse according to E.U. statistics. The stats also show that women with children tend to fare worse in the pay scale against male counterparts,” Jeffery said. “Women need to be facilitated in their career progression and confident in their own value in the system. This is why we identify, promote and celebrate successful and influential women in Ireland.” Founded in 1997, WXN is dedicated to the advancement and recognition of women in management, executive, professional and board roles and has a membership of over 19,500 women who offer networking, mentoring, and professional and personal development to this fast-growing community. Ireland’s Most Powerful Women: Top 25 Awards has been celebrated since 2012, with past awardees such as former president Mary Robinson, writers Maeve Binchy and Edna O’Brien, actress Fiona Shaw, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Samantha Power. – A.F.
EO and founder of Solera Molly Ashby (center) received the Women of Concern Leadership Award at the 13th Annual Women of Concern Luncheon in New York in June. The lunch was the most successful in Concern’s history, raising more than $450,000 for Concerns programs fighting poverty in 29 countries. “One thing I have seen while getting to know Concern over the past year, is that they do all the great work in the hardest and toughest places. And that is guts,” she said.
Ashby, with Concern CEO Joe Cahalan (left) and chairman of the board of Concern Tom Moran (right)
“We at my firm have a saying, which is the highest praise, when something is really intense and committed and fantastic it’s fiercely beautiful. And that’s what Concern brings; fierce beauty takes over. And that is why they are changing the world.” – A.F.
40th Anniversary AIF Gala Raises $4.3 Million
he 40th annual American Ireland Fund’s New York Dinner Gala raised $4.3 million this year, more than any in the Fund’s past. Over 1,000 guests attended the May event in New York City, including Ireland’s Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan and Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S. Anne Anderson. And special guest Senator George Mitchell was honored for his work in Northern Ireland on the breakthrough Good Friday Agreement. Other honorees included the Leslie C. and Regina Quick, Jr. family who received the Bird and Bell Award for their many philanthropic initiatives across Ireland. The 2015 gala was presided over by Robert J. McCann, President Americas, UBS AG and a former Irish America Top 100 honoree. President
Dinner chairman Robert McCann with House of Cards star Michael Kelly at the record-setting Ireland Fund event.
and CEO of the Worldwide Ireland Funds Kieran McLoughlin reminded the audience of the American Ireland Fund’s history and its importance moving forward: “Despite all the changes and challenges of the last four decades, the mission Tony and Dan set out that night to strengthen the island of Ireland remains as relevant and as necessary as ever.” – M.S.
Frank McCourt Prize Awarded
16 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Left to Right: Writers Brendan Costello, Mary Pat Kelly, John Kearns, Emily Ren, and Malachy McCourt. Ren was awarded the Frank McCourt Literary Prize in June, presented annually to a graduating senior who demonstrates an outstanding potential to be a writer. The Frank McCourt High School of Writing, Journalism and Literature is a screened-admissions public high school founded in October 2009 by the New York City Department of Education, along with several community partners.
N O W AVA I L A B L E F O R P U R C H A S E : Fa min e Fo liosâ€”fo u r e s s ays by distinguished scholars & ar t historians Luke Gibbons | Christine Kinealy Catherine Marshall I Niamh Oâ€™Sullivan
F O R M U S E U M I N F O R M AT I O N , P L E A S E V I S I T W W W. I G H M . O R G 3 01 1 Whitn ey Ave n u e I H a m d e n , C o n n e c ticut Untitled-1 1
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hibernia | news
Dublin’s Lord Mayor is a Woman of Sinn Féin n June, Críona Ní Dhálaigh was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin, making her the first Sinn Féin Lord Mayor in history to take office. In 1920, Tom Kelly was elected to the position as a Sinn Féin candidate, but was unable to assume the role at that time, as he was kept by the British in a London prison under charges relating to the 1916 Easter Rising. Speaking at Dublin City Hall on the night of her election, Ní Dhálaigh said: “It is with great pride that tonight I take up the office of Ard Mhéara Bhaile Átha Cliath. I am especially proud to be the first Sinn Féin mayor for Dublin.” Ní Dhálaigh will be Lord Mayor during the city’s 1916 commemorations. After Sinn Féin became the biggest party on the city council last year, they reached a voting deal with Labour, the Green Party, and most of the Independents. It was agreed that a Sinn Féin councilor would be elected as Lord Mayor for the term coinciding with the centenary of the Rising. Ní Dhálaigh was opposed by Independent Mannix Flynn, who was nominated by Fine Gael, and by Jim O’Callaghan of Fianna Fáil. O’Callaghan explained that his opposition came partly out of fear that Sinn Féin would “hijack” the 1916 commemoration in order to “justify the 30 year pointless and counterproductive campaign by the provisional IRA.” After her election, Ní Dhálaigh also reaffirmed her commitments to working towards building a more just and equitable city and claimed in her speech at Dublin City Hall: “The Proclamation’s commitment to ‘equal rights and equal opportunities’ for all our people has yet to be fulfilled. We do not yet live in an equal city or an equal country.” Ní Dhálaigh is a long-standing champion of fair housing policies and is committed to fighting for workers’ rights. – R.B.W.
18 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Galway’s Irish Famine Archives
n exciting new archive for a little known area of Irish Famine research was recently unveiled at NUI Galway. The Digital Irish Famine Archive shines a much-needed light on the eyewitness accounts of Irish famine emigrants to Canada between 1847-48 and the role of the many extraordinary people who helped them. Included in the archive are first hand accounts of the Sisters of Mercy or “Grey Nuns” of Montreal, the Sisters of Providence, and the many stories of adoption by French-Canadian families. The remarkable archive includes transcriptions and translations from the French as well as testimonials from Father Patrick Dowd who worked alongside the Grey Nuns in the fever sheds. The new archive was originally developed in 2012 by Dr. Jason King, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Limerick. Other partners of the archive include the Moore Institute at the National University of Ireland, Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University (which currently has an exhibition on the Grey Nuns), the Irish National Famine Museum, the Montreal Irish Park Foundation, the iNua Partnership, and the Irish Research Council. John Francis Maguire who wrote in his 1868 account The Irish in America offers a glimpse into the resiliency and dedication of the Grey Nuns, writing, “First came the Grey Nuns, strong in love and faith; but so malignant was the disease that thirty of their number were stricken down, and thirteen died the death of martyrs. There was no faltering, no holding back; no sooner were the ranks thinned by death than the gaps were quickly filled; and when the Grey Nuns were driven to the last extremity, the Sisters of Providence came to their assistance, and took their place by the side of the dying strangers.” In a message to the archive, Irish President Michael D. Higgins said, “This virtual archive is a very important project, which allows us to finally acknowledge the generosity and enormous humanity of those wonderful sisters whose great kindness and compassion, during one of the worst moments in our Country’s history, must never be forgotten.” – M.S.
Martin O’Malley Releases Immigration Plan
emocratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley announced what has been the most comprehensive plan for immigration reform yet seen by a Democratic hopeful this election season at a round table discussion in New York City in July. Speaking with eight members of the community, including Siobhan Dennehy, Executive Director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center, O’Malley said, “We are, and always have been, a nation of immigrants and our immigration laws must reflect our values,” adding that the current system is “callous, irrational, inhumane, and unjust.” His eight-page reform plan proposed reforms to existing laws, such as rescinding the restriction on healthcare for undocumented immigrants, and easing restrictions that other laws impose, such as granting waivers to the three and ten-year bars on returning to the U.S. if a person has lived undocumented in the country before. O’Malley also said he would use immediate executive action to grant deportation relief to undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, people with strong family and community ties, have long-term residence in the U.S., and people who entered the United States before the age of 21. – A.F.
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Englishman Legally Changes Name to Avoid Ryanair Booking Surcharges
n what could be mistaken for a fake news story, 19-year-old Manchester, England native Adam Armstrong (pictured below) legally changed his name to Adam West because it was cheaper than changing the name on his Ryanair ticket.
Armstrong was planning a trip to Ibiza with his girlfriend. According to IrishCentral, his girlfriend’s stepfather booked the tickets with Ryanair. Forgetting Armstrong’s last name, he checked Armstrong’s Facebook page, which lists Armstrong’s name as “Adam West,” as a tribute to the late Batman TV series actor, Armstrong says. And that was the name his ticket was booked under. But because boarding documents have to match identification documents, Armstrong couldn’t fly unless he changed his booking information, for which Ryanair charges £220 ($336) – double the cost of the flight. “I’m not giving Ryanair another penny,” Armstrong told The Anton Savage Show. Instead, he learned a new passport only cost £103 ($156), and he could legally change his name for free, which is just what he did, saving nearly $200. And he plans to keep his new surname until his passport expires, seven years from now. – C.J.D.
High Times in Ireland
rdering a whiskey or a pint in Ireland may find you with a subtle pain emanating from your wallet. A newly released survey found that tobacco and whiskey costs are 70 percent higher in Ireland than the rest of the countries in the EU. The National Off Licence Association director Evelyn Jones greeted
LEFT: Adam West (née Armstrong).
Ancient Roman Treasure Discovered in Down
rian Murray, a retired civil servant from found within four square feet of each other. Newtownards, County Down, found two “It is possible that it belonged to a burial and gold Roman rings and a silver belt buckle someone was buried at sea,” Greer explained. “It using a metal detector on the shores of Murlough is equally possible that somebody was wearing it in Dundrum Bay in June. when their ship went down.” “I was actually collecting militaria on the Further testing will be completed at the British shores of Murlough,” the 65-year-old told the Museum in London where a valuation of the BBC. “It was an American training area during pieces will also take place. Mr. Murray will the Second World War. It’s like receive half of the total worth of the fishing for mackerel and catching Brian Murray posing pieces, but for him, “It’s not about the a salmon.” money, it’s about the thrill of finding with the two classical The items are an extremely sig- Roman rings he found it.” – C.J.D. & M.S. nificant find, dating back to the on a County Down beach. 4th and 5th centuries A.D. It was thought that Roman expeditions never made it that far to Ireland, but these new “treasures” may change current perceptions. Dr. Greer Ramsay from the National Museum of Northern Ireland told the BBC that “before those rings turned up there was little of that exceptional quality [found in that part of Ireland] so it is putting the north east of Ireland on the Roman map.” He also theorized that the items most likely belonged to the same person, as they were
the news with an attack on the Irish government, saying that the results of the survey “highlight the disproportionate and unfair campaign the Irish government alone is waging against the alcohol sector.” These high prices not only affect the consumer, but the supplier and staff who make the spirits. Bart Storan of Support Your Local Campaign said, “The latest figures reveal that US tourists are often able to purchase a bottle of Irish whiskey for half the price at home.” The reason for the staggering pricing is mostly due to high taxes on alcoholic and tobacco products in Ireland. – M.S.
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“I have no one to blame but myself.” Now, Flatley focuses on painting, hosting his first ever gallery show in London in July. The exhibition, Firedance, featured over fifteen paintings created in a style unique to Flatley’s stage presence, substituting paintbrushes with a two-step process of applying paint to his shoes, and then using dance movements to create energetic, choreographed abstractions on canvas. “A dance lasts only as long as it is being created, but by combining the movement of dance with the medium of paint and canvas, I can truly capture and immortalize dance movements on canvas,” he told The Irish Examiner. But he’s not quite finished yet. He also revealed that he’s received an offer to bow out in a huge dance extravaganza in Las Vegas in 2015. “We received a big offer to put our show on in Las Vegas with me finishing on St Patrick’s Day so I may take a look at that,” he said. – C.J.D.
PHOTO: DAVE BENETT
Michael Flatley Opens Up About Cancer and His Painting
s the 20th Anniversary tour of Riverdance wraps up and Michael Flatley performed in Lord of the Dance for one last time on July 4 in Wembly Arena in London, the 57-year-old dancer spoke about his battle with skin cancer in a radio interview, saying it made him re-evaluate the important things in life and change his outlook on wealth and possessions. Flatley was diagnosed with malignant melanoma 12 years ago, which nearly finished his career. He also touched on the physical toll his performances have had on his body and unveiled a new gallery exhibition of his paintings inspired by the movements of his feet and body when he dances. “I am always in pain. Agony,” he told Russell Dowies on BBC Radio 2 in July. “I have wrecked my body with dance. I can’t say I wasn’t warned.” “The value of friends – the value of loved ones – all of a sudden, material things faded away into the past,” the Irish-American dancer, who made a dance worth $293 million, told the BBC. “My art and my people that I spend time with were the thing.” In his dancing years, Flatley earned a reputation for being the most competitive man to put on a Rutherford jig shoe. But these days, he says he’s “a mess.” “I have reoccurring broken bones in my right foot, which spontaneously breaks itself. There is blood and sweat on the inside of every single one of my dance shoes, my lower back is in a dreadful state,” he says.
PHOTO COURTESY MICHAELFLATLEYART.COM
hibernia | health
TOP: Michael Flatley’s “Lurking.” Acrylic on Marley (38in x 38in). LEFT: Niamh, Michael St. James, and Michael Flatley arrive at the private view of “Firedance,” Flatley’s inaugural art exhibition in London, with the painting of the same name.
For more information on Michael Flatley’s paintings and other works, visit: michaelflatleyart.com.
Ireland’s Commitment to Sepsis Awareness.
n July 2, Ciaran Staunton introduced the Rory Staunton Sepsis Video at the opening of the first National Irish Sepsis Summit held in Dublin, Ireland. The Rory Staunton Foundation was set up in 2013 by Orlaith and Ciaran Staunton in honor of their son. Rory died at age 12 after he contracted sepsis from a cut he received in gym class. In his remarks, Ciaran welcomed the Na-
tional Clinical Effectiveness Guideline the Irish government has just put in place to tackle sepsis in all patients, both adult and children in emergency departments and in hospital wards. Ireland’s Health Minister Leo Varadkar said, “The goal of this summit is to make sure that the new Sepsis Guideline is put into practice in order to save lives. Sepsis needs to be recognized and treated at the earliest possible stage.” Irish Sepsis statistics were shared by the Department of Heath: In 2013, approximately 60 percent of hospital mortality had a diagnosis of sepsis or infection, and 16 percent of hospital deaths had a specific sepsis ICD-10-AM diagnosis code, although sepsis may not necessarily have been the underlying cause of death.
Ciaran Staunton congratulated the Minister for Health Leo Varadkar and The Irish National Health Service for introducing the first national standard in the world for sepsis care. 20 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
The total number of in-patients with a diagnosis of sepsis is estimated to be 8,831 accounting for 221,342 bed days in 2013. In 2013, the mortality rate of patients with a diagnosis of sepsis who were admitted to an intensive care environment was 28.8 percent. The Rory Staunton Foundation has continuously called on governments to institute measures to advance the identification of sepsis and save lives. At the summit, Ciaran shared the tragic story of his son Rory and the neglect that caused his death. Thanks to lobbying efforts of Ciaran and Orlaith, in January, 2013, New York State led the nation by becoming the first state to require all hospitals to adopt best practices for the early identification and treatment of sepsis. – M.S. For more information on the Rory Staunton Foundation, visit: rorystaunton.com
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Golfer Pádraig Harrington Speaks Out About Skin Cancer
hree-time major champion golfer Pádraig Harrington announced in February that he had undergone treatment for skin cancer. As he told Matt Cooper of Today FM’s The Last Word: “I had a number of skin cancers removed off my face. When you get a symptom, do something about it. Don’t ignore it.” Harrington mentioned getting the cancerous spots removed almost offhandedly in answering a question about how his consciousness about his health had changed going into his forties. He did not go into further detail regarding his own treatment, but instead urged listeners to be proactive about their own health. Harrington’s father, Patrick, passed away in 2005 from esophageal cancer, and the golfer is now a patron of the Oesophageal Cancer Fund Ireland. He mentions his father’s passing as a cautionary tale that inspired him to be more attentive to his own wellbeing, noting in his interview with The Last Word that Patrick had had “symptoms that he didn’t do anything about.” Harrington even reminisced about how he’d gone through years of buying antacid tablets for his father’s chronic indigestion (a major symptom of esophageal cancer). Harrington used his father’s story, combined with his own recent cancer scare, to bolster his case. “He just didn’t go do anything about it because that’s the nature of men in Ireland, especially older men,” he said. “It’s a little bit of hardship going [to the doctor], but you feel a lot better afterwards. It’s easier to clear these things up at the start rather than wait till there is a problem.” Harrington went on The Last Word in February to promote Lollipop Day in Ireland, which promotes esophageal cancer research, as well as awareness for the disease, which (along with stomach cancer) is the second most deadly cancer after lung cancer. According to the Oesophageal Cancer Fund, “approximately 70 percent of
SKIN CANCER AND IRELAND: (From Cancer.ie)
• Skin cancer is the
most widespread form of cancer in Ireland, with over 10,000 new cases diagnosed in 2011.
• The National
Cancer Registry of Ireland expects that number to double by 2040.
• In 2013, the Irish
Cancer Society reported that skin cancer rates in the country has risen almost 40% in little over a decade.
• With early
detection, 90% of skin cancer cases are curable.
• There are two Champion golfer patients have Pádraig Harrington, esophageal cancer who recently opened symptoms for over up about undergoing three months before treatment for skin cancer. talking to their GP.” Though Harrington may have been speaking specifically about esophageal cancer and his father’s own stubbornness about seeking treatment, his advice is especially useful for anyone with potential skin cancer symptoms. Early detection and diagnosis, especially in the case of skin cancer, can save lives; the Irish Cancer Society reports that almost 90 percent of skin cancer cases are curable with early action. Today, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer seems to be almost commonplace, especially among the Irish and Irish American communities; in the United States, more than 3.5 million cases are diagnosed in every two million people annually, and 20% of the American population will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website even has a specific section for golfers, as their sport requires so many hours in the sun. Though skin cancer has almost become so widespread that Harrington’s mention of his sunspot removal doesn’t pause conversation, it does not lessen the seriousness of a disease that, left unchecked, can easily kill. – Julia Brodsky
types of skin cancer: melanoma and nonmelanoma. The latter is more common and easier to treat, but cases of melanoma are becoming more widespread. One-fifth of the new cases of melanoma diagnosed in 2011 were among people ages 15 to 44.
• Those at greater
risk for melanoma are people with pale and/or freckled skin that does not tan or burns before it tans, naturally fair or red hair, and light-colored eyes.
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PHOTO: KEITH ARKINS.
hibernia | irish aid Thirty Years After Chernobyl, Irish Aid Is Still Crucial
s the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster approaches, Chernobyl Children International (CCI), founded by Irish woman Adi Roche in 1991, continues to offer support to those affected by the disaster. The catastrophe occurred April 26, 1986 at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine (then part of the U.S.S.R.), and long-term effects from the worst nuclear accident in history are on-going. Over 6,000 children born annually in Ukraine suffer with genetic heart conditions as a result of the direct radiation poisoning endured by previous generations. Early detection and treatment are essential – without both, one in three of those affected will die before they reach their sixth birthday. “[Ukraine] has had to bear the brunt of the enormous cost of dealing with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster for the past 29 years,” Roche, a Tipperary, native said. “It has had to deal with the economic and health consequences of that catastrophe, and now its most vulnerable children are the latest victims.” Since the founding of Chernobyl Children in1991, the organization has provided respite care in Ireland for 24,700 children from the regions worst affected by the disaster, something which could not have been done without the support of Irish altruism, emphasizes Roche. In May, together with U.S. organization Flying Doctors, CCI completed a successful medical mission to Eastern Ukraine, two hours from the war zone, to carry out much-needed cardiac operations for at-risk children. All involved with the mission worked intensively at the Kharkiv Center of Cardiac Surgery in Ukraine for two weeks to provide life-saving surgery for more than 30 children with congenital heart disease. “CCI’s intervention and the generosity of the Irish people and funders around the world means that 6,500 heart operations have been performed over the past ten years,” said Roche. “Huge numbers of lives have been saved.” – Siobhán Peters 22 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
A Tribute to Ireland’s “Original Pioneers”
resident Michael D. Higgins praised members of Misean Cara for their selfless work when he delivered the keynote address at the organization’s general meeting at Milltown Institute in Dublin in June. “It is possible to eliminate poverty, it is possible to eliminate disease,” President Higgins said. The president has long been an advocate of the work of missionaries, calling them “Ireland’s original pioneers in Africa” during a recent official visit to Malawi. With the help of Irish aid through Misean Cara, and other Irish relief organizations like Concern and GOAL, Irish missionaries and their colleagues are one of the largest developmental networks worldwide. Misean Cara distributed €14 ($15.5) million in funding members in 49 different countries in 2014.
ABOVE: Misean Cara CEO Heydi Foster and Mrs. Sabina Higgins look on as Misean Cara Chairperson Matt Moran presents a copy of the 2014 annual report to President Michael D. Higgins.
“They build schools and offer a way out of poverty through high quality education. They run clinics and health centers, and provide life-saving medical treatment to people living with HIV and AIDS, cancer and other illnesses,” Heydi Foster, Misean Cara’s CEO, said. “Even as Liberia has been declared Ebola-free and Sierra Leone will soon follow, our members like the Missionary Sisters of Holy Rosary and the St. John of God Brothers are part of the recovery. I am so proud that our organization was able to allocate nearly €500,000 to respond to Ebola.” – C.J.D.
Kelley O’Hara and the Women’s World Cup
he U.S. women’s national soccer team won the World Cup in July, beating Japan in a near-blowout 5-2 victory. But it was a goal in the semifinal game against the top-seeded German team that made Irish American Kelley O’Hara a household name. Nine minutes after O’Hara, 26, was subbed in, just minutes before the end of regulation time, she scored the definitive goal of the game, slicing an assist from Carli Lloyd straight into the back of the net. The U.S. won the game six minutes later 2-0, and the rest is history. O’Hara, who grew up in Fayetteville, Georgia, hadn’t played since she had been taken out of the quarter final after an accidental head butt from a member of the Chinese team. She’d been out the previous four games as well, but came back in a big way from the resulting bloody nose. O’Hara was humble before the semifinal, telling USA Today she understood her playing time was for the good of the team. “Just have to show up for practice, be professional, work your butt off and be ready,” she said. But still, “It would be amazing to play a World Cup semifinal. I am ready for anything and I would love to have that chance.” Little did she know what would happen. – A.F.
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Irish at Risk for Tay-Sach’s Disease
growing awareness within the medical community of the risks of the auto-degenerative disease Tay-Sachs and its prevalence within the Irish and Irish-American community is on the rise. Before pandemonium spreads, it is important to note that fewer than 30 children in America are afflicted with the disease each year and that one in 300 are estimated to have a faulty gene that can lead to the deadly disease. That number drops however for people of Irish descent; one in 50 are believed to be carriers, although scientific sources differ on that number. Tay-Sachs is a rare disease that is passed down to the child when both parents are carriers, occurring in about one out of four cases. The
Kathryn and Aaron Harney, of Downingtown, PA, play with 2-yearold Nathan, who has Tay-Sachs, a rare neurodegenerative disease.
child is initially born healthy, but symptoms crop up around four to six months of age as motor skills break down. This eventually leads to eyesight and hearing loss as well as difficulty swallowing. The disease was initially thought to
The Facts About Tay-Sachs:
• It is an inherited disease which occurs when both parents carry a Tay-Sachs gene.
• If both parents are carriers, there is a one in four chance of the child having the disease.
• There is zero percent chance of diagnosis if only one parent is a carrier.
• 1 in 50 of Irish descent are thought to be carriers. • Blood test screening is the simplest and most common preventative measure.
It is most common among people with Eastern and Central European Jewish ancestry.
have been common among Jews of Eastern and Central European ancestry, but further testing has proven that Irish and Irish Americans are also at risk. Miriam Blitzer a professor and geneticist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine says, “it is not an exclusively Jewish genetic disease.” The key to prevent the spread of Tay-Sachs is through testing and combating false notions about the disease. Kathryn and Aaron Harney of Downingtown, PA were initially told by their doctor that “it was only a Jewish disease,” before finding out that their two-year-old had Tay-
An Rí Rá Montana Irish Festival
2 Days of
Currently there is a study being conducted by the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association of Delaware Valley. Volunteers with at least three Irish grandparents are needed in an effort to determine the carrier status of Tay-Sachs. Participation is free and requires only one blood test. For more information visit: www.tay-sachs.org/irish_taysachs_study.php Or contact Amybeth Weaver, M.S., C.G.C.: firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-887-0877.
Sachs. Today the couple, along with many other Irish and Irish-American families, are spreading the word about testing for Tay-Sachs. In 2012, a study was launched by the Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia which enrolled 1,000 people with at least three of four grandparents who could trace their Irish ancestry. The tests get trickier for those with a murkier background as Dr. Michael Kaback, emeritus professor of pediatrics at the University of California, pointed out: “What do you do with someone with one English, one Scottish, one Irish, and one American grandparent? Are they Irish or not Irish?” Regardless of the grey areas of genealogy, more and more studies and screenings continue to be offered every year. In our August/September issue of 2013 we reported on the free screenings offered at the Gaelic Games in Malvern, PA, which was again made possible by the Einstein Medical Center. More testing needs to be completed, but raising awareness is key. – Matthew Skwiat
& Culture FREE ADMISSION
August 14-16 Butte, Montana The Original Mine
A Production of The Montana Gaelic Cultural Society. Festival Partners: Butte-Silver Bow Government, Butte-Silver Bow CVB, Butte-Silver Bow TBID
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 23
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hibernia | passages Fr. Colm Campbell
1935 – 2015
ounder and President of New York’s Irish Center, Fr. Colm Campbell died early June at the age of 79 following a short illness. Born in 1935 and raised in Belfast, Fr. Campbell was the eldest of six children born to J.J. and Josephine Campbell. He studied at Queen’s University, Belfast from 1953–56. He
Joseph R. Biden III 1969 – 2015
oseph R. “Beau” Biden III, former Attorney General of Delaware and eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden, died late May after fighting a long battle with brain cancer. He was 46. Biden was first diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2013 and an abscess was removed at the time. But this past May, he was admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Center when the cancer returned. In a statement released by the Vice President’s office, Joe Biden said, “The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We all know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us. In the words of the Biden family: Beau Biden was, quite simply, the finest man any of us have ever known.” Growing up in an Irish American household in Delaware, Biden kept Irish tradition close to his heart. In 2013, his father was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame, and the family always maintained a strong connection to their Irish roots. “It is there at their home that the full impact of the Biden closeness hits you,” eulogized Niall O’Dowd for IrishCentral.com. Biden was born in 1969 in Wilmington, Delaware and earned his law degree from Syracuse University. From 1995 to 2004, he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice in Philadelphia, first as counsel to the Office of Policy and Development, and later as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office. Biden joined the military in 2003 as a member of the Delaware Army National Guard and was a major in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. In 2006, Biden ran for Attorney General of Delaware, beating veteran state prosecutor and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ferris Wharton by 13,000 votes. Biden served as Attorney General for eight years, after being elected for a second term in 2010. “His absolute honor made him a role model for the family,” Vice President Biden said. “Beau embodied my father’s saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he did.” – C.J.D.
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undertaking a chaplaincy position in Woodside, Queens. In 1999, he became National Director of the Irish Apostolate USA based in Washington, D.C., working closely with the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers, which in their tribute described him as “emigrant chaplain, spiritual leader, friend to all and organizational guide.” Recognizing the need for a dedicated space for the Irish community in Queens, Fr. Campbell oversaw the purchase and opening of the New York Irish Center in 2005. In the same interview with The Irish Voice, he described this as the highlight of his time in New York, as having been “...my dream fulfilled.” – S.P.
James A. Delaney
1930 – 2015
trained for the priesthood and was ordained on the 19th of June 1960, following four years at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. His time served as a priest in Ireland was marked by his chaplaincy with the Good Shepherd Convent in Belfast and also his experiences in dealing with the fallout from the Troubles. His vision for increased services and opportunities for the youth population in his area led to his establishment of Youth Link. In an interview with The Irish Voice in 2010, the year of his Golden Jubilee, he described its foundation as “one of the big achievements of my priesthood.” He continued his work with the youth and in 1985 was made the director of Youth Services for the Diocese of Down and Conner. In 1992 Fr. Campbell immigrated to New York City,
ames A. Delaney, the Irish American Texas businessman who helped jump start the Irish peace process in the early 1980s, died mid-June at 84. Delaney had a vision of a united Ireland during a time when few – politician or businessman – thought it possible. Delaney’s swaggering gait and no-nonsense business sense was influential in bringing onboard the Irish American Unity Conference (IAUC), which was committed to see-
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Sarah told The Guardian. “His batteries just ran out.” But his legacy still lives on and will remain an influence for many singers and entertainers. “He was number one in his field,” Bruce Forsyth said. Doonican is survived by his wife, Lynn, their daughters Sarah and Fiona, and two grandchildren. – C.J.D. ing the idea of a united Ireland come to fruition. The gathering started at a conference in Chicago in July, 1983. Among the more than 600 members in attendance were powerful clerical leaders and veteran statesmen including Paul O’Dwyer and Irish parliament leader Paddy Harte. Included in this crowd was Niall O’Dowd founder of IrishCentral.com and co-founder of this publication. Delaney was “a true pioneer, a man who set aside a hugely successful business career to lend a hand to bringing peace to his ancestral land,” he said. “All of us stand on his broad shoulders when we talk of how Irish America helped bring peace to Northern Ireland.” Delaney was a native Texan, born on July 18, 1930 to Hubert and Grace Delaney. He was a shrewd businessman who was not content to hit it rich and retire, but to give back to Irish and Irish Americans alike. His determination and steadfastness carried into his running of the IAUC and can be felt in his opening message to the conference in 1983 where he said, “Forty million Irish Americans can send a message so strong to the Irish, U.S and British governments that they cannot ignore it.” Delaney is survived by his wife of 51 years Catherine, daughters Jean, Kathleen, and Mary as well as numerous grandchildren, nieces, and nephews. – M.S.
Val Doonican 1927 – 2015
n example to everybody” were the words Irish entertainer Roy Walker emphasized to BBC on the passing of Irish singer and performer Val Doonican, who died at age 88 at his home in Buckinghamshire. The performer had a string of hits and was a fixture of family television in the 1960s and ’70s. Revered for his modest charm and embrace of Gaelic values, his personality captured the hearts of England and Ireland. Michael Valentine Doonican, Val for short, was born the youngest of eight children in 1927 in Waterford and began writing music at age 10. He started performing in Ireland and eventually in England with The Four Ramblers in 1951. In 1963, Doonican was offered his own television show on the BBC, The Val Doonican Music Show, which became a pillar of Saturday night television. Doonican became a very successful performer, but his humble and warm persona remained. “He was a very peaceful man and had a very calm persona,” Irish singer Daniel O’Donnell told the BBC, “just as he came across on television.” Doonican retired in 2009, after nearly 60 years in the business, and spent his last years playing golf and painting. Up until his death, “he was fit as a flea,” his daughter
1960 – 2015
he president of American Express, and a former 2014 Irish America Business 100 honoree, Edward Gilligan died after suffering an apparent heart attack on a plane trip back from Tokyo at the age of 55. Gilligan had been president of American Express since April 2013 and was thought by many to be the successor to current American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault. Chenault said in a statement to his employees that “this is deeply painful and frankly unimaginable for all of us who had the great fortune to work with Ed” and that “his contributions have left an indelible imprint on practically every area of our business.” Gilligan was a first-generation Irish American whose family hailed from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon. He grew up in Brooklyn and was an avid soccer fan, attending University of Tampa where he played soccer until suffering a knee injury. He retained his love of soccer his whole life; one of his last tweets said he was “dreaming of Chelsea football and a
good glass of wine.” Following University of Tampa he attended New York University and earned a bachelor’s in economics and management. Gilligan began working at American Express as an intern and worked up the ladder to eventually become president. Throughout, his Irish charm never wavered, devoting his time between his family and work schedule. Gordon Smith who worked with Gilligan for over two decades at American Express said, “He knew everyone, took time to learn people’s names, he knew about their families.” Gilligan is survived by his wife Lisa and their four children as well as a brother Michael. – M.S.
1929 – 2015
rish American actress and comedian Anne Meara, who came to prominence in the 1960s as the wittier half of the comedy duo “Stiller & Meara,” died late May at the age of 85 in Manhattan. Meara, along with her husband of 61 years Jerry Stiller, developed the act based on exaggerated versions of their Brooklyn-born selves – Stiller as an “uber-Jewish guy” Hershey Horowitz, and Meara as the “uber-Irish girl” Mary Elizabeth Doyle. And after honing the act in the clubs of Greenwich Village and in Chicago, they went on to perform on some of the biggest
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Meara with her husband Jerry Stiller.
variety shows of the day, including The Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, eventually pairing in the 1970s as the voices of Blue Nun wine radio commercials. After the comedy team had run its course, Meara and Stiller’s careers diverged with Meara earning five Emmy nominations and finding character work in TV comedies like Archie Bunker’s Place, ALF, and All in the Family. Stiller became known for playing George Costanza’s father in Seinfeld. In recent years, she appeared in recurring parts in the HBO series Oz, Sex and the City, and King of Queens, in which Stiller also starred as the kvetching father of Kevin James’s every-man UPS driver. Born in 1929 in Brooklyn, Meara was the only child of Edward J. Meara and Mae Dempsey, both of whose grandparents had emigrated from Ireland in the 19th century, according to genealogist Megan Smolenyak. Though raised Irish Catholic, she converted to reform Judaism six years after marrying Stiller, devoting herself to studying the faith – so much so that Stiller once joked to The Jewish Exponent that “Being married to Anne has made me more Jewish.” In addition to her husband, Meara is survived by her two children, the actors Amy and Ben Stiller. – A.F.
1938 – 2015
egendary RTÉ broadcaster Bill O’Herlihy has passed away at the age of 76. He is best remembered for his sports coverage, but was also an award-winning public relations professional. He was the anchor for the coverage of 10 Olympic games and 10 World Cups. O’Herlihy began his career at 16 in the reading room of The Cork Examiner and began working for RTÉ in the 1960s. He left RTÉ in 1973 to start his own P.R. company, O’Herlihy Communications Group, but soon returned to the network to anchor their major sporting events. He had a knack for encouraging debate, often by tossing what his colleagues termed a “hand grenade” (such as: “I read today that Ronaldo is the greatest player in the his-
26 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
tory of football. Discuss.”) to the panel and sitting back, watching the argument unfold. He was the consummate interviewer – his viewers loved him for asking the questions they would have wanted to ask, and his subjects loved him, for asking the questions they wanted to be asked. He was never afraid to ask the obvious questions, and he never used his air time to flaunt his own expertise, which was extensive. Despite masterfully leading all of his interviews, the focus was never on him, but on his subject. Retired Olympic swimmer Gary O’Toole recalled an interview in which O’Herlihy forwent the complicated jargon he used offscreen to ask on camera, “What makes this swimmer different from the others?” Irish news sites have flooded with tributes to the man, often recalling his famous tag lines, “okey-doke” and “we’ll leave it there, so.” (The latter is also the title of his 2012 autobiography.) Perhaps the most touching – and telling – of these tributes is a short piece by author Roddy Doyle, in which two lads chat about O’Herlihy, calling him “the best thing on the telly,” and saying simply, “he made us happy.” He is survived by his wife, Hilary, and their daughters, Jill and Sally. – J.B.
1902 – 2015
athleen Hayes Rollins Snavely, the longest living person ever born on the island of Ireland, died at the Centers at St. Camillus in Geddes, New York, on July 6, 2015 after 113 years and 140 days of life. By the time of her passing, she had become the 16th oldest person in the world and the 6th oldest person in the United States. Born in Feakle, Co. Clare,
on February 16, 1902, Kathleen left Ireland in 1921 and traveled alone to America. She moved to Syracuse, New York, where she met her first husband, Roxie E. Rollins, with whom she opened the successful Seneca Dairy in the midst of the Great Depression. Neither Kathleen nor her husband had any formal business training, but she later recalled that their perseverance and love for one another were the keys to helping the business to thrive. In 1968 Roxie died at age 66, but was not forgotten by
Kathleen, who, in December of 2000, donated $1 million to the Syracuse University School of Management in Roxie’s memory. In 1970, Kathleen married her second husband, Jesse Clark Snavely, but she was predeceased by him as well, and lived on her own for many years thereafter. On her 113th birthday, Sean Kirst of The Syracuse PostStandard asked about her secret to a long life. "I get so tired of people asking me about my secret,” she told him, “I've got no secret. You live and you do it the best you can." Though she had no children of her own, Snavely died while surrounded by friends who noted that she was fully herself up until the final days of her long and remarkable life. – R.B.W.
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t 12:41 a.m. on Tuesday, June 16th, the fourth floor balcony of unit 405 at the Library Gardens apartment complex in Berkeley, California collapsed, falling first onto the third floor balcony below, and then tumbling the 40 feet to the street. Five of the dead were on short-term J-1 student work visas for the summer. The sixth was another’s cousin. None was older than 22. In the wake of the collapse, the outpouring of international grief has been profound, and the swift distribution of selfless aid has been heartening. This is a tragedy that leaves no one in the community unaltered, but as Ireland and Irish America grieves, they have also banded together to put the unimaginable needs and emotions of those immediately affected first and express national solidarity with the victims. The aftermath of the tragedy was public and overwhelming, spanning two continents and with condolences issued from highlevel politicians and public figures to every-day Irish and Irish Americans alike. “There isn’t a family in Ireland whose children haven’t come over on that program,” Philip Grant, Consul General of Ireland to the Western United States, who is based in San Francisco, told reporters gathered in Berkeley. “We’re a very close, tight-knit group. Ireland is a small country, and when you have the numbers that we had here today, very few of us have been left untouched by this tragedy,” he said, adding that the country is also “overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that we have received from all the communities here.” Signing a book of condolences at Mansion House in Dublin, President Michael D. Higgins spoke on the extent of the impact of the tragedy in Ireland and the U.S. “I think the fact that so many young people were lost in a single terrible event has deeply affected people,” he said. “Many I noted in their comments were almost unable to speak at the enormity of the tragedy, that it is of young people seeking adventure, the spring of a new life, what a terrible impact it must be on their families.” Speaking with Irish America, Fr. Brendan McBride who runs the Pastoral Center, and served at the crisis center in Berkeley, said the support from the Bay area community was “fantastic.” “Even those who are not directly connected, they’re connected in their pain and their grief,” he said. Hundreds of students also attended a candlelit vigil the night after the tragedy, just a block from the apartment complex, and a special mass was held at Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, led by Bishop of Oakland, California Michael Barber. A park bench in Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park became a makeshift shrine to the six students who were killed, and mourners continue to leave objects of affection and grief to the evergrowing memorial. At Irish America, our strongest sympathies, condolences, and sorrows are with the families and friends of those impacted by this terrible loss of young life. ABOVE: Victims of Tuesday’s tragedy were remembered with thoughts, flowers and pictures.
– Adam Farley
PHOTO: JEAN SMITH / UC BERKELEY
Olivia Burke (21) was a top business student at Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, working in Berkeley restaurants for the summer.
Eoghan Culligan (21) was a student at the Dublin Institute of Technology, and remembered as a sportsloving, outgoing student who was a “bundle of fun.”
Ashley Donohue (22), Olivia Burke’s cousin, held dual Irish-American citizenship. From Rohnert Park, CA, she was about to begin her fifth year at Sonoma State University.
Lorcan Miller (21) was a medical student at UCD, and grew up nearby in Shankill in south Dublin and was praised by teachers as having a well-developed sense of empathy.
Niccolai Schuster (21) was a history student at St. Mary’s College in Dublin, and was “the life and soul” of parties, according to his family.
Eimear Walsh (21) studied medicine at UCD and was on the verge of promotion at the Hana Zen sushi bar, where she worked in San Francisco.
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hibernia | quote unquote “It’s an incredible honor to be recognized by such an important institution, and to have that happen in the city where I grew up. . . . I am proud and delighted to be returning to the university today for this very special occasion.”
“The science is clear that vaccines dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases. While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
“The J-1 scheme and the New York theater is why I’m a director. The J-1 program allows Irish university students to work in America for three months each summer. I went to the United States and I saw Tooth of Crime. I saw Meredith Monk.… That’s where I got the real bug to do the theater.”
– Tony Awardwinning director Garry Hynes and Ireland’s Druid Theatre Company, who are making their fourth Lincoln Center Festival appearance with the highly praised DruidShakespeare: The History Plays. The New York Times
– California Governor Jerry Brown, whose grandfather was from Co. Tipperary, after signing one of the strictest schoolchild vaccination laws in the country. The Los Angeles Times
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“I have dedicated these 39 and a half years to advancing the cause of racial progress and inclusiveness. We’ve done that in so many remarkable ways in Charleston. It’s a different city than it was 40 years ago.… You see that in front of Emanuel AME Church – black people and white people bringing flowers, black people and white people standing in an arena, holding hands and singing ‘We Shall Overcome.’ Forty years ago that would have seemed impossible.”
– Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, the longest-serving mayor of Charleston and the second Irish-Catholic mayor in the city’s 350-year history. Charleston Post and Courier
– Belfast native Shaun Kelly, vice chair of Operations for KPMG, on receiving an honorary degree from Queen’s University on July 6. Shaun will deliver the keynote address at Irish America’s annual Wall Street 50 Dinner in New York on October 1.
“What a great time to be alive! Watching footage of the sheer joy exploding throughout the country will never get old. So it seems the polls were pretty accurate and Ireland is making history – positive history.” – Irish poet and playwright Rachel Shearer, writing on the aftermath of the gay marriage referendum passing in Ireland. IrishCentral.com
“If you have to spend the Fourth of July outside the United States, you can’t go wrong spending it in Ireland.”
– Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner, in a photo essay documenting his Fourth of July away from his native Ohio in Ireland. Medium
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Noah Galloway taking part in an extreme race called Tough Mudders, in which ultimate fitness athletes compete over tough obstacles that include fire, mud and water.
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Noah Galloway’s battle to overcome depression has turned him into a fitness guru, a star performer, and a motivational speaker.
ike many of the millions who watched Noah Galloway’s performances on NBC’s Dancing with the Stars, I was moved by his natural grace, strength, manliness, and humility. He did not hide his prosthetic leg or residual arm but showed the world that he is still his essential self – a man who has honed his physical strength and his body into a thing of beauty – like a Greek classical sculpture adorned with meaningful tattoos that reflect his life story. Galloway, of course, would laugh at such a comparison. “I’m a little mixture of Forrest Gump and Joe Dirt,” he said when we spoke in June not long after the Dancing with the Stars finale that had wowed the judges and audiences alike and put him and his dance partner Sharna Burgess into a third place finish. Now 33, Galloway dropped out of college and joined the armed forces following 9/11, and had his first deployment to Iraq with the 101st Airborne in 2003. He loved the military life. A fitness fanatic who as a teenager realized “girls like fit guys,” Galloway was one of the strongest soldiers in his unit until that night when a roadside bomb took out the Humvee he was driving. He woke up on Christmas Day 2005 in Walter Reed hospital, his left arm amputated above the elbow, and his left leg gone above the knee and his broken jaw wired shut. What pained him most, the former sergeant said, was that the career in the military that he had loved was over. Back home in Birmingham, Alabama, the soldier closed himself off, stopped
PHOTOS COURTESY OF NOAH GALLOWAY
BY PATRICIA HARTY
going out. The “pity party” dogged him for five years and contributed to the breakup of his second marriage. Looking back, Galloway said, “We rushed into getting married; she had just come out of a lot in her own life and I had just been injured. We thought we were going to be this positive thing for each other but my depression made it hard.” Motivated by the desire to be a better father to his three children, Galloway began his own version of basic training and it saved him. With no book or manual to Sgt. Galloway in Iraq with the 101st Airborne
show him how a man missing an arm and a leg should go about getting fit, he developed a unique way of working out, and joined a group of veterans involved in endurance racing, competing in hardcore 10 - 12-mile-long races over military-style obstacle courses called Tough Mudders. Galloway cuts a dashing figure when he races, wearing a kilt both for the ease of movement it affords, and to honor his Scottish and Irish ancestry. Men’s Health named the amputee their Ultimate Man, putting him on the cover of the November 2014 issue. Guest appearances on television, including The Ellen DeGeneres show and The Today Show were followed by an invitation to take part in season 20 of Dancing with the Stars. In typical Galloway fashion, he took on the ultimate test and loved it. Never mind the physical limitations, the guy had never danced. Manning up, he faced the challenge like a soldier on a mission. Over several weeks, Galloway mastered the dance routines, the cha-cha, samba and Argentine tango, and sent nine other competitors packing. In the process he won hearts and changed the way people view those who on first sight appear to be physically disabled. Galloway was happy to be underestimated. In his last dance, he and his partner Sharna performed a freestyle number to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” which mapped out the story of Galloway’s life. It was, he said, “the journey of acceptance from the man I was, to the man I have become.” AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 31
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The dance culminated in a transcendent moment when all the hard work and talent came together and Galloway, reaching beyond the limits of the possible, hoisted his partner into the air in a one-armed lift. The audience rose to their feet and the cameras panned to Noah’s parents, and back to Galloway who stood with head slightly bowed, his hand over his heart, a soldier who had given it his all, completed his mission and proved that hard work and determination can overcome major obstacles. The pair received a perfect score from the judges and a third place finish. Galloway, who was never in it to win it, had in his own way won. “They were always trying to get me to say on camera, “I want to win, I want this,” but I would say, ‘No,’ I’m doing this to challenge myself.” Rumer Willis walked off with the coveted mirror ball trophy, but Galloway left the show with a fiancée. He proposed to his girlfriend Jamie Boyd on air and she accepted. Even before Dancing with the Stars, Galloway had become a sought-after speaker and fitness trainer. His foundation “No Excuses” focuses on encouraging children and veterans to lead a healthy life. Having lived such an inspiring life, it’s no surprise that next up for Galloway is a book, “So maybe people can get a better concept of why I am the way I am.” PHOTOS COURTESY OF NOAH GALLOWAY
How is all of this fame affecting you? Will you continue to live in Alabama?
Yes. I love to travel, but Birmingham is home, this is where my family is. And in terms of how am I dealing with all the new attention, I absolutely love it. I love to talk, and I love to talk about myself. The fact that people want to hear my story means so much to me. What was the biggest challenge you faced on Dancing with the Stars?
I’m a perfectionist. Sharna, my dancepartner, was constantly saying stuff like, “nobody’s expecting you to be this amaz32 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Left to right: Noah Galloway’s son Jack standing in front of a newsstand displaying his dad on the cover of Men’s Health. Noah carrying another soldier in one of his extreme fitness exercises. Noah doing a one-handed pull-up. Working out in the gym to build his core strength. With his mom, Bebe Galloway.
ing dancer. It’s a reality show.” But I wanted to be the best I could be, and I was very hard on myself and it was draining. And of course, the fact that I was missing an arm and a leg was a challenge, not just for me, but also for Sharna who choreographed all the dances. My center of gravity is more to the right because my body tends to let my right leg do everything, so there were certain times when we would be doing something and she didn’t understand why my body was shifted to one side. And then she realized my prosthetic leg would not hold me. If it bends, it goes, so I can’t lean into it. So we would see what I could do, and each week she added a little more content to the dances. Considering it’s been almost 10 years since I’ve been injured and all the fitness I do and the races I’ve run, my balance has improved over time. But Sharna working with me on dance made me move better on my prosthetic leg and in my daily life. The dance you did for the finale to Toby Keith’s song “American Soldier” was based on your life story. How emotional was that for you?
The week going into it, I wasn’t showing a lot of emotion, I was just learning the movements. All I was thinking about is “you have to learn the dance.” But during the performance a lot of different emotions hit me. When I picked Sharna up over my head with one arm, and that was a move that’s never been done on the show before, I heard the crowd jump to their feet and cheer. And it made me feel so good, and when we finished and walked
over to the judges and everyone gave us a standing ovation, it was very emotional and so sweet to see the reaction of everyone. Why did you enlist? Is there a history of military service in your family?
My family, especially my mom’s side, has a very strong military history. My grandfather actually changed his birth certificate when he was 15 to join the military. So he went to WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. And my grandmother’s brother was killed in action as a paratrooper in WWII. My mom’s brother Johnny was a paratrooper in Vietnam. And I have a cousin who is the same age as me who is in the Marines. But I never wanted to join the military. I talked to recruiters a couple of times, but I never cared that much. I ended up going to college and started the same semester as 9/11, and watching that moment on television, that’s when I decided to go in. I went in as an infantry soldier and went to jump school and ended up in the 101st Airborne, and we were right up front. And on the first deployment to Iraq I fell in love with the job. And even at Fort Campbell, I realized I did fit in with the military. I loved the deployments. I didn’t care where it was, how dangerous it was, I just wanted to be de-
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ployed. What was the hardest, besides losing an arm and leg, the big thing that really hurt me when I woke up that Christmas day after I was injured, was that a career I had just found was snatched away from me. The military said I could stay in, but I couldn’t be a front line infantry soldier and couldn’t be deployed anymore, so I got out. PHOTOS COURTESY OF NOAH GALLOWAY
People have heard this from other soldiers, when you get over there, politics back home in the States don’t matter. What’s going on doesn’t matter. It’s all about survival and taking care of your buddies. And you get to know the locals. I never lived in a camp, we lived out with the locals on those deployments. And I loved that. Yeah, it’s more dangerous, but you get to know the people and try to learn the language. I never had a chance to travel before, and I had the excitement of the danger and the joy of experiencing a completely different culture and lifestyle.
No. Even when I was going through my depression, I didn’t really have that kind of anger. I feel like you are a good soldier if you can look beyond what’s happening. To understand your enemy, you have to respect him. I was hit by a roadside bomb, and I’ve had people say to me that it is a crappy way for them to attack us. I know it sucks, but it’s an effective way [for them to fight us], so keeping that understanding kept me from having any anger towards them. In the American Revolution, the British said that us Americans weren't fighting fair because we did not line up in a field shooting. We did not have the means to battle the British army that way. So we hid behind trees and camped out inside barns and were taking pot shots at them. Tell me about your family
I have three sisters. We are all close. We grew up not having a lot of money. I tell my mom that I’m impressed because we all turned out real good. I was the one most likely to screw up, but aside from me, my sisters are so successful and doing so well. Two of them are teachers, and my other sister manages a Walmart. My dad lost his hand he was 18. He was working in a plant and a machine malfunctioned and squashed his hand. It was years PHOTO COURTESY ABC’S DANCING WITH THE STARS
What was your experience on the ground in Iraq?
Do you hold a grudge against the Iraqi who planted the bomb?
before he met my mom. So I’ve never seen him with two hands, he doesn’t wear a prosthetic, and he’s always done construction work. My mom is this little woman with white hair and you see her and you’re like “what a sweet little lady” but she has this side to her that she’s very direct and you think “I’m not going to cross this woman.” When I was in the hospital and kind of depressed my mom made a comment to me one day, “You just had to outdo your dad and lose your arm and your leg.”And we laughed about it, but it was one of those moments when I needed to hear someone just straight up making a joke of it, and to remind me of what my daddy had gone through. Then I remember, it was very emotional when she said, “I’ve got to go back to Alabama. I’m not doing you any good, I’m helping you too much; you have to do more for yourself.” Well, she left, and then my dad was doing everything for me to the point where I said, “Dad, you have to leave, because I’m not going to get better.” It was such a sweet thing. He was so worried about me he was babying me in a way he had never done before. What about your heritage?
My grandfather was of Scottish descent and my grandmother Flynn was of Irish descent. My grandfather was Baptist and Continued on page 79 Left to right: Noah and his girlfriend Jamie Boyd. On Dancing with the Stars Noah holds his partner Sharna Burgess aloft. Noah with his grandfather, his father, and his son Colston in a photo taken before his deployment to Iraq.
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 33
ONE GLOBAL COMPANY. TOUCHING THOUSANDS OF LIVES. With over 11,000 people in 38 countries, we are an Irish company that is one of the world leaders in clinical research. We are a trusted partner for pharmaceutical and medical device companies in helping them to accelerate the development of drugs and devices that save lives and improve the quality of life. ICON applauds all the Irish America Healthcare & Life Sciences 50 Honorees for their excellent contributions to advancing healthcare.
ICONplc.com Untitled-1 1
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THE HEALTHCARE & LIFE SCIENCES
Irish-American innovators who are leading the way in diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease
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Dr. Christina Brennan is a physician who has devoted her career to clinical research. She is committed to the advancement of science and medicine. She is currently the director of clinical research for the cardiovascular service line of the North Shore LIJ Health System. Brennan earned her M.D. from the West Indies and her M.B.A. from Hofstra University. She is the president elect of the NY Chapter of the Association of Clinical Research Professionals, and has authored chapters in textbooks, co-authored manuscripts and abstracts, and presented at numerous meetings. She is a first-generation Irish American. Her mother, Christina Cawley, is from Co. Mayo and her father, John Raymond Tubridy, is from Co. Clare. Brennan first traveled to Ireland when she was seven years old, fell in love with the Emerald Isle and then went on to spend all of her childhood summers there. Her mother taught her to work hard, expect nothing, and appreciate everything. Brennan lives on Long Island with her husband, Paul, who is a lieutenant in the NYPD, and their twin daughters, Erin and Kelly.
Elaine Brennan is managing director of Pharma Ventures at North Shore-LIJ. Brennan’s current role is managing and expanding industry relations (Life Sciences) including the clinical trials sector across the North Shore-LIJ. She works with clinical and administrative leadership, The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and North Shore Ventures. Previously, she worked with Enterprise Ireland in the management of Irish Life Sciences companies entering the U.S. market. She was also founder of Gastroenterology Ireland – assembling a cluster of companies, research and development, and Irish Key Opinion Leaders in Ireland and the U.S. Her pharmaceutical career at Roche, Bristol Myers Squibb, and Abbvie included marketing/sales and clinical roles launching block buster products in the Virology sector. Brennan has published scientific articles on genetic engineering and biodegradable polymers applications, and patented many products in the same area. She earned her science degree in the U.K. and her early ed36 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
ucation in Co. Galway and Belgium. She currently resides in New York with her son Cian and says, “a modern Irish woman in business today is fully aware that she can aspire to be a leader in business in the knowledge that they perform or compete to the highest standards. We have many traits that lead us to success, we are passionate, charismatic, risk takers and innovators and all the while being grateful to those in our lives both at home and work.”
Dr. Peter F. Buckley is dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University, interim executive vice president for Health Affairs at GRU, and interim CEO, Georgia Regents Medical Center & Medical Associates. Buckley was born in Dublin, emigrated to the U.S. in 1992, and maintains dual citizenship. The son of two physicians, he earned his medical degree from the University College Dublin School of Medicine in 1986, and completed a psychiatry residency and research fellowship at St. John of God Psychiatric Services. An expert in schizophrenia, Buckley is a member of the Executive Committee of the International Congress on Schizophrenia. He is also a member of the Election Committee of the Schizophrenia International Research Society. Buckley, along with Dr. David J. Castle, chairman of psychiatry at Australia’s St. Vincent’s Health and the University of Melbourne, recently co-edited the second edition of a reference book for mental health professionals on schizophrenia, and is editor/author of 15 other books. He continues an active, federally-funded research program with national, multicenter collaborations. This year he received the inaugural Spirit of MCG Award for Excellence in Leadership from the MCG Faculty Senate. The Ameri-
can Psychiatric Association honored him with the Kempf Fund Award for Psychobiological Research and Mentorship in Schizophrenia in 2014 and the Presidential Commendation for Leadership Accomplishments in 2013.
Physician and founder of WorldClinic Daniel Carlin pioneered WorldClinic’s innovative connected care telemedicine model after a decade of experience in demanding healthcare environments, first as a U.S. Navy Chief Medical Officer then as a refugee camp physician. Trained in surgery and emergency medicine, Dr. Carlin is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a consultantstaff appointment at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in suburban Boston. Dr. Carlin is a recognized leader in the field of telemedicine and the use of the latest digital technologies and mobile devices to provide personal health protection and management. He is a frequent speaker to both medical and international development audiences, and has appeared on The Today Show, Dateline NBC, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Dr. Carlin’s grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in 1918 following the death of his father who was killed onboard the HMS Ariande, off the White Cliffs of Dover during WWI. Dan’s father returned to Ireland for medical school from 1947-1953. He graduated from the University College of Galway, School of Medicine (now called School of Medicine NUI Galway). Dan’s mother is also of Irish heritage, and her family name was Toner. As a young family they lived in Brooklyn in the Park Slope neighborhood until they moved to Dalton, Massachusetts, where Dan’s dad was the town doctor.
Dr. Casey is the Sackler Professor of Developmental Psychobiology and Director of the Sacker Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City where she holds appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry and Neuroscience and an adjunct appointment at the Rockefeller University. Casey is a world leader in human neuroimaging and its use in typical and atypical development. She skillfully uses brain
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imaging to uniquely examine developmental transitions across the life span, especially during the period of adolescence. Her studies have begun to inform when and how to target treatments to the individual based on age and genetic profile (i.e., precision medicine). Her discoveries have been highlighted by NPR, PBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and National Geographic and have implications for juvenile justice and mental health policy reform. Dr. Casey has served on several advisory boards including the NIMH Board of Scientific Counselors and NIMH Council, the Sci-
Niall has a B.Sc. in Chemical Engineering
I think the perseverance from the Cork Institute of Technology and an M.B.A. in Management from Rensselaer (and humor) of the Irish Polytechnic Institute. have been key in surviving Robert Connelly life’s long roller coaster ride Robert Connelly joined as Venture Partner with as well as the ups and Flagship Ventures in 2013 and is the CEO of Pronudowns of science. –Dr. B.J. Casey
still rise at 4 a.m. each morning to get my work done). I think the perseverance (and humor) of the Irish have been key in surviving life’s long roller coaster ride as well as the ups and downs of science. At the Sackler Institute that I direct at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University we have a motto that I attribute to my Irish heritage. That is to take our science more seriously than ourselves. This motto underscores the importance of being loyal to the data as we test, rather than prove, our hypotheses.”
entific Advisory Board for NARSAD, the Advisory Board for the Human Connectome Project- Life Span Study. She has been asked to present her work on the adolescent brain to congressional staff on Capitol Hill, to the Washington State Supreme Court, and to federal judges around the country. She is the recipient of numerous awards including an honorary doctorate from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and author of nearly 200 publications. Dr. Casey is someone who takes the training of the next generation of scientists as seriously as her own research, for which she is passionate. Speaking to Irish America of her Irish heritage she said, “I am third generation Irish. My great-grandfather Bob Casey immigrated to North Carolina from Northern Ireland. I grew up on a small farm that originated out of lots of land distributed among his five children and then passed onto their children. Although I was the first across all three generations to obtain an advanced degree, it was my time on the Casey farm that taught me a love for scientific experimentation (what soil, fertilizer, irrigation led to the best crop) and perseverance (long hours of hard work which may explain why I
Niall began his career as a Production Supervisor at the Pfizer Ringaskiddy, Ireland manufacturing facility in 1987, after 3 years with FMC Corporation, in both Cork, Ireland and Newark, Delaware. He relocated to the Pfizer Groton, Connecticut site in 1988 and worked in several areas before being appointed Director, Organic Synthesis Operations in 1998. Niall was subsequently named Director of Organic Synthesis Operations at the Holland, Michigan facility, in 2001. He relocated to the newly acquired Kalamazoo, Michigan site in 2003 and was Site Leader Kalamazoo from 2005 to 2008. With the formation of Pfizer’s Established Products Business Unit, Niall was named Vice President of Established Products Operations for U.S./ROW in 2008. He was appointed Vice President of Established Products Operating Unit in 2010 and named Vice President Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Operations in 2012. Since January 2014, Niall has been Vice President of Bio-Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Operations with global responsibility for 45 manufacturing facilities spanning Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient, Aseptic, Solid Oral Dose, Biotech and Local Market Operations.
tria, a pioneer in food protein-based therapeutics. He has over 30 years of experience starting, financing, building, and managing companies in the life sciences, food and beverage, and nutrition industries. In 2001 Robert was the founding CEO and first employee of Domantis Ltd, a novel antibody therapeutics company sold to Glaxo SmithKline for $454 million in 2007, the largest all-cash value paid for a preclinical biotechnology company. He has also served as CEO for Pulmatrix (NASD:PULM) and as founding CEO of WikiCell Designs (now merged into Quantum Designs). Robert has raised over $200 million in venture capital financing for his companies, closed numerous transactions including license, platform technology, drug discovery, co-development, government and foundation funding, and M&A partnerships. Connelly sees his Irish ancestry (Cork, Galway, and Clare) as “the classic Irish immigrant story of families escaping poverty to create a better life for themselves.” He has three children with his wife Marlene, who is a firstgeneration Cuban American. Connelly says “seeing the U.S. through her eyes and the eyes of her family has added to my appreciation of what my ancestors went through.”
John J. Connolly
John J. Connolly, the nation’s foremost expert on identifying top physicians, is the president & CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd., publisher of America’s Top Doctors and other consumer guides to help people find the best healthcare. He is also vice chairman of Castle Connolly Graduate Medical Ltd., which publishes review manuals to assist resident physicians and fellows in preparing for their board exams. He is extensively involved in healthcare and community activities and has served on a number of voluntary and corporate boards, AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 37
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including the board of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, of which he is a founder and past chairman, and the Culinary Institute of America for over 20 years, where he is now chairman emeritus. He also served as a director and chairman of the Professional Examination Service and is presently on the board of the American Swiss Foundation. The author or editor of seven books, John holds a B.S. from Worcester State College, an M.A. from the University of Connecticut, and an Ed.D. in college and university administration from Teacher’s College, Columbia University.
William A. Conway
William Conway is CEO of the Henry Ford Medical Group and executive vice president of the Henry Ford Health System. As such, William leads Henry Ford’s 1,100-physician medical group, one of the nation’s largest and oldest group practices, with more than 40 specialties. William joined the Henry Ford Medical Group in 1977 as a senior staff physician in the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine. Since then, he has served in numerous leadership roles, including as chief medical officer for Henry Ford Hospital. He completed a fellowship and his residency, where he was also chief medical resident, at Henry Ford Hospital. He is the past chairman of the American Medical Group Association, and past chairman of the American Medical Group Foundation, and a founder of the Group Practice Improvement Network. Dr. Conway has created novel detection technologies utilized in medical diagnostics and drug discovery, and had a central role in IGEN’s financing activities. Conway is also a member of the Hartford Health Care System’s Board of Directors and National Quality Forum’s Consensus Standards Approval Committee. An alumnus of Creighton University, William is a second-generation Irish American with roots in County Mayo on his father’s side. “My grandparents and other immigrants continued the Irish traditions in America of looking out for our neighbors, sharing with them, and helping them succeed, all of which I witnessed during my visits to Ireland,” he says. “It’s important to apply that 38 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
inclusive, community-oriented Irish philosophy to healthcare in Detroit and the U.S.” William and his wife Susan have five children, Colleen, Jessica, Shane, Caitlin and Kerry, and four grandchildren, Liam, Reese, Cecelia and Aveleen.
Daniel Crowley is a venture partner at ARCH Venture Partners as well as executive director for the Center of Advanced Materials and Bioengineering. Prior to his roles at ARCH, Dan was a director with NDRC, a tech incubator and investor in Dublin. Crowley was also one of the founding directors of VentureLab. With all of his years of experience, he says he is excited to see more Irish and European tech companies expand. “We try to bring U.S. entrepreneurialism, vision, and capital intensity to the many excellent Irish investment opportunities we see,” says Crowley. A native of Dublin, Crowley fondly recalls his first job pulling pints at the family pub. His mother was born in Ireland to a Protestant, Anglo-Irish family while his father hails from London, born to Catholic Irish immigrants from West Cork. He attended Trinity College Dublin where he received a B.A. and M.Sc. in Computer Science. He went on to earn a Dip.SI. from Oxford and an M.B.A. from Cornell University where he was named an Angear Merit Scholar. In 2011, he was named a Kauffman Fellow. Crowley is married to his wife Clare and together they have 5 children: James, Sam, Matthew, Benjamin, and Ethan, and says of his Irish heritage: “Like so many Irish people, we feel that Ireland is not so much a country, but an identity. You can be Irish anywhere, but in the U.S., being Irish gives you a truly special identity as part of a community that helped build the American nation.”
Carmel Corrigan Monahan
Carmel Corrigan Monahan, R.N., M.S.N. is the Administrator/Director of Patient Services for Calvary Hospital Hospice, Bronx, New York. An ardent supporter of honoring the wishes and respecting the dignity of those at the end of life, Carmel is both a caring nurse and a dedicated leader. It is under her administration that Calvary Hospice, a newly minted program in 1998, is one of the leading hospice programs
in NYC, caring for more than 2,000 at home patients annually. Carmel immigrated to New York from Achill Island, Co. Mayo and pursued a career in nursing, receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Herbert H. Lehman College. Early on, Carmel was drawn to the community and home care arena. She was influenced by her father, Johnny Corrigan, a fisherman who frequently risked his own life to bring the local physician by boat to the people of Clare Island and Innisturk in prehelicopter days. Although the transportation mode is different, the intent is the same for Carmel whose care inspired one family to write, “Although my wish is to never need your services again, it is wonderful to know that there is someone to turn to, for real help and comfort, in the most difficult times of our lives.”
Michael Dowling is the President and CEO of the North Shore-LIJ Health System and will serve as the 2015 Irish America Healthcare & Life Science 50 event keynote speaker. Dowling began his career as a faculty member at Fordham University as a professor of social policy and the assistant dean at the Graduate School of Social Services. In 1983, under Governor Mario Cuomo, he served as deputy secretary and state director of Health Education and Human Services. When Cuomo left office in 1995, Michael signed on as senior vice president at Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield, later taking up the post of SVP of hospital services at the North Shore-LIJ Health System. He became executive vice president and chief operating officer in 1997, and was named president and CEO in 2002. Born and raised in Knockaderry, Co. Limerick, Dowling is the eldest of five children. He had to help support his family from an
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frastructure and shaped its local culture. It is that work ethic and sense of purpose that I carry with me every day.”
Walter J. Fahey
early age, inspiring him to push further and achieve his dreams. “If you tell me I can’t do something, that’s when I become determined to get it done.” This mindset propelled him to success, becoming the first person in his family to attend college, graduating University College Cork while working odd jobs to pay for tuition. After graduation he went to New York and earned a master’s degree from Fordham University. Michael and his wife Kathy live on Long Island. They have two children, Brian and Elizabeth.
Mike Duffy is president of Medical Products for Cardinal Health. In this role, Duffy has global responsibility for the Cardinal Health-branded product portfolio, manufacturing, and R&D. In his previous role as president of the company’s Medical Supply Chain, Duffy led the Hospital Supply, Lab/Scientific Products and Ambulatory Care businesses. Prior to Cardinal Health, Duffy served as vice president, Global Value Chain at the Gillette Company, where he had global responsibility for customer service, revenue management, demand planning, distribution, and promotions management. Duffy earned both a bachelor’s degree in operations research and a master’s degree in transportation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Columbus Metropolitan Library Foundation. He is a fourth-generation Irish American with roots in Dublin on both sides of the family, and ancestors from Kilkenny on his mother’s side. He remarks, “my family is from Boston, where the Irish community is still very active. I am proud to be a descendant of the Irish community that both built the city in40 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Since 1995, Walter J. Fahey has been senior vice president and CIO at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY. With more than 25 years of information technology experience in healthcare, Walter has held positions at the Hospital for Joint Diseases and held information technology leadership positions at Baxter healthcare, St. Vincent’s Medical Center, and the New York Methodist Hospital. Under Walter’s leadership, Maimonides has received numerous accolades to become a nationally recognized center for healthcare IT, including the 1998 ComputerWorld Smithsonian Award, the Nicholas E. Davies Award, and American Hospital Association’s “Most Wired” and/or “Most Wireless” company. Additionally, Walter sits on the board of the American Hospital Association, One View, Aruba, and Unisys, and was instrumental in developing the Brooklyn Health Information Exchange in 2005. Walter is a second-generation Irish American with maternal (Early) roots in Co. Cork, and Fahey roots in Galway. He holds an M.B.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.
Garret A. FitzGerald
Dr. Garret FitzGerald is the McNeil Professor in Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he chairs the Department of Pharmacology and directs the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics. FitzGerald’s research has been characterized by an integr- ative approach to elucidating the mechanisms of drug action,
“If you tell me I can’t do something, that’s when I become determined to get it done.”
– Michael Dowling
drawing on work in cells, model organisms, and humans. His work contributed substantially to the development of lowdose aspirin for cardioprotection. FitzGerald’s group was the first to predict and then mechanistically explain the cardiovascular hazard from NSAIDs. He has also discovered many products of lipid peroxidation and established their utility as indices of oxidant stress in vivo. His laboratory was the first to discover a molecular clock in the cardiovascular system and has studied the importance of peripheral clocks in the regulation of cardiovascular and metabolic function. FitzGerald has received the Boyle, Coakley, Harvey, and St. Patrick’s Day medals, the Lucian, Scheele, and Hunter Awards, and the Cameron, Taylor, Herz, Lefoulon-Delalande, and Schottstein Prizes. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and a Fellow of the American Academy of the Arts and Sciences and of the Royal Society. He was the 2014 Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 Keynote Speaker.
Dr. Katherine Fitzgerald is a professor of medicine and Co-Director of the Program in Innate Immunity at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She received her B.Sc. in biochemistry from the University College Cork, Ireland and a Ph.D. from Trinity College in 1999. Since then she has worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Trinity College and joined the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 2004 as an assistant professor. Among Fitzgerald’s many breakthroughs in medicine include the discovery of Mal/Tirap, a central adapter in TLR4 signing. Her work and writing in a number of prestigious medical journals continues to expand knowledge of immunology. Fitzgerald is the recipient of numerous honors and awards throughout her illustrious career. In 2011 she was awarded the Irish Times Public Lecture Award, and in 2014 was given the BD-Investigator Award as well as the Eli Lilly and Elanco Company Award.This past St. Patrick’s Day, she was awarded the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal, an award given to Irish scientists who have excelled in either academic or industrial development. Taoiseach Enda Kenny said at the ceremony, “Professor Fitzgerald has made significant impact in her field of
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spent his junior year at Trinity College Dublin researching his senior honors thesis, which studied the impact of microeconomic factors on the conflict in Ulster. After graduating as a Dana Scholar from Holy Cross, Flynn received his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He and his wife Erin live in Brookline, Massachusetts. They have three children.
immunology, a research area for which Ireland is ranked first globally.” Of her Irish heritage, Fitzgerald said, “I am very proud to be amongst an esteemed diaspora of Irish scientists, engineers, and technology leaders that have made the U.S. their home. I value the excellent training I received in Ireland which laid the foundation on which I established my own career.”
Thomas J. Flynn
For 20 years, Tom Flynn has been an active investor in growing healthcare companies. He is currently a Managing Partner of SV Life Sciences Advisers, a healthcare and life sciences-focused investment firm with over $2 billion under management. From its offices in Boston, San Francisco and London, SV invests in biopharmaceutical, medical technology, and healthcare services companies. Flynn sits on the boards of Good Start Genetics, Health Care Essentials, Maestro Health Care Technologies, Nordic Consulting Services, Schweiger Dermatology, and Urgent Team Holdings. Prior to SVLS, Tom was a Partner at Ferrer Freeman & Co. in Greenwich, Connecticut, a private equity firm that invested exclusively in the healthcare industry. Previously, he held positions at GE Capital, Prudential Capital, and Lehman Brothers. Flynn’s grandparents, originally from counties Cork and Kerry, immigrated to the United States prior to the Great Depression. They settled outside Boston and their children, including Flynn’s father Paul, served in two wars, became the first in their family to attend college, and achieved success in sports, business, and the law. While an undergraduate at Holy Cross College, Flynn
Jim Geraghty joined Third Rock Ventures in 2013 to create companies dedicated to improving the lives of patients with rare genetic diseases and support existing portfolio companies in the rare disease space. He is an industry leader with 30 years of strategic and leadership experience, including more than 20 years developing and commercializing therapies for rare diseases. Prior to Third Rock, Geraghty served as senior vice president, North America Strategy and Business Development at Sanofi. Before Sanofi, Jim spent 20 years at Genzyme, where his roles included senior vice president international development, president of Genzyme Europe and general manager of Genzyme’s cardiovascular business. He also served as chairman and chief executive officer of GTC Biotherapeutics (now Revo Biologics), which he founded and took public. Jim oversaw Genzyme’s Humanitarian Assistance for Neglected Diseases program, under which the company supported innovative development programs on a non-commercial basis. He is chairman of Idera Pharmaceuticals and a member of the board of directors of Voyager Therapeutics. He is also a member of the Joslin Diabetes Center board of trustees, and on the board of BIO Ventures for Global Health. A graduate of the Yale Law School, Jim also holds a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a bachelors from Georgetown University.
Where most others look away, Michael Hall has made it his life’s work to focus his attention. For the past seven years as the Program Director for Liberty Safe Haven – a facility providing apartments to the chronically homeless – Hall has worked hand in hand with those suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues in New Haven, Connecticut.
As part of Liberty Community Services, Safe Haven follows the Housing First approach, which advocates providing homeless people with a place to live quickly and then providing services as needed. Once housed, the medically compromised individuals, many suffering from HIV and AIDS, are helped with making a permanent transition away from life on the streets to a situation that affords them ongoing medical assistance. Stabilized physically and emotionally, residents then learn the skills needed to live independently within the community. Hall also oversees Safe Haven’s Day Program, a homeless drop-in center that offers not only counseling and medical care but also shower and bath facilities, a laundry room, a library, and employment guidance. In addition, he coordinates an ongoing health education series of talks directly targeted to New Haven’s most vulnerable demographic. Before Safe Haven, Hall worked as a Program Director for the Yale University AIDS Program’s Community Health Care Van, which offers free medicine to the homeless by traveling into the heart of disenfranchised neighborhoods and hangout spots for both the sick and the undocumented. Hall, who grew up on a farm in Simsbury, Connecticut, feels a deep connection to his Irish heritage, which took root in County Tipperary. “The Irish have always been a tender, empathetic tribe,” he says. “I think of those who survived the famine, the disenfranchisement. It inspires the work I do now.” Married to his partner of twenty-two years, Otto Bohlmann, Hall is delighted that Ireland was the first nation in the world to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote.
James I. Healy
Dr. Jim Healy has worked as a general partner at Sofinnova Ventures since 2000 and has since been a key investor and served on the board of at least 15 companies. Among those, Jim has financed and served on the board of nine companies which received drug approvals from either the FDA or EMA. He was an early investor and board member of eight companies which subsequently completed initial public offerings and seven companies that have been acquired as private or public companies. Specializing in biomedAUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 41
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ical research, development and finance, Jim currently serves on the boards of Amarin and InterMune, and is chairman of the board at Hyperion Therapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing treatments for rare diseases. Most recently, he was listed by Forbes as one of the industry’s top life science investors, and in 2012, Jim was named one of the best “young and proven” biotech investors by Xconomy Magazine. Jim holds bachelor degrees in both molecular biology and Scandinavian studies from UC Berkeley and earned his M.D. and Ph.D. in immunology from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Now, he frequently travels to Sofinnova’s Dublin office to work with the company’s several Irish investments, including biomedical firms Amarin and Prothena. “I have enjoyed traveling to Ireland frequently to work with the management teams in our portfolio to build strong companies that are making a difference in patient care around the world,” he says. Born in Maine, Jim grew up delivering papers and working in the hardware and gardening departments of a local store and credits his hard work ethic to his Irish roots, which come from the maternal side of his family. “Many of my ancestors worked as immigrant farmers and ranchers,” he says. “My mother worked two jobs when I was young. If you want to succeed in life you need to put in the effort.”
As vice president and industry general manager of IBM Global Healthcare, Sean Hogan leads IBM’s business serving clients across its services. With an M.B.A. from the Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Dartmouth, Sean has particularly focused on growth that is predicated on the development and transformation of existing business models and advanced technology throughout his career. Embracing the Irish “reputation for determination, warmth, and integrity,” as he calls it, Sean is proud of the work IBM is doing to help its clients deliver greater access to high quality, cost-effective care. Sean says “healthcare is an information-intensive industry,” so his key interests include technology applications that help the medical 42 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
community access and analyze data in order to achieve better patient outcomes. For example, IBM is working with clinicians to develop IBM Watson cognitive computing technology to help oncologists fight cancer, and predictive analytics to improve early detection of heart failure. Sean is a fourth-generation Irish American. All 16 of his great-great-grandparents are Irish and lived in the U.S., emigrating from all over, including Clare and Cork. He and his wife Jana currently live in Ridgefield, Connecticut with their three children, Matthew, Jared, and Kate.
Dr. Kevin Horgan is a physician scientist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was born in London, and his parents were natives of Clare and Cork. After attending Crescent College Comprehensive in Limerick he graduated in medicine from University College Cork in 1982. He completed postgraduate medical training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, and UCLA in internal medicine, immunology and gastroenterology. After four years on the faculty at UCLA, where he specialized in managing inflammatory bowel disease, he joined the pharmaceutical industry at Merck Research Laboratories. There he led the development of the groundbreaking drug Emend for the prevention of nausea and vomiting associated with cancer chemotherapy. A decade after its approval in 2003, no similar drug has been successfully developed. Since then, Kevin has contributed to the development of several novel therapies and
diagnostics for inflammatory bowel disease and Alzheimer’s. His immunology research provided important early support for the development of three approved medications for multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis. After working with several small biotechnology companies on novel immunotherapies and diagnostics, he is now a Global Medical Lead at Astra Zeneca in the rapidly developing area of immuno-oncology.
J. Larry Jameson
J. Larry Jameson, M.D., Ph.D., became Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine on July 1, 2011. Together, the two entities make up Penn Medicine, a $5 billion enterprise dedicated to excellence in the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and patient care.
Founded in 1765 as the Colonies’ first medical school, the Perelman School of Medicine is now home to 2,000 full-time faculty members and more than 3,200 students, trainees, residents, and fellows. Before coming to Penn Medicine, Dr. Jameson was Dean of the Feinberg School of Medicine and Vice President of Medical Affairs at Northwestern University. A prolific physician-scientist and writer, Dr. Jameson has been a pioneer in molecular medicine in the field of endocrinology. His research has focused on the genetic basis of hormonal disorders and he is the author of more than 300 scientific articles and chapters. Dr. Jameson has received many distinguished awards, including most recently the American College of Physicians Award for Outstanding Science. His paternal greatgreat-great grandfather, William Jameson Sr, came to America from Ireland in 1750. He settled in Easley, SC and served in the Rev-
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olutionary War. The next four generations remained in this area of South Carolina until his father moved to Asheville, North Carolina, where Dr. Jameson was raised. He attended University, Medical School, and Graduate School at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill before pursuing clinical training in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
Professor Patrick “Paddy” Johnston is president and vice chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast. Paddy joined Queen’s University in 1996 as a professor of oncology, becoming the director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology. He later became dean of the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences where he led the foundation of a new international Medical School and Institute of Health Sciences, which is internationally recognized for its excellence in teaching and biomedical research programs. Paddy’s research focus has been on the understanding of mechanisms of drug resistance to therapeutic agents, which has resulted in numerous prestigious landmark publications and grants. A native of Derry, and with parents from Derry as well, Paddy speaks fondly of his Irish heritage saying, “My Irish heritage and family are very important to me; it is part of my living DNA. All that I have achieved has been as a result of the sacrifices of my parents and grandparents to ensure that I had the opportunities that they could only dream of.” In 1982, Paddy received a medical degree from University College Dublin followed by a Ph.D. in medicine in 1988. He later obtained a fellowship at the National Cancer Institute at Bethesda. Paddy serves on the Medical Research Council Strategy Board, was appointed Chair of the MRC Translational Research Group in 2012, and is the founder of the Society for Translational Oncology (based in Durham, NC), and Almac Diagnostics (based in the U.S. and Northern Ireland). Among his many awards and honors are the Queen’s Anniversary Prize from Queen Elizabeth II in 2012, a fellowship to the Academy of Medical Sciences, and in 44 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
“As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I joined Autism Speaks because I saw how underserved the autism community was”
– Brian Kelly
2013 he was named winner of the international Bob Pinedo Cancer Care Prize. Paddy and his wife, Dr. Iseult Wilson, have four sons, Seamus, Eoghan, Niall, and Ruairi.
As the newly elected Chairman of Autism Speaks, Brian Kelly takes charge of the nation’s leading advocacy group for individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. Kelly’s oldest child, Patrick, has autism. “As a parent of a child on the spectrum, I joined Autism Speaks because I saw how underserved the autism community was . . . I am honored and humbled to have been elected Chairman of the Board as we embark on the next chapter of our mission.” Kelly, who in addition to Patrick has five other children, is co-founder of Eastern Real Estate LLC, a leading commercial real estate investment, development, and asset management firm. The same energy, creativity, and drive that built this successful firm have been channeled to improving the lives of people with autism and their families. In 2006, he led the development and property acquisition of the Melmark New England School in Andover, Massachusetts, a school that services individuals with autism and other disabilities. The following year, Kelly and his wife, Patricia, donated $2.4 million to fund the construction of the Koegel Autism Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Since then, the Koegel Autism Center has become world-renowned for
its Pivotal Response Treatment, one of the few intervention methods for autism that is both comprehensive and empirically supported. He and Patricia have also established the Brian and Patricia Kelly Postsecondary Scholarship Fund to help promote additional opportunities for young adults to pursue postsecondary education and ultimately increase the number of enrolled students on the spectrum. “Brian Kelly has been a big voice at the Autism Speaks table and, as the new chairman, he is prepared to carry the torch forward on behalf of our families,” said Bob Wright, who founded Autism Speaks with his wife Suzanne in 2005. The Wrights are grandparents to a child with autism. Kelly’s maternal ancestors hail from Mayo, Kerry, and Limerick and settled in New York. His paternal ancestors emigrated from County Cork during the nineteenth century. His great-grandfather’s cousin was none other than Honest John Kelly, congressman and sheriff of New York County and national Democratic power broker, who most notably succeeded Boss Tweed as leader of Tammany Hall from 1872 to 1886. Both of his parents have acquired Irish citizenship and his father is currently writing a book about his ancestors’ 35-year career in public service. Kelly was raised in New York, but spent most of his adult life in Boston, where he met his wife Patricia. He and Patricia now live in Santa Barbara, California with their six children. For more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders, visit the Autism Speaks website at autismspeaks.org.
James P. Kelly
Dr. James P. Kelly serves as the director of the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. Kelly is also professor of neurosurgery and physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He has also served as director of the Brain Injury Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and was the neurological consultant for the Chicago Bears. He was the first chairman of the Defense Health Board’s Traumatic Brain Injury External Advisory Subcommittee for Military Clinical Care, Research, and Education.
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James is Irish on his father’s side and explained: “My father, William A. Kelly, was born in Glasgow, Scotland, the seventh of eight children of second-generation Irish immigrants who left Ireland around the time of the potato famine.” James obtained a bachelor’s and master’s degree in psychology from Western Michigan University, graduating from Northwestern University’s medical school and completing his neurology residency and behavioral neurology fellowship at the University of Colorado. He co-authored the sports concussion guidelines of the American Academy of Neurology and the Standardized Assessment of Concussion that is widely used in athletic and military settings.
Dr. John G. Kennedy is the assistant attending orthopedic surgeon at the Hospital for Special Surgery, Department of Orthopedic surgery, as well as Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College. Kennedy’s medical career stretches over twenty years and is buttressed by a commitment to teaching, researching, and administering quality care dedicated to the lower limbs. A native of Dublin, John was a big sports fan as a child, later playing as an adolescent and young adult. He went on to compete at the national and international levels in track, rugby, fencing, and water skiing. Kennedy’s interest in basic science research was initiated as a medical student. As a result, in his intern year he began his first post-doctoral thesis investigating the effects of oxygen free radical scavengers on tourniquet induced ischemia. This formed the basis of his Masters in Medical Science. Following this, he continued to be involved in basic science at the Enders Laboratory at Harvard Medical School under Dr. Melvin Glimcher, where he defended his thesis on new composites in bone regeneration. Shortly after that, he was instrumental in setting up a basic science laboratory at University College Dublin as part of his role of Senior Lecturer in Orthopedic Surgery. Since his time in HSS, Dr. Kennedy has been involved in several basic science investigations principally involving cartilage re46 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
generation but also involving biomechanics and biological augmentation of healing processes. As a principle supporter of the Foot and Ankle Registry, HSS has developed a database that has been instrumental in supporting excellent clinical outcome. This research is published in over 117 peer-reviewed articles and is represented by over 150 national and international podium presentations, as well as numerous book chapters. Dr. Kennedy’s goal in both clinical and basic science research is to establish HSS as a world leader in ankle cartilage regeneration and arthroscopy through continued collaboration with national and international colleagues and institutions.
“Surgical innovation is critical to improving patient outcome, but this must be accomplished with evidence. Research through basic science evidence, translational incorporation and clinical outcomes is an algorithm that we have used to define areas that need to be improved. We have made great inroads into arthroscopic and tendoscopic procedures around the hind foot, as well as in establishing improved biologic augmentation for cartilage regeneration in the ankle,” said Dr. Kennedy. His goal is to continue to innovate in the field of sports ankle, as well as understanding the fundamentals of these innovative procedures through basic science research and to teach not only the successful outcomes, but more importantly, those that are not successful. “In this way,” he says, “I hope that my office will leave a legacy of excellence in research, education and clinical experience.”
“Being Irish American, Bronx-born, and Kenneth S. Kurtz Bronx-bred has been a Dr. Kenneth Kurtz is a board-certified prosthodontist and has practiced in New huge positive influence Hyde Park, NY since 2000, branding the practice “Academic Prosthodontics of Long on my life. My maternal Island” in 2012 (AP-LI.com). Prosthodontics grandmother, Mary Dolan, is one of the eight American Dental Asdental specialties. was an enduring matriarch, sociation-recognized Dr. Kurtz is a cum laude graduate of SUNY Albany and received his D.D.S. from the having never lost her New York University College of Dentistry brogue since arriving at (NYUCD), his prosthodontic specialty training at Montefiore Medical Center/Albert Einstein Ellis Island in 1910.” – Dr. Kenneth Kurtz
Dr. Kennedy has sat on a number of boards and organizations while receiving a number of awards for his work. He was the foot and ankle consultant for the New York Giants in 2004, was a founder and co-chair of the International Congress on Cartilage Repair of the Ankle. Kennedy was also awarded the Wounded Warrior award in 2009 and a guest of honor at the British Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society in 2013. Dr. Kennedy’s interest in teaching stems from his time as a physiology demonstrator at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin when he was completing his MMS. He continued as Senior Lecturer in Orthopedics at the University College Dublin, and is currently pursuing a post-doctoral degree, under the direction of Prof. Jon Karlsson, investigating cartilage regeneration in the talus both in terms of basic science and clinical outcomes.
College of Medicine (MMC), and Maxillofacial Prosthetic training at the Columbia University School of Dental and Oral Surgery/Bronx VAMC. Dr. Kurtz holds academic appointments at three hospitals, two medical schools and a dental school, actively teaching at three met-
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“I am proud of the strong core values of family, community and hard work that
my grandparents instilled in me. “
– Kevin B. Mahoney
ropolitan NYC area graduate prosthodontic training programs. He is a Clinical Professor and Associate Director of Graduate Prosthodontics at NYUCD, Director of Prosthodontic Research at MMC, and Director of the Maxillofacial Prosthetics Section, NYHospital Queens. Dr. Kurtz is an attending prosthodontist at Long Island Jewish Medical Center conveniently located in close proximity to AP-LI. A Fellow of the American College of Prosthodontists (ACP). He was the 2014 Recipient of the ACP Clinician Researcher Award, having co-authored thirty-six scientific papers to date. Listed on the Irish Register of Dentists since 1992, he has presented lectures at the 2012 Annual Scientific Meeting of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and also has served as an examiner in Restorative Dentistry for the Membership of the RCSI Faculty of Dentistry Examination, which has been held at NYUCD since 2009. “Being Irish American Bronx-born and Bronx-bred has been a huge positive influence on my life. My maternal grandmother, Mary Dolan, was an enduring matriarch, having never lost her brogue since arriving at Ellis Island in 1910, only returning to Ireland in 1969! My bloodline is Ulster, from both sides of the border, Fermanagh and Cavan. When questioned about the Irishness of my surname, I like to reply that it’s as Irish as DeValera!”
Kevin B. Mahoney
Kevin Mahoney is the Executive Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Executive Vice Dean at Penn Medicine. As such, Kevin is an integral part of a leadership team overseeing a $6 billion enterprise dedicated to advancing science, providing extraordinary patient care and jobs to nearly 30,000 employees. Penn Medicine is steeped in history including the na-
tion’s first medical school and first hospital. Kevin joined Penn Medicine in 1996 as Director of Network Development. Since then, he has served in numerous leadership roles, including as executive director of Phoenixville Hospital, chief operating officer for Clinical Care Associates and Senior Vice President of Penn Medicine. He graduated from Millersville University with a B.A. in Economics, received his M.B.A. from Temple University and is currently enrolled in the doctorate program at Temple University. He is active in his community, including serving as past president of a local school district, and the United Way and Community Volunteers in Medicine. Kevin, who is a second-generation Irish American with roots in McGillicuddy Reeks (Kerry), Ballymoe (Galway) and Cork City, says, “I have fond memories of the traditions my grandparents brought to America. I am proud of the strong core values of family, community, and hard work that my grandparents instilled in me.” He and his wife Pamela have three children.
Dr. Sue Mahony is president of Lilly Oncology as well as senior vice president for Eli Lilly and Company. Sue joined Lilly in 2000 with over a decade in sales and marketing roles in Europe and the United Kingdom. From there, she worked in a variety of roles in global marketing and product development, leading Lilly’s operations in Canada, later becoming senior vice president in 2009 and president in 2011.
Sue is first-generation Irish American, having been born in London to David and Anna with family hailing from Cork City and Coolea, Co. Cork. While she was raised in England, most of Sue’s family now resides in Ireland and she remembers fondly the summers she spent in Coolea saying “it’s a beautiful country with wonderful people. I am extremely proud of my Irish heritage.” Sue learned from an early age working in a card shop the importance of hard work and dedication which she carried through to her studies. She attended Aston University in Great Britain where she received a B.Sc. in pharmacy, later completing a Ph.D. in Aston’s Cancer Research Campaign Experimental Chemotherapy Group. Sue did not stop there, but went on to the London School of Business where she completed a master’s degree in business administration. She serves on the board of the United Way of Central Indiana and in 2010 was recognized as one of Indianapolis Business Journal’s “Women of Influence.” Sue and her husband John have two children, Thomas and Rebecca.
John F. Maroney
John Maroney joined ForSight VISION 5 as President and CEO in July 2013, a clinical development stage company working on sustained release of medications to the anterior eye. Prior to VISION 5, he served as a Managing Member of Delphi Ventures, a healthcare focused venture capital firm. Before Delphi, John was president, CEO, and chairman of EndoTex Interventional Systems, Inc. a development stage, venture backed, start-up company focused on commercialization of carotid artery stents, acquired by Boston Scientific in 2007. From 1988 to 1997, he held a variety of senior management positions at Cardiovascular Imaging Systems and Boston Scientific, and was a key member of the senior management team during the CVIS IPO and eventual acquisition by Boston Scientific. John serves on the Advisory Boards for the College of Engineering and the Department of Biomedical Engineering at U.C. Davis, where he earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. John’s thrice greatgrandmother, Catherine Maroney, immigrated to New York during the AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 47
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Famine from Limerick, along with his greatgreat-grandfather, Martin. He and his wife Sarah Bryan live in Woodside, California.
For 15 years, Dr. Sean McCance has directed Spine Associates, one of the leading spine surgery practices in New York City. He has been recognized by his peers as one of the most accomplished surgeons in the field. Dr. McCance also serves as Co-Director of Spine Surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, and is an attending spine surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital. He has performed more than 4,000 spine surgeries on patients from all over the world and from all walks of life. He has particular expertise in complex reconstructive spine surgery including revision cervical and lumbar surgery, scoliosis, and spondylolisthesis. Dr. McCance has been featured in New York magazine's "Best Doctors" from 20122015. He was recognized in a national physician survey as one of the “Best Doctors for Spine Surgery” in 2003, and has since been selected by numerous peer-reviewed organizations including Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors, New York Super Doctors, and America's Top Physicians. He has also received the Patients’ Choice Award. He has authored numerous articles on spine surgery, on topics including cervical and lumbar surgery, scoliosis, and sports-related spine injuries. He has presented his re-
“Being Irish is about being part of a present-day community that shares
important values which include a strong work ethic, the importance of family, and a love of life.”
– Terry McGuire
48 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
search at national and international meetings and is a member of the North American Spine Society and the Scoliosis Research Society. Dr. McCance's Irish heritage is from Galway, which is his mother's hometown, and Cork, where his father was born. Dr. McCance has visited Ireland many times, and has continued to share that heritage with his family and children.
John McDonough joined T2 Biosystems in 2007 as the company’s first full-time CEO and President. He has a proven track record driving change, promoting innovation and accelerating growth at industry leading public and private life science and technology companies. At T2 Bio, a medical diagnostic company, he has built
the company from inception to a publicly held company with two FDA-cleared products. The initial products are focused on the rapid detection of sepsis, a disease that impacts over 5 million people around the world with a mortality rate of 30 percent. The company’s products have the potential to enable a reduction in mortality by 50 percent. Prior to joining T2 Bio, John was President of Cytyc Development Corporation where he led acquisition and investment strategies to grow from a single product company with revenue of roughly $300 million in 2003, to revenue of over $750 million with multiple products in 2007. Under his direction, Cytyc acquired five companies totaling over $1 billion and entered into alliances and investments with several early stage companies. Through John’s leadership, Cytyc was acquired by Hologic in 2007, for over $6 billion – almost a 400 per-
cent increase in market cap over a four year period. McDonough, who graduated from Stonehill College in Massachusetts, is on the Board of Directors at Solace Therapeutics and Cytrellis Biosystems. He was a member of the Board of Directors for Interlace Medical, a developer of medical devices for treating gynecological diseases which was acquired by Hologic, Inc. in January, 2011. He was also a member of the Board of Directors of CRi, a developer of optical imaging systems for biomedical research and molecular-based drug and diagnostic development. CRi was acquired by Caliper Life Sciences in December, 2010. McDonough’s parents were immigrants. His father was from the Aran Islands off Galway and his mother was from Sligo.
Dr. Thomas McGinn is senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Health System Medicine Service Line and professor and chair of Internal Medicine for the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. His career has been focused on providing high quality primary care to all communities with a focus on underserved urban communities. He is also a recognized international authority in evidencebased medicine (EBM), the goal of which is to bring the best available research in healthcare to all patients. Combining his interests, primary care and EBM, he is currently establishing the North Shore LIJ Health System’s primary care network. Thomas is currently overseeing an unprecedented expansion in both the scope and size of the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s primary care delivery system. To drive the national discussion on access to high quality care he has developed a living laboratory to study the best ways to bring the best most recent research in healthcare through the health system. Thomas is a diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. He earned his M.D. from SUNY Downstate, completed his residency in internal medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, and holds an M.P.H. from Columbia University. With both paternal and maternal roots in
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County Tyrone, Thomas is a fourth-generation Irish American in a highly medical family – his father, uncle, brother, sister-in-law, and nephew all hold prominent roles in healthcare and the title “Dr. McGinn.”
In 1996, Terry McGuire was a founding member of Polaris Partners, which has since rapidly expanded with investments in over 100 companies with offices in Massachusetts, California, and Dublin, and is now one of the leading venture capitalist firms investing in technology and healthcare companies. In addition to Polaris, McGuire has cofounded a number of other companies including Inspire Pharmaceuticals, AIR, and MicroCHIPS, a far cry from his first job cleaning the dance studio that his mother and aunt owned in his youth. It was here though where he was introduced to his first taste of the hard-working business world. “It didn’t pay very well,” he says. “But it was my first exposure to entrepreneurship as I watched the effort it took to own your own business.” McGuire is a third-generation Irish American with Roscommon roots on his father’s side. He says that “being Irish is about being part of a present-day community that shares important values which include a strong work ethic, the importance of family, and a love of life.” With a B.S. in physics and economics from Hobart College, an M.S. in engineering from the Thayer School at Dartmouth, an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School, and an honorary J.D. from Ohio Wesleyan University, this credo is something McGuire has followed his whole life. Originally from Buffalo, he currently resides in Massachusetts with his wife Carolyn and three kids Barton, Seamas, and Eileen.
Dr. Joe Mulvehill obtained his medical degree from SUNY Stony Brook and completed his training in internal medicine at Albert Einstein Medical College. A diplomat of the American Board of Internal Medicine and recognized as one of Castel Connolly’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors by New York magazine, Mulvehill’s metropolitan New York practice was rated among one of five “best concierge-med50 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
icine practices nationwide” by Town & Country. Joe is among a small group of New York physicians who pioneered the concept of concierge medicine, with the goal of restoring to his practice the intimate doctor/patient relationship he experienced while growing up in rural Ireland. He believes that finding the solution to medical problems must be accomplished in the context of each patient’s life. Dr. Mulvehill believes in innovation, and his use of Internet-based solutions to stay in contact with his patients has become an integral part of his everyday practice. However, he says, “I only use technology to augment and not replace the personal care that each patient needs,” which he believes is paramount to the doctor/patient relationship. To this end, a patient’s ongoing medical history is consolidated into a Personal Health Record, which allows each patient to access his or her vital medical information. This Personal Health Record, which helps to create a closer bond between doctor and patient, is now available to treating physicians wherever they happen to be.
Barbara Murphy, M.D., is the Irene and Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Neprology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Her area of interest is transplant immunology, focusing on genomics in determining outcomes in transplantation and the Immunomodulatory role of MHC-derived peptides. Born in Ireland, Dr. Murphy earned her M.B. B.A.O. B.Ch. from The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and went on to do an internship at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. She completed a residency rotation at Beaumont Hospital followed by a fellowship in Clinical Nephrology also at Beaumont Hospital. Dr. Murphy completed her postdoctoral training with a fellowship in Nephrology at Brigham and
Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. As part of this she trained in transplant immunology at the Laboratory of Immunogenetics and Transplantation, Renal Division, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Among her many honors, Dr. Murphy was awarded the Young Investigator Award in Basic Science by the American Society of Transplantation in 2003. In 2005, Dr. Murphy was named the Irene and Dr. Arthur M. Fishberg Professor of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. Then, in 2011, she was named Nephrologist of the Year by the American Kidney Fund. Dr. Murphy belongs to a number of professional societies including the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Nephrology. Among her numerous achievements she has had many leadership roles at a national level, including being a member of the Board of the American Society of Transplantation, the Executive Committee of the American Transplant Congress, and Chair of Education Committee of the American Society of Transplantation.
Most recently, Dr. Murphy served as the president of the American Society of Transplantation and is currently the Co-Chair of the American Society of Transplantation Public Policy. In these positions, Dr. Murphy aims to directly impact patient care and access to healthcare, specifically, advocating for longterm coverage for immunosuppression. Dr. Murphy’s research has focused on two major areas. Having demonstrated that MHC class II peptides derived from non-polymorphic regions may inhibit the alloimmune response in vitro and in vivo, Dr. Murphy is currently investigating their mechanisms of action and their ability to prolong allograft survival in vivo. Dr. Murphy is also the PI of a large multicenter NIH study investigating the role of genomics to predict the development of chronic allograft nephropathy. She was a coinvestigator on the recent landmark study in-
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vestigating outcomes in HIV-positive patients that receive solid organ transplants.
John M. Nolan
Professor Nolan is Director and Principal Investigator of the Macular Pigment Research Group (MPRG) which operates out of Carriganore House at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) – one of Ireland’s foremost third level colleges. Nolan has just completed a two-year study testing the impact nutritional supplements in patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD). New studies by Nolan and team will test if these supplements can improve cognitive function in those with early stage disease. His study comes in the wake of his extensive breakthrough research into of the role of macular pigment (nutrients in the eye) for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in the world today. That research, carried out over a period of ten years, involved over 1,000 people in clinical trials and was done in close co-operation with Professor Stephen Beatty of Whitfield Clinic, Waterford, Ireland and the results show that taking the supplements can greatly improve vision in patients with AMD and AD. In the AD studies, Nolan and colleagues were the first to discover that those with the disease had a deficiency in the macular pigment (the three naturally occurring nutrients, the carotenoids lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin which form a yellow protective pigment at the back of the eye, and have also recently been discovered in the brain). The supplement used in the trials, called Macushield in Europe and MacuHealth in the US, uniquely PHOTO BY: NOEL HARTY contains these important carotenoids. Such is the success of Macushield/MacuHealth that it is now being widely prescribed for patients with AMD and for patients that want to enhance and protect their vision. Indeed, Nolan’s work with this supplement has gained full support from the European Research Council (ERC; 1.5 million euro) and the team in Waterford is currently testing the impact of this supplement to enhance visual function in the normal population, and the initial data shows that visual function can be greatly enhanced in people free of eye disease. These findings have important implications sports peo52 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
ple (e.g. golfers, baseball players) and in the work place (e.g. drives, pilots, military etc). Nolan believes that these supplements are key to support overall eye health and advises that the research is conclusive in this regard. Nolan graduated from WIT with a B.Sc. in Applied Biology in 2002 and completed his Ph.D. in 2005 on Determinants of Macular Pigment in healthy subjects. He became the first applicant from an institute of technology in Ireland to be awarded a Fulbright scholarship, and completed his Fulbright year in the medical college of Georgia under the renowned professor of biology and ophthalmology Max Snodderly. Nolan was also the first applicant from an institute of technology in Ireland to win the prestigious ERC grant from Europe. His experience as a Fulbright scholar reinvigorated his determination to achieve positive results from his work in Ireland and to develop the Vision Research Centre in Waterford into a world-class scientific and academic facility. WIT supported him in his ambition, realizing the
“The perseverance of my Irish ancestors is a daily motivation to me professionally and personally.” – Daniel O’Day
enormous potential of his ground-breaking work. The future: Most significantly, Nolan’s recent work into AD opens up exciting possibilities for those at risk of or who are suffering from AD, underlined by the fact the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in the U.S. chose his most recent paper for specific recognition and dissemination at the annual conference of the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference. He has also published over 70 peer reviewed scientific papers in his area of research and has editorial roles at the European Journal of Ophthalmology and the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. He is also Chair of the International Macular Carotenoids Conference, which is held at Downing College, Cambridge University. Away from his work Prof. Nolan is a devout family man and is married to Jane and has a baby daughter Penny. He is a native of Carrickon-Suir, Co Tipperary and is a passionate sup-
porter of the Tipperary senior hurling team. He is also a competitive middle-distance runner.
Dr. Daniel O’Connell is a private equity Associate at OrbiMed Advisors. OrbiMed is a leading investment firm dedicated exclusively to the healthcare sector. One of the areas O’Connell is excited about is the development of novel therapeutics at OrbiMed. They are currently providing funding and support to Clementia Pharmaceuticals, which O’Connell informs “has advanced a drug into the clinic for the ultra-orphan disease FOP (fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva),” a severely disabling muscle disorder characterized by abnormal bone growth.” O’Connell is a native of Miami Beach, Florida and a third-generation Irish American. He attended MIT where he graduated with degrees in chemistry and mathematics and received his M.D. and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Tufts University School of Medicine. Throughout his life and education he has learned that the qualities of a good leader “are the ability to motivate all members of a team to complete a project with high quality.” His great-grandparents hailed from County Cork, and he fondly remembers the “notable paraphernalia” displayed in his grandparents’ home. He recalls two objects in particular: an “Irish Need Not Apply” sign, and a campaign poster of “Kennedy for President.” He had taken particular note that “within their lifetimes they could be firsthand witnesses to such a dramatic and personal cultural shift.” O’Connell and his wife Jill live in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Dr. Garrett O’Connor was born in Dublin, graduated as a physician from the Royal College of Surgeons, and later trained in psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. For more than forty years Garrett has lectured, consulted and led workshops on addiction and related topics in the United States and abroad, and has published scientific articles
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in a variety of peer-reviewed medical journals. He was chief psychiatrist of the Betty Ford Center from 2002-2008, and the founding president of the Betty Ford Institute from 2008-2012. Currently he is director of the Elaine Breslow Addiction Institute and medical advisor for the Beit T’Shuvah Addiction Treatment Program. Garrett has been in personal recovery from alcoholism since 1977, and is widely known for using his own life story as a tool for teaching about recovery to patients, medical students, and other audiences. He has been married to the actress/writer/director Fionnula Flanagan for 42 years. They have two sons, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter, and two great-grandsons, all of whom are in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs (with the exception of the great-grandsons who are only 6 years and 1 year of age).
Daniel O’Day is the COO of the pharmaceutical division of Roche, the world’s leading biotech company, headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and with offices in more than 150 countries, including Ireland. O’Day was appointed COO in 2012 having previously been the COO for the diagnostics division of Roche since 2010. Starting in 1987 as part of Roche’s commercial and sales team, Daniel then moved to Switzerland for roles in global marketing and lifecycle management in 2001. Since then, he has been head of corporate planning in Japan, general manager in Denmark, and president of Roche Molecular Diagnostics in California. O’Day was born in Texas and is a third-generation Irish American with family from Ennis, County Clare on his father’s side. “The perseverance of my Irish ancestors is a daily motivation to me professionally and personally,” O’Day says. His first job was performing the “hard physical labor” of landscaping, which, he says, “inspired me to pursue my education.” He attended Georgetown University and Columbia University, receiving a B.S. in biology and an M.B.A. Daniel currently lives in Switzerland with his wife Mara and children Tierney, Meghan, and Brendan.
Eileen O’Reilly, M.D.
With her medical degree from Trinity College Dublin, Dr. Eileen O’Reilly is a gastrointestinal medical oncologist who serves as an associate director of the Rubenstein Pancreas Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) along with being an Attending Physician and Member at MSKCC and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. She completed her fellowship training at MSKCC and has been a faculty member in the GI Oncology service at MSKCC since then. Her primary research initiatives include integration of molecular-based therapies and genomically-based novel therapeutics for the treatment of pancreatic cancer along with development of adjuvant and neoadjuvant therapy. Pancreatic adenocarcinoma remains one of the most challenging malignancies. Of 44,000 people diagnosed in 2012, 37,000 died from the disease. “To have a major impact in terms of outcomes, we need to be able to screen successfully and diagnose the disease earlier. Both of those are elusive challenges at the moment,” Eileen, who is Irishborn, said in an interview with Joe Cavallo. At a national level, Eileen is the chair of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Pancreas Task Force, and a member of the Alliance Co-operative group Gastrointestinal core committee. Dr. O’Reilly is also an associate chair of the MSKCC IRB and Privacy Board, a member of Research Council and is the recent past president of the MSKCC medical staff.
Peter D. Quinn
Peter Quinn is the Schoenleber Professor of Oral Surgery & Pharmacology, Vice Dean for Profession Services, Perelman School of Medicine and Senior Vice President for CPUP, University of Pennsylvania Health System. Quinn did his residency in oral and maxillofacial surgery at the Hospital of
the University of Pennsylvania and graduated from the university’s School of Dental Medicine. He has served as chair of the Department of Oral Surgery & Pharmacology at Penn Dental Medicine, and was a principal investigator in a ten-year clinical trial for the development of the only FDAapproved stock prosthesis for reconstruction of the temporomandibular joint. Quinn has completed a surgical atlas for temporomandibular joint surgery, which has been published by Elsevier. Quinn's paternal great-grandparents, John and Winifred Mackay, immigrated from County Mayo in 1848 to upstate New York, where John worked on the Erie Canal. Ultimately, the family moved to Scranton where John worked in the anthracite coal mines. John and Winifred's daughter Rose Mackay married John Aloysius Quinn. On his maternal side, Patrick and Agnew Marian Clarke immigrated from Sligo around 1852 to Scranton where their daughter met and married Jack Scanlan.
Dubliner Ruth Riddick discovered in addiction recovery coaching the emerging professional platform she had been looking for to combine her expertise as an educator with her experience of personal sobriety. In 2014, she qualified as a recovery coach and trainer at the Resource Training Center in New York where she currently serves on the teaching faculty. Her education company, Sobriety Together (founded 2005), now offers Peer Coaching for Recovery, a groundbreaking addiction treatment support model with the twin mission of empowering therapists and their clients by providing professional nonclinical peer coaching for sober life management, and of enhancing professional credibility for addiction recovery coaching through provision of premium training and credentialing. In long-term recovery from alcoholism, Ruth Riddick was previously Development Director of Sober St. Patrick’s Day and Executive Director at Faces of the Fallen. She writes for Faces & Voices of Recovery, has served as an AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 53
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alum-activist at Caron Treatment Centers since 2005 and on the Board of Crossroads of Maine from 2011 to 2015. With illustrator Ed King, she is author of a graphic novel about dysfunctional relationships called When Derek Met June: A F**ked-Up Love Story, to be published next year. A noted campaigner for women’s rights in Ireland, Ruth Riddick has written polemical work for the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, among other national and international publications. She has also contributed papers to forthcoming anthologies of proceedings at the Countess Markievicz School (Dublin, 2015) and the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute Conference on Women in Ireland (Quinnipiac University, 2015).
“My Irish ancestry drives my dry sense of humor, sense of fairness and caring, openness, and work ethic.“ Jason Ryan
take pride in your work, be humble.” Jason attended Bates College receiving a B.S. and Babson College where he received an M.B.A. He also has earned a C.P.A. in Massachusetts, where he and his wife Jennifer currently reside with their two children James and Hazel.
David V. Sheehan
Jason Ryan is the chief financial officer at Foundation Medicine, a breakthrough company in the fight against cancer. Over the past year, Jason has seen the company expand its U.S. commercial footprint, develop its R&D pipeline, and enter into broad strategic partnership with Roche that included a $250 million financing, all while helping over 25,000 cancer patients battle their disease. Born in Concord, MA, Jason is a thirdgeneration Irish American with Irish ancestry dating back six generations. His paternal relatives on his father’s side hail from Cork, Limerick, and Fermanagh, and from Limerick and Roscommon on his mother’s. In his heritage Jason finds the tools that made him who he is today, saying, “My Irish ancestry drives my dry sense of humor, sense of fairness and caring, openness, and work ethic. I see these traits in my parents and in their parents – never take anything for granted, 54 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Dr. David Sheehan is Distinguished University Health Professor Emeritus at the University of South Florida College of Medicine. He was Professor of Psychiatry, Director of Psychiatric Research and Director of the Depression and Anxiety Disorders Research Institute at the University of South Florida College of Medicine and Professor of Psychology at the University of South Florida College of Arts and Sciences. Born and educated in Ireland, he completed his residency training in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. At Harvard Medical School, where he was Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, he was on the full-time faculty for 12 1/2 years. He was the Director of Anxiety Research and Director of the Psychosomatic Medicine Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. He received his M.B.A. (summa cum laude) from the University of South Florida. He served as Director of Psychiatric Research for the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at the University of South Florida College of Medicine from 1985-2007. He has written over 550 abstracts and 280 publications including a bestseller The Anxiety Disease. Cumulatively, his publications have been cited over 13,000 times in peer-reviewed journals. He has been awarded
over $20 million for 130 research grants. He was awarded a patent by the United States Patent Office in 1996, and has given expert testimony to the United States Congress. Dr. Sheehan has been a consultant to the World Health Organization, the World Federation of Societies of Biological Psychiatry, the International Academy for Biomedical and Drug Research, the US Food and Drug Administration, and was a research grant reviewer for the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). He was a consultant to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Working Group to Revise DSMIII Anxiety Disorders, the APA Task Force on Benzodiazepine Dependency and the APA Task Force on Treatments of Psychiatric Disorders. He has also served on the national and international advisory boards of numerous pharmaceutical companies and of non-profit foundations including the National Anxiety Foundation, the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association, the Council on Anxiety Disorders, the Anxiety Disorder Association of America, and the Council on Anxiety Disorders and The Foundation for Improving Data Quality. He has been invited to give lectures in 68 countries throughout the world on anxiety and mood disorders, suicidality, measurement based care, psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry. He was elected as a member of the American College of Psychiatrists and is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and is a Charter Member of the National Academy of Inventors. Among other honors, he has been included in “The Best Doctors in America” published by Woodward/White Inc. every year from 1992 until his retirement in 2010.
Dr. Michael Sheehan is an Irish-born psychiatrist who immigrated to the U.S. in 1987 to work at the University of South Florida as Director of their Substance Abuse Recovery Program. Since 1993, he has been Medical Director of Operation PAR, the largest drug treatment program in West Florida and has maintained a busy private practice. He attended medical school at University College Dublin, graduating in 1977. He completed adult and child psychiatry residency training in Dublin and became a Member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 1983. For the past 15 years, he was voted by his
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colleagues as one of the “Best Doctors in the United States,” an honor given to 2% of physicians. He has lectured extensively and been involved in more than 25 psychopharmacology trials. He was recently involved in the evaluation of novel treatments for cocaine and opiate dependence, and in ADHD and addiction. He has authored book chapters and articles on topics related to addiction. He is Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at USF, where he teaches medical students, residents, and addiction fellows. He is a national mentor for training physicians in the use of buprenorphine in the treatment of opiate dependence. He has been an expert witness in many legal cases
“I take pride in belonging to the global Irish diaspora. “ Fionnula Walsh
pertaining to psychiatry. He is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has been an approved treatment provider for professional groups including Florida Physicians, Lawyers and Nurses, as well as the National Football League, and Major League Baseball.
Lawrence G. Smith
Lawrence G. Smith, M.D., M.A.C.P., is the Executive vice president and physician-inchief of North Shore-LIJ Health System, and dean of Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. As physician-in-chief, Dr. Smith is the health system’s senior physician on all clinical issues. He previously served as North Shore-LIJ’s chief medical officer. Dr. Smith is the founding dean of the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, which received full accreditation by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education and whose first class graduated in May 2015. Dr. Smith earned a Bachelor of Science degree in physics from Fordham University and a medical degree from New York University School of Medicine. His residency in internal medicine at Strong Memorial Hospital was followed by military service as a captain in the Army Medical Corps at Fitzsimmons
Army Medical Center in Denver. Dr. Smith has held senior leadership positions in national societies for medical education and residency training, authored numerous peer-reviewed publications in the area of medical education, and has received many awards and honors from national and international organizations. He is a memberat-large of the National Board of Medical Examiners and a member of the Board of Visitors of Fordham College. Also, he is a former regent of the American College of Physicians and former member of the board of directors of the American Board of Internal Medicine. In April 2011, Dr. Smith was elected to Mastership of the American College of Physicians. His maternal grandmother emigrated from Donegal, Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, to be later joined by the rest of her family. Going back to his family’s roots, while planning the new medical school he visited Ireland’s medical educational institutions. Many of the ideas learned there were incorporated into the school.
Dr. Fionnuala Walsh is the senior vice president of global quality for Eli Lilly and Company, having joined the company in 1988 at its manufacturing site in Kinsale, Ireland. Throughout her time at Lilly, Fionnuala has held numerous positions in everything from technical services and laboratory analytics to management positions in the manufacturing science and technology sector and has held her current role since 2007. A Dublin native, Fionnuala says her parents instilled her with the qualities necessary to being a great leader: “courage and resilience,” allowing her to take pride in “belonging to a global diaspora.” This is what helped Fionnuala land her job as head of global quality, which she calls “challenging and exciting all at once,” as well as kept her committed and passionate about her education, having received a bachelor’s and doctoral degree in chemistry from University College Dublin. Fionnuala and her husband Myles O’Neill have three children, Sophie, Eoin, and Kevin.
Dr. James Watson is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, chancellor emeritus of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and 2011 inductee to the Irish America Hall of Fame. He was one of the key co-discoverers who unraveled the structure of the DNA while a
student at Cambridge University, one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century. It resulted in a Nobel Prize in Physiology in 1962. Later, he accepted a position in the biology department at Harvard University. It was here where he wrote his classic Molecular Biology of the Gene and the award-winning Double Helix. After Harvard, James led the Cold Harbor Laboratory, where he devoted his energies to setting up the Human Genome Project. “Deeply proud” of his Irish ancestry, James is a third-generation Irish American with roots in Tipperary. His great-grandparents had emigrated from Ireland in the 1840s, settling in Ohio and later moving to Indiana. He has received numerous awards throughout the years including the National Medal of Science, the city of Philadelphia Liberty Medal, and the Benjamin Franklin Medal Award by the American Philosophical Society. In 1962, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences and, in 1977, he received from President Ford the Medal of Freedom. In addition to numerous honorary degrees, in 2002, Queen Elizabeth II made him an honorary Knight of the British Empire. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 55
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Behind the scenes at Dublin’s
Croke Park I An inside look at the stadium that has been at the heart of Irish sporting events for over one 100 years.
PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN/WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
Photos by Barry Cronin
By Frank Shouldice
can’t keep up with Leonard Fearon. He walks as fast as he talks and he’s got a few thousand mouths to feed. So while young hurlers from Waterford and Kilkenny chase each other around Croke Park six floors below, I’m on the corporate level running after the chef. Fans may be passionate about hurling, but this man is passionate about food. Three-quarter pace beneath a big white hat, the chef ducks into one of 87 VIP suites to check out a display of gourmet food and fine wine. DJ Foran has just scored a smashing goal for Waterford minors but Chef Fearon is putting me straight about chicken yakitori. Fitzer’s Catering is the company contracted for all food and beverage at Croke Park. And if self-help was a guiding principle when the Gaelic Athletic Association was founded in 1884, Group Executive Chef Fearon feels the caterers have their role to play at GAA Headquarters. “Good quality Irish food,” he says. “That’s what we want to achieve.”
Leonard and his staff have been preparing here since 6 a.m. By the time he leaves at 9 p.m., over 2,000 people will have wined and dined and many thousands more will have bought drink or take-away food, colorful, voluble armies marching on their bellies. Ambushed by Leonard’s gastronomic offensive, the GAA institution of “sangers and flasks” (homemade sandwiches and a thermos) could become an endangered species. But while Fitzer’s have tried falafels and burritos, the regular GAA palate likes what it knows. “They love fresh roast beef sandwiches, hot dogs – and you can’t go wrong with a good burger.” “Next week will be manic,” Leonard predicts, already visualizing hungry hordes en route from Limerick and Clare. “The sporting aspect goes over my head, but this is Fitzer’s flagship and you get caught up in the atmosphere,” he says. “I’m not a GAA man myself but Croke Park is my baby.” Parked like a spaceship in Ballybough, the stadium punctures the skyline of Dublin’s northside, corralled by the Royal Canal on one side and a suburban railway line on the other. Irish summers can be measured out by what happens here. As the GAA football and hurling championships move towards a visceral finale, match days are followed by an established rhythm of clearing what has passed and gearing up for what is next. The following Sunday it’s pristine once again, extending a welcome to inter-county stars and their legions of hopeful supporters. As the GAA’s marketing motif promises, “Nothing beats being there.” Down at pitch level, Head Groundsman Stuart Wilson surveys 15,000 square meters of lawn with a covetous eye. Stuart does not take kindly to big feet straying across the white line. An A4 page on the staff wall is posted like a mantra: “The difference between a good pitch and a great pitch is ATTENTION TO DETAIL.” If Leonard is consumed by food, Stuart’s passion is grass. “This is one of the best jobs in Europe in my
PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN/WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
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industry,” he smiles. And if there’s one thing chefs and groundsmen have in common, it’s the imperative of presentation. “Before the hurling final we told everybody if you walk against the stripe the grass will stand out.” He grimaces, as though trying to shake off a nightmare. “We literally had to go out and brush it by hand to take the footprints out. Some people might think that’s completely anal, but we are striving for perfection.” It doesn’t take long to realize Croke Park is not short of fastidious minders. Security Manager John Clare patrols the stadium on match day. He’s a selfconfessed perfectionist whose corporate security work has taken him to Israel, to Indonesia, and to Azerbaijan, before his career path with Brinks brought him to Ballybough. “I look at Croke Park as being a client’s house, that’s the simplest analogy – it has a front, a back and two sides.” He pauses, amused at the thought. “A very big house.” From its control room on Jones Road, Brinks has 95 staff on duty and 216 CCTV cameras around the ground. Remarkable in these recessionary times, attendance rose in the later stages of last season’s championship, earning the GAA total gate revenues of €29 million for the year. The Association declares itself debt-free, returning total revenues of €56 million for 2014. These are astounding sums for what is described as an amateur organization. But the term ‘amateur’ understates the professionalism of management and the sheer ambition of its enterprise. What sets the GAA apart is how it thrives as a rare hybrid of voluntary and paid staff. “All the players, subs, umpires, referees, linesmen and nobody gets paid,” explains Stadium Director Peter McKenna. “The voluntary ethic of the Association is paramount to what goes on.” It’s quite something to see this hybrid model in
action. On big match days several hundred volunteers come in around midday for a breakfast roll and a coffee, get assigned to a steward section where they will remain until stood down after the final whistle. In return, they get to see the game. “Croke Park is a very successful business,” says McKenna. “It has a stadium worth a quarter of a billion (euro) that’s already built. There are no borrowings – it’s all paid back. And who benefits? 86 percent of all game revenue goes right back to the grassroots.” Even the head groundsman is joined by six voluntary greenkeepers. “A huge number of those who work in golf are very interested in Gaelic games,” says Wilson. “They come in to help us. They aren’t coming to be paid, but they are willing to give up their time. For an amateur organization it’s phenomenal how it’s run – I’ve never seen anything like it.” McKenna has been building these blocks since implementing a company structure at Croke Park 15 years ago. It’s a delicate balance between goodwill and exigency. And so on All-Ireland days, the highlight of the GAA calendar, over 1,800 people will report for duty at Croke Park, including 1,350 contract staff (mostly catering, security and cleaners) and 390 volunteers. The best sporting comparison is probably the Olympics. At the 2012 London Games, for instance, 6,000 full-time staff were supplemented by 100,000 contractors and 70,000 volunteers. Deputy Event Controller Amy Bermingham was seconded to the London Games for 18 months. “I could see many of the practices there were exactly how we operate here,” she says. “Croke Park operates a world-class system and I felt really proud about it. I was over there saying, ‘We have the fourth largest stadium in Europe!’ Obviously the GAA isn’t known worldwide.”
ABOVE: Croke Park’s Security Manager John Clare. FAR LEFT: 83-yearold Joe Rock, who is in charge of the dressing rooms, pictured in Dressing Room No. 1.
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PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN/WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
only ones wearing a team jersey were the players on the pitch. The best you could do was a papier-maché hat bearing the stencilled legend ‘Up Tipp’ or, occasionally, ‘Muigh Eo Abú!’ The initiation began with Grandpa lifting me over a metal turnstile at the entrance and climbing stairs to the old Cusack Stand. This would be our home for the next couple of hours, a grey timber bench separated into single units by protruding metal elbows. My perch was Grandpa’s knee. Foot room was an alien concept. Chicken yakitori was presumed to be a city in Japan. The Cusack Stand – like the rest of Croke Park – was rudimentary in every way. Less spaceship than concrete bowl. Spectators would not leave their seats in the middle of a match – if you missed the action there was no second chance with TV replays on giant screens in the stadium. Exceptions were made for basket-wielding women selling apples and bars of chocolate or, regardless of the weather, white-coated men selling plastic tubs of Maxi-Twist ice cream. One flavor only – vanilla with a twirl of raspberry and lime on top. It was almost a rite of passage. The first time to witness the beauty of sport, to see first-hand people impassioned by senses deeper and more profound than a child could fathom. The spectacle could be a
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PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN/WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
“When visiting dignitaries come to games here they are stunned in every way,” laughs McKenna, recalling UEFA President Michel Platini at the 2006 All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Cork. “He just sat there and didn’t move. Didn’t want lunch, didn’t want anything. He just watched the game, could not believe the skill level and was most effusive afterwards.” Like many life-long GAA supporters, my own introduction to Croke Park began with my grandfather. He would take me to games on Sunday, wending our way through a tall forest of grey-coated men wearing brimmed hats. If today is technicolor, this was monochrome. Sports merchandise didn’t exist, and the
thing of grace or ugliness or something dull in between. Embarking on each Sunday excursion with Grandpa, we just never knew what was to come. Neither could anyone foresee how Croke Park would evolve in the coming decades. Through years of massive reconstruction the stadium never closed. “The GAA are often criticized for being slow making decisions, but when they decide on something they do roll it out,” says event controller Seamus Ó Mídheach, now stationed 35 years at HQ. “This is the place to be – there’s nowhere else like it.” Croke Park is now the fourth largest stadium in Europe, after Camp Nou (Barcelona), Wembley (London) and the Bernebeu (Real Madrid). “I mean, for an amateur organization it’s just phenomenal how it’s run,” says Stuart Wilson. “My old boss from Arsenal, a top guy in the industry, came over and was just blown away with it.” The GAA may not have shed its conservative image entirely, but Croke Park has embraced the serious challenges of a highly competitive modern world without losing its amateur ethos. Charity groups around Ireland report voluntarism is on the decline, yet when Croke Park advertised 12 unpaid supervisory roles last year 50 volunteers applied. Having done steward for ten years, Lorcan McMahon, a carpenter from Blessington, Co. Wicklow, was one of those promoted. “I don’t know how to explain why I do it,” he shrugs. “The money doesn’t bother me in the slightest and there’s a definite buzz, no doubt about it. Down on the pitch you’re up close to the action so I enjoy it.” Dubliner Sheelagh Burke has been coming here for seven years, partly because of the enjoyment her nephews get from playing Gaelic games. “I love being part of it,” she says simply. “Sure look at the players – they’re doing it as amateurs so why can’t we?” Through the championship season, volunteers clocked up 38,000 hours of unpaid service at Croke Park. Translate that into wages and you are talking savings of over €250,000. “It’s an obvious contradiction, but if that means we have to pay someone to, say, stand at an emergency door, that’s what we have to do,” concedes Peter McKenna. “There’s an issue there which has never raised itself. We need to be extraordinarily sensitive because if the volunteers were to leave this building we would be facing a very, very different proposition.” The fact that some staff get paid and some do not is immaterial to Sheelagh, Lorcan and others. “It doesn’t come into it,” she replies, echoing a widely held sentiment. “I don’t worry about the money,” agrees Wicklow teacher John Doran, another volunteer. “The way it is, the GAA has been good to us. Besides, if there were no voluntary stewards there would be no game.” With so much spare capacity, Croke Park has expanded its activities as a concert venue and convention center. It offers stadium tours, a rooftop walk, and even hosts an occasional wedding. It might ran-
PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN / WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
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ABOVE LEFT: Croke Park Executive Chef Leonard Fearon.
unforgettable match. “The day we lose sight of the fact that the games are why we are here is the day we’re in trouble,” suggests Alan Milton, GAA media officer. For those two days Croke Park became Ireland’s sixth largest city. Dubliner Joe Rock unlocked the gates as he has done for the past 20 years. He introduces me to his father, a spry 87-year-old-youngster from nearby Love Lane. Taking time out from his role as chief steward of dressing-rooms, Joe Sr. produces a faded 1930s black and white photo of hurlers scrambling across the mucky goalmouth of a barely recognizable field. “That was my club,” he tells me. “Croke Park United. And they used to play right here.” That mucky field is now a lush grass carpet. It has been crossed by a million invisible footprints since Croke Park United left this earth. With the clock ticking down to throw-in, the stadium is humming with anticipation. Around us, thousands of soon-to-befilled seats; above us, seven levels of corporate splendor. Inhaling deeply, Joe Sr. takes it all in. “Different times to when we were here,” he nods. “It’s a business now. Big business.” IA
PHOTO: BARRY CRONIN/WWW.BARRYCRONIN.COM.
kle with traditionalists unhappy to see GAA facilities being used for other purposes, but there’s a new pragmatism driving the Association. “Of course there are matches every week through the summer, but there are the other 330 days in the year,” points out Mark Dorman, Director of the impressively revamped GAA Museum. “What do you do to make the stadium work? “Old Trafford (home of Manchester United), is the grounds of a club; we’re the grounds of a country,” he adds, reporting over 100,000 visits to the museum last year. “We always say if you want to get a handle on Ireland, Croke Park is the place to come.” A neatly tiled wall outside the museum details every GAA club in existence around the globe. Association President William Clifford’s 1926 plan to set up shop in every parish appears to have gone further than even he intended. New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, London and Birmingham remain GAA strongholds, but fresh migrations have redrawn the Gaelic world. In October 2013, for instance, Orang Éire club in Kuala Lumpur staged the first Asian Gaelic games tournament. Their Ladies ‘C’ team took on a Thai GAA selection while the ‘A’ team faced Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Shanghai, Singapore and the Arabian Celts. Meanwhile the match report from Orang Éire ‘D’ versus the Mongol Khans made for interesting reading. “Their goalie came over for a chat before the game with a Strongbow (hard cider) in his hand . . .” In striking a delicate balance between development and tradition, the vast majority of GAA fans fear that players getting paid would shatter what is most unique about Gaelic games. Honor and glory without a price tag, a rare phenomenon in the world of modern sports. In front of 82,300 fans last September, Kerry won a close game to beat Donegal to take the Sam Maguire trophy, while Kilkenny hurlers claimed the Liam McCarthy Cup after beating Tipperary in an
LEFT: Dubliner Sheelagh Burke has been volunteering at games for eight years. OPPOSITE PAGE TOP: Steward Chad Dollard from Cullohill, County Laois. BOTTOM: Stadium director Peter McKenna.
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Health on Wheels In rural Virginia, where poverty is a constant and medical care is a rarity, a team of nurses has provided mobile healthcare for 35 years. Today, the Health Wagon provides more than $1 million worth of medical care to more than 11,000 uninsured or underinsured patients who would otherwise have no access to the services they need. By Leslie McCrea
hrough rolling hills, a red 1968 Volkswagen Beetle putters up and around the curving narrow roads of Appalachia, past gravel drives of overlooked addresses. It’s 1980, and Sr. Bernadette “Bernie” Kenny is making her way through several southwest Virginia communities, hidden by nestled valleys and a canopy of storytelling trees, providing free healthcare services from her back seat. After having served as a midwife in Africa for ten years, this was just what Sr. Bernie was looking to do, and soon enough, her efforts turned into more than just 60 hours a week of volunteer work. “I was already a nurse, but was very frustrated that I couldn’t do more for the people,” said Sr. Bernie.
Now the Health Wagon, a service that was once housed in the back seat of her car and headquartered in her personal apartment, runs as a non-profit to serve over 11,000 patients a year, providing care that is worth over $1 million in total. Starting in 1982, the Health Wagon was operated from a Winnebago RV, which was donated by St. Mary’s Hospital in Norton, Virginia. Just before filming began for an April 2014 edition of 60 Minutes, featuring the Health Wagon, the Winnebago gave in – prompting the need for something new. Since then, a 4,900-square-foot temporary stationary clinic has been set up, and in the fall of 2014, the organization unveiled its brand new Mobile Unit on campus at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The Health Wagon is funded primarily by donations and grants, and the small 19-person staff consists of one registered nurse, two licensed practical nurses, two full-time certified family nurse practitioners and an administrative team. Teresa Gardner, the Executive Director of the Health Wagon, began working in 1993 as the Health
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Wagon’s first employee. She was a newly graduated nurse at the time, but by 2006 Sr. Bernie had turned over the reins to her. “I attribute a great deal of our success to Teresa,” Sr. Bernie said. “She has a great vision and a lot of energy to put into it. It was the first job she had. The crunch was on at the time; we had to not only deliver the healthcare, but also do the fundraising and the administration. She has really always been a fresh set of eyes.” Gardner is originally from the small town of Coeburn, Virginia, where the population is just over 2,000. Coeburn was also home to her right-hand woman, Paula Hill-Meade, who serves as the Clinical Director for the Health Wagon. Along with all of their administrative responsibilities, Gardner and Hill-Meade both continue to serve as active nurse practitioners, giving direct primary care to patients on a weekly basis. “Although we are a charitable clinic, and our services are free, it costs us to do what we do,” Hill-Meade said. According to Gardner, the Health Wagon currently runs on nearly $800,000 a year. Services provided are often primary and preventative, including the treatment of ailments such as sore throat, urinary tract infection or simple immunizations. The focus of the organization, however, is on chronic disease management for conditions such as hypertension, mental illness, COPD and others. “God has just blessed us in that we have been able to expand on what [Sr. Bernie] started 35 years ago, because the need is certainly here,” Gardner said. “It was a dream of mine to offer healthcare to people in their homes because you learn so much from how people live. The root cause of illness very often is in the lifestyle, and people don’t choose to be ill, but there are many things that they don’t have too much control over,” Sr. Bernie said. “I went to the homes of people and started to build trust.” Many of their patients are middle-aged women such as 39-year-old Tracey Salyers, also a resident of Coeburn. Salyers has been going to the Health Wagon for over five years to treat her type-2 diabetes. “It’s something that’s needed everywhere, but here you find a lot of people who are – I don’t want to say poor, because we are rich in a lot of ways – but the economy isn’t exactly booming. I don’t think it’s needed specifically in the Appalachia area; I just think that we were graced enough to have Sr. Bernie start it here.”
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LEFT: Clinical Director Paula Meade and Executive Director Teresa Gardner (with scissors) cutting the ribbon on their new Health Wagon. BOTTOM LEFT: Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes, poses with Gardner and Meade. BELOW: Teresa, Dr. Joe Smiddy, and Sr. Bernie Kenny who founded Health Wagon. OPPOSITE PAGE: Sister Kenny driving the first Health Wagon.
PHOTO COURTESY OF HEALTH WAGON
Salyers is a mother of five, all of whom are covered under their father’s healthcare. Salyers, however, is not included in that plan at an affordable rate. Because of that, she now turns to HillMeade at the Health Wagon every two to three months as her primary caregiver for check-ups. “We’re a really close-knit community, and the Health Wagon is a very family oriented space. You feel comfortable there with the caregivers because they know you, or get to know you,” Salyers said. “You’re not just someone that’s waiting in line to see them and then you’re out the door.” Sr. Bernie grew up in a large family as well, as one of five children raised by a first-generation Irish-American family. She graduated from Boston College School of Nursing magnum cum laude, and found herself traveling to Appalachia by request of the Richmond Catholic Diocese. Rooted in agriculture, mining, family, and religion, Appalachia reminds her of old Irish stories that she was raised on, according to Sr. Bernie. Southwest Virginia can also be known for its character, its history, and unfortunately, its destitution. The area that the Health Wagon covers, which started with five communities but is now up to 12 communities, has a poverty rate that is 70 to 140 percent higher than the rest of the state of Virginia. That includes many of the 1 million Virginians that cannot afford Healthcare. “Many people don’t have insurance or the diagnostics that they need readily available,” said Gardner. “It’s tremendously important in our location because every patient that we serve is immensely underserved. There’s just huge access problems with healthcare in general in the United States, so being able to provide patients with access to care and actually taking the care to the patients is vital.” “Nobody seems to even know about this population that is a huge part of Virginia,” added Hill-Meade. “Compared to northern Virginia or Richmond, or places like Fairfax that is one of the wealthiest counties in the nation, we feel like the commonwealth has forgotten us down here. All my life I’ve heard the saying that Virginia stops in Roanoke…it doesn’t seem like anybody is aware of the extreme amount of poverty and desperation down this way.” The area has had a long-time reliance on coal mining, and to this day the industry has a tight leash on the local economy – in turn affecting the Appalachian population. The 15.3 million tons of coal produced in Southwest
Virginia each year may bring money to the area, but they also bring health issues. “Here we have a high rate of pulmonary diseases. I think it’s directly related to the environmental effects of not only the coal mines, but the coal trucks, the dust and the pollution in the air,” Hill-Meade said. “We have a high rate of allergens, a high rate of asthma, and a lot of people diagnosed with black lung that have never seen the inside of a coal mine.” “There’s coal everywhere you look here in Coeburn, so it is something to be concerned about,” said Salyers. “I don’t say a whole lot against the coal because it puts food on our table – and that’s the biggest issue around here. What’s the one job that you can get that’s gonna pay the most in this area? Coal mining. Everybody around here is attached by coal in one way or another.” Recently however, the coal industry has sent more and more patients to the Health Wagon, not necessarily because of health issues, but because of layoffs and loss of health coverage. Southwest Virginia produces half the coal it did ten years ago, according to the State Department of Mines, and hundreds of mining employees have been laid off in the process. During layoff periods, the Health Wagon sometimes sees up to 100 patients per week, between the mobile unit and the stationary clinic. “The Health Wagon is so overwhelmed after the coal mining layoff that we’re getting more and more people every single day,” said Hill-Meade. Gardner and Hill-Meade agreed that because of the AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 61
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layoffs, they are also expecting a surge in attendance for their 16th annual Remote Area Medical weekend, or “RAM,” an annual event known as the largest medical outreach in the United States. Every July, RAM takes place in Wise, Virginia at the Health Wagon, delivering basic medical care to people in the area. “People come from Florida, Michigan, and even farther for RAM,” Sr. Bernie said. “They camp in their cars overnight and wait. We offer state of the art services like ultrasound and retinopathy, oral surgery, or colonoscopies for free; it’s amazing.” “It’s an eye-opening experience,” Hill-Meade said. “We keep adding services and we keep doing collaborative agreements with universities to bring more essential services each year. These people don’t have access to these services and they wait all year long to be the waiting list. We have hordes of people coming out to get basic medical care, vision care, dental care…it’s amazing, horrific, and depressing to think that they’re this desperate for care.” According to Gardner, the Health Wagon is a medical home for about 3,000 patients, but during the RAM weekend, they mostly see new and one-time patients. Although she is retired now, Sr. Bernie still helps each year with RAM. “We live in a commonwealth, and we hope one day it will be a ‘commonhealth.’ We are our brother’s keeper or our sister’s keeper,” she said. Aside from the annual expansion of RAM, the Health Wagon also has plans to expand its pharmacy, as well as build a permanent stationary clinic and raise awareness. “We’re on the road to getting the education and understanding of self-care improved greatly,” Sr. Bernie said. “The most important thing to understand is that we’re experiencing a ‘brain drain’ – just like in Ireland years ago, the people who leave here often haven’t come back. “All of the people from the area that we send to places like Virginia Tech don’t come back, so we would hope that in the future there would be more education for people and jobs that they can come back to, to improve the health systems here,” Sr. Bernie continued. Currently, the ratio of people to primary physicians in Virginia is 1,344:1, while that ratio sits at around 4,000:1 in southwest Virginia – and according to Sr. Bernie, those are important numbers to focus on. “The Health Wagon actually brought healthcare into a practical aspect. This is an innovative model for healthcare across the United States without the political fiasco that our affordable healthcare act has become,” Hill-Meade said. “Sr. Bernie has a wonderful spirit of passion, and this exquisite ability to care for others that is unparalleled by anybody I’ve ever seen,” added Gardner. “What she started here in the Appalachian Mountains was certainly ahead of its time; she was really one of the front runners of this type of care.” IA
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ABOVE AND LEFT: The Health Wagon has assisted more than 11,000 patients in obtaining access to medical and dental care in remote areas in southwest Virginia. In these photos, dentists, dental hygienists, dental students, dental specialists, and other dental volunteers see up to 200 patients a day, some of whom are seeing a dentist for the first time in years, others for the first time in their lives. To learn more about the Health Wagon see: www.healthwagon.org
The Art of Silver Service.
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Rowing Back to Life Survivors of breast cancer join together to paddle dragon boats for fun, physical well-being and good old fashioned competition. By Mary Pat Kelly
hey come out of the drizzly mist of a very early Saturday morning headed for Flushing Bay, Queens, carrying paddles and life jackets, dressed for action. The Empire Dragon Boat Team – 42 women ranging in age from their early 30s through 70s, who have battled cancer. Donna Wilson, a clinical nurse specialist and personal trainer with the Integrated Medicine Service of Memorial Sloan-Kettering, founded the team along with Jennifer Merendino in 2009 and acts as a captain. The Empire Dragons belong to the International Breast Cancer Paddle Commission, a group that represents thousands of women who have found in the ancient Chinese sport of Dragon Boat Racing a way to “survive and thrive beyond cancer.” As one woman said, “We leave behind the pain and craziness and go forward. After all, we’re in the same boat.” Nearly 50 million people participate in Dragon Boat races annually. They paddle highly decorated boats with the dragon heads and tails that symbolize the most powerful of the Chinese deities in whose honor the first festival began over 2,500 years ago as a way to mark the summer solstice and make a ritual appeal for health and well-being. “I love that our sport has such ancient roots,” team Photos by member Sheila Cox says as we watch the women Jane Valentine arrive in the small park above Flushing Bay. Today’s
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an especially important practice. In a week the summer racing season opens with the Paddle for Pink Dragon Boat Festival at Mercer Lake in Princeton, N.J. and the team has high expectations. “We placed fourteenth out of 101 teams from all over the world in the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida. A good showing for our first international race,” Sheila says. “There’s a great atmosphere at the competitions. All the teams set up tents, visit and picnic. Next week’s Festival is specifically for breast cancer survivors, but often we’re just part of the mix. The International Dragon Boat Festival in Dublin on September 12 and 13, 2015 will have a division for cancer survivors. I’ve met women on that team. One of them travels from Donegal to Dublin to practice. That’s dedication,” Sheila says. Such a commitment is necessary because success depends on being one with your team, Sheila explains. “Even lining up with the other boats on the starting line is a challenge. As soon as we get in alignment with the other teams, the horn sounds and we paddle like crazy for two and a half minutes. It’s thrilling!” For Sheila being a member of the Dragon Boat team is an essential part of her recovery. “After my surgery, I wondered if I’d ever be able to exercise again. Then I did a work-out session with Donna.
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She’s a medical professional and knew what I could and couldn’t do. She made me feel I would come back, get strong. I could be myself again.” Now Donna Wilson herself arrives. She moves with the confidence of a woman who takes joy in being fit. I watch her greet the team members, touching one on the shoulder, laughing with another. “Donna is pure energy,” team member Eileen
Murphy, raised in Shrule, Co. Mayo, tells me, “with a passion for helping people.” Donna and I move a few steps away from the group as she tells me how her experience as a nurse and personal trainer led her to co-found the Dragon Boat team. “As a nurse,” she says, “I saw that cancer can take a patient to a bad place. It’s not only the physical disease, but the emotional suffering, the depression and poor self image. Their bodies have changed and women are afraid that they will never be able to do what they’ve done before. There’s a loss of confidence. But I have come to believe exercise and working out offers a path to physical and mental recovery. I am convinced that women who battle cancer can become strong and fit.” All around us women are running or walking warm-up miles. “There’s no judgment, each moves at her own pace,” Donna says. “I had been teaching exercise and running workout boot camps at the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering when a fellow staff member, James Lozado, introduced me to Dragon Boat racing. What a great way to combine getting strong with a sport that could empower women, I thought. I wanted them to feel the rewards of being an athlete. Camaraderie. Achievement. Winning.” “I was never good at sports in school,” Eileen tells me, “but when I got involved with the boat, I realized for the first time that I am competitive and I can be an athlete. I can do it. The first race I was very nervous but by the second I was exhilarated. Working out became a way to get stronger so I could hold up my teammates.” Eileen remembers how difficult trying out for the team was for her. “I drove to Flushing Bay but I couldn’t get out of the car. I was undergoing chemo
ABOVE: Members of the Empire Dragon Boat NYC team with their coaches, James Lozado (front row, left of center) and Akila Simon (front row, right of center) with captain Donna Wilson (front row center). CENTER: Dragon boat captain Donna Wilson, RN (left), with Sheila Cox (right). OPPOSITE PAGE: Participating in the flower ceremony at the International Breast Cancer Dragon Boat Festival in Sarasota, Florida.
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TOP: Off to the races. ABOVE: Eileen Murphy at the Dragon Boat festival in Sarasota.
Information about the team is on www.empiredragonboat.com, which includes a schedule of upcoming races. They welcome new members.
and I had lost my hair and my eyebrows. Somehow having the eyebrows go was the worst. I thought ‘I really look like a cancer patient now!’ I would have turned the car around and gone home, except Akila Simon, our coach, had sent me all these warm emails. I got out of the car and walked over to where the women stood in a row. The welcome they gave me was overwhelming. The bond was immediate.” Now practice is beginning. Sheila tells me that both Akila Simon and James Lozado are certified to coach competitive and community Dragon Boat teams and have Level I and II Competitive Certifications recognized by The International Dragon Boat Federation. The coaches practice with the team every Saturday morning and Wednesday night on the water, with indoor sessions in the winter. Both coaches have demanding careers. James Lozado is a cancer research project coordinator at Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Akila Simon is an experienced accountant. James is already in the boat teaching a new team member to paddle, showing her how to strike the water with strength. They go over the motion again and again, working quietly, but with great concentration. Meanwhile, on the shore I expect to see Akila, a proficient athlete, lead the calisthenics. Instead the women themselves form a circle and take turns calling out the exercises. “Forty jumping jacks,” one says. Power radiates from these woman who are getting stronger for themselves, each other, and the boat. Then I meet Deirdre Cosman, whose Roache and Cooney ancestors come from Clare and Longford. So many Irish women in the group, I think. Accessing some Celtic/Viking rowing gene? Channeling Queen Maeve? Deirdre does both, I’d say. For her, cancer meant losing an athleticism she had enjoyed her whole life. “As a kid I played everything and excelled. I brought home trophies in basketball, volleyball and swimming. I continued to swim as an adult and was
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an avid yoga practitioner. I was 42 when I had a bilateral mastectomy. Four weeks after my surgery I went to a yoga class designed for breast cancer survivors, but the class seemed to offer only a crutch, not a chance to get strong again. A friend took me to Donna’s class. It was a real workout by a medical professional who understood my limitations but still challenged me. To be able to get back into shape, to be myself again physically has helped me psychologically. In the boat there is no coddling. Everyone is there because they want to be. And it is hard. Plus Flushing Bay itself is disgusting. The water is beyond polluted. Sometimes the bacteria level is so high that we can’t even practice. One splash can give you an infection.” Faced with this dire ecological challenge, the Empire Dragons didn’t retreat. They mobilized to clean up the bay. Alex Herzan and Carmel Fromson spearhead The Green Team of Empire Dragons. For four years they have charted the live bacteria in Flushing Bay and worked to establish an oyster garden because one oyster can clean up to 50 gallons of water per day. The annual bay cleanup begun by co-founder Jennifer Merendino is named in her memory. Recently they joined with other Dragon Boat teams in a new group called the Guardians of the Bay. All the women are well aware of what they face. “Even at the beginning I had this fear of a recurrence,” Eileen says. “It was paralyzing, but our Dragon Boat has been a light at the end of the tunnel. And guess what? My eyebrows grew back and so did my hair. In fact it came in curly and I always wanted curly hair!” “The medical profession now recognizes the role that fitness plays in recovery,” Deirdre says. “Our motto sums it up,” Sheila adds. “Strength. Spirit. Success.” Now Akila is calling for the women to line up and get in the boat. “She’s got such a great voice,” Sheila says. “During the race Akila keeps a steady beat on the drum so we’ll stroke in time and together. But she also encourages us. ‘Lengthen. Deepen,’ she’ll say. ‘Power Ten,’ which means give her some Olympic worthy strokes, or ‘From the engine room’ calling for effort in the middle rows. And just when we feel we have no more to give, we hear Akila’s powerful voice. ‘You’ve got this,’ she tells us – and we do.” I watch the women power their way across the bay. They’ve got it, no question. IA
The Pink Angels
are deeply honored to establish
Bridget Spence, née Mooney, was diagnosed with stage lV breast cancer at 21 and with the help of her family, looked the disease square in the eye and fought with courage, dignity, passion and friendship.
The Bridget Spence Fund for Young Women with Breast Cancer at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
With the support of the Dana-Farber fund development group, The Pink Angels have made a $100,000 commitment to establish the Bridget Spence Fund as a lasting and meaningful tribute to their dear friend who passed away in 2013 at the age of 29. In memory and celebration of Bridget’s incredible life, the fund will support ongoing education, outreach and groundbreaking research under the direction of Bridget’s clinician, Dr. Ann Partridge, founder of the Young Women with Cancer Survivorship Program.
Bridget gave herself fully to ﬁnding a cure – while knowing the cure would not likely be found in time to help her. She was Susan G. Komen’s national face the last year of her life and spoke at conferences all over the country telling her story of the shocking diagnosis, of fulﬁlling many of her dreams, of running out of trials as her health deteriorated, and of the importance of ﬁnding a cure.
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Please make a contribution to “The Pink Angels” targeted for this longterm project and its groundbreaking research so that future young women everywhere will beneﬁt from Bridget’s extraordinary determination and spirit. For more info or to make a donation, visit thepinkangels.org/bridgetsfund
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Darkness into Light How a brave woman turned a dark moment in her family history into a beacon for many grappling with thoughts of suicide. Sharon Ní Chonchúir talks to Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House in Ireland.
live on the Dingle Peninsula, a place with a small and closely-knit community. In the past year alone, I know of three men who have committed suicide. One was a married man who lived across the road from me. Another had been in my class at primary school. And the third was the son of a woman whose house I can see from my office window as I write. According to statistics from the National Suicide Research Foundation, an average of 500 people commit suicide in Ireland every year – nine people every week. In a sign that the recession has taken its tragic toll, that figure climbed to 554 in 2011. The figures are especially worrying in certain age groups. The suicide rate among teenage girls is higher in Ireland than it is in any other E.U. state. And suicide among young Irish males is more than twice the national average, and the second highest rate in Europe (Lithuania has the highest incidence of male suicides). It would appear from the statistics that the suicide rate in Ireland is increasing. However, Joan 68 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Freeman, founder of Pieta House, an organization that provides a specialized program for people who have suicidal ideation, urges me to think again. “It’s not a growing issue,” she says. “It’s just that finally people are not afraid to talk about it.” Joan, a trained psychologist, opened the doors of the first Pieta House in Lucan, County Dublin on the 19th of January, 2006. She had borrowed €130,000 from the bank to fund it, using her house as collateral. Her team consisted of herself and another therapist along with a part-time receptionist, bookkeeper, and cleaner. Her first priority was that the professional, faceto-face therapeutic services would be entirely free of charge. The second was for there to be no need for a doctor’s referral or psychiatric report to attend. And finally, that anyone could make the call for the person who was in distress.
Joan Freeman, founder of Pieta House, an organization that provides help for people with suicidal ideation.
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Darkness into Light “If someone falls and breaks their leg, nobody expects them to pick up the phone and call the ambulance,” she says. “Why do we expect that of someone whose life is broken? Our aim is for Pieta House to be as accessible as possible.” In the nine years since then, Pieta House has grown. It now has 180 staff working in nine centers throughout Ireland, and there are plans to open three more centers. These services currently require € million in annual running costs. The Irish government donates €500,000. This means that Joan depends on charity to make up the shortfall. Pieta House’s biggest fundraising event is the predawn “Darkness into Light Walk.” It started in 2009 when 400 people gathered in Phoenix Park in the dark to walk together towards the light as dawn broke over the city Six years later, on May 9, more than 100,000 people in 80 places across three continents joined in the walk. They gathered in communities across Ireland and in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Aberdeen in the U.K. They gathered in Sydney, Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth in Australia. In North America, they gathered in New York, Washington DC, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, and Calgary. “There’s something miraculous about it,” Joan says of the walk. “It’s a joyful, poignant and powerful event that is full of hope. Most who take part know somebody who has died by suicide. Some know people who are availing of our services. But there are others who want to experience it as something special and shared, an event where nobody walks alone.” The idea for Pieta House grew out of Joan’s own grief over the suicide of her sister. “I spent three years researching to come up with the idea of a place I could bring [my sister] if she were still alive,” she says. That idea was to move away from looking at suicide as a medical or psychiatric problem, and focussed on a solution-based approach instead. “Seventy percent of our clients have no history of mental illness at all. They’re just reacting to life events. Nobody was asking them what was causing them to feel such enormous distress,” says Joan. “At Pieta House, we ask them these questions, all the while reminding them that they have so many reasons to live.” Despite having done so much already, Joan hopes to do even more. “We’re keen to follow the Irish wherever they are,” she says. “When Irish people are in trouble, they want to hear another Irish accent. We can provide that for them.” She is currently working on running a pilot project in New York in September. Pieta House will take
a room in the Irish Immigrant Center in Queens and reach out to members of the Irish diaspora who need their services. “At the beginning, we will focus on the Irish and Irish Americans,” says Joan. “They are who we know best, but we’ll never turn anyone away. Who knows? When the Americans see how our model works, they might decide to roll it out across the country!” What keeps Joan and her team going is the realization that they are helping people. “Five thousand people came to see us last year. They say that for everyone who dies through suicide, there are fifty more who are affected. But that means because of Pieta House, 250,000 people had a good Christmas.” Stephen Kelly, 48, believes he would no longer be alive were it not for the help of Pieta House. Three years ago, this Dublin native had recently separated from his wife and missed his two children. “I wanted them with me but it didn’t happen,” he says. “Everything I tried to do went wrong and I started to lose the plot. I started to think that everyone would be better off without me.” He twice tried to commit suicide. “I failed miserably both times,” he says. “I couldn’t even do that right.” His brother and sister, who went looking for him when they had no communication from him in over a week, found him sitting – sobbing and soaked to the skin – on a beach. “They brought me home and told me I had to speak to someone at Pieta House,” says Stephen. “I went along with it for their sake.” The following day, he found himself in front of a therapist. “She said that if I didn’t want to get well, I might as well leave there and then,” he remembers. “That was a wake-up call. I realized I did want to be there. I did want to get well.” Stephen saw his therapist for sessions twice a week for the next 15 weeks. She taught him not to hide his anxieties under the surface. She made him see that he had people who cared for him and wanted to help. She also gave him the tools he needed to monitor and control his mental health. “It’s an ongoing process but I’m stronger now. I deal with things much better.” Stephen takes part in the “Darkness into Light” walk every year and brings family and friends along with him. “Last year was my first year and there were five of us,” he says. “There were 12 this year and we’ll have even more next year.” He credits Pieta House and his family with his newly positive attitude to live. “It’s because of them that I’m still here and I’d urge anyone who’s in trouble to talk to Pieta House,” he says. “There are people out there like I was, not talking to anyone. Talking is half the battle. It’s where the healing starts.” IA
• An average of 500 people commit suicide in Ireland every year – nine people every week. • Irish teen suicides rate among the highest in Europe. • 5,000 people were helped by Pieta House in 2014. • To learn more about the work of Pieta House and the annual Darkness into Light walk, visit: www.pieta.ie
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Long Shadow of
U.S. NAVY PHOTO BY PHOTOGRAPHER’S MATE 2ND CLASS JIM WATSON
Ongoing health conditions, ranging from cancer to pulmonary diseases, caused by working at Ground Zero cast a shadow on celebrations of FDNY’s 150th Year.
By Tom Deignan 70 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
PHOTO BY PETER FOLEY
adder 123 is located on a gritty stretch of St. John’s Place off of Schenectady Avenue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. Ladder 123 shares quarters with Engine 234 as well as Battalion 38, and back in May, the whole firehouse – along with houses in all five boroughs of New York City – opened its doors to the neighborhood as part of ceremonies celebrating the FDNY’s 150th anniversary. “For a century and a half, FDNY members have risked their lives bravely protecting life and property in our city – an enduring commitment steeped in pride and tradition,” FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said back in May. “That tradition of service is devoted to the people of our great city and we’re inviting them all – every New Yorker – to join us in this historic celebration. We want them to come and meet the men and women who serve them with selfless dedication.” For the past decade and a half, however, it has been impossible to celebrate the history and dedication of the FDNY without also recalling the sacrifices made on September 11. And as firefighters and health advocates adamantly note, 9/11 is still claiming victims, from first responders to former residents who once called downtown Manhattan home.
Remembering Johnny Mac
Look no further than Ladder 123, where Irish American firefighter John McNamara – “Johnny Mac” to friends – was working in September 2001. By all accounts, McNamara was the picture of health. But he spent months at Ground Zero after the terror attacks searching through the rubble for survivors and victims. In June of 2006, McNamara was
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The numbers of deaths and illnesses attributed to toxic exposure at Ground Zero are nothing short of staggering. According to one estimate, over 30,000 people are receiving health treatment of some kind linked to time spent in downtown Manhattan after 9/11. Over 100 firefighters have died from 9/11 health issues, and over 1,000 have contracted a cancer related to 9/11, FDNY officials have said. In September of 2014, three retired firefighters – Daniel Heglund, Robert Leaver and Lt. Howard Bischoff – all died on the same day as a result of illnesses contracted as a result of 9/11, according to the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. The fight is on to make sure that those who are still battling illness get the services they need. In June, not long after the FDNY wrapped up its 150th Anniversary celebrations, hundreds of firefighters flocked to Washington, D.C. to advocate for help battling the ongoing health effects of 9/11. Congress was debating an extension of the Zadroga Act, designed to assist those in need. “Without an extension of the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, tens of thousands of volunteers and first responders who helped clean up Ground Zero won’t be able to get federal help with their health care,” The New York Daily News reported. Zadroga was a New York City cop who died in 2006 at age 34 after spending time at Ground Zero. “If the Zadroga Act expires, we have a lot of people who would be in dire straits,” said Uniformed Fire Officers Association legislative director Richard Alles.
As the FDNY looks back on 150 years of service, the first thing worth noting is just how unusual the past 15 years have been. “The lingering effects of 9/11 have no precedent
PHOTO COURTESY THE JOHNNY MAC FOUNDATION
diagnosed with cancer of the colon, stomach and liver. He was just 41 at the time. His wife was three months pregnant with their son Jack, who was born later that year with a head of red hair to match his father’s. McNamara would die three years later. In her eulogy, McNamara’s widow Jennifer said: “From our first date, I knew I would marry him…. A friend saw us and later told me it looked like we’d been together forever. It felt like that, too. John was so easy to be with. I knew he felt the same way I did when he chose taking me to the Irish Fair over watching Sunday football.” Jennifer later discovered a handwritten list of things John wished for, ranging from the construction of a youth center on Long Island to specific funeral plans, including having some of his ashes scattered in Ireland. The final entry? “To never have to use this list because I’m gonna (with Jenn and Jack) beat this damned disease.”
in the long history of the FDNY,” says Irish American historian Terry Golway, whose father was a firefighter and whose books include So Others Might Live, a history of the FDNY. “No other catastrophe in New York history was like 9/11, and no other event in the FDNY’s history had such a traumatic effect on the department.” The FDNY as we know it today has its roots in two aspects of American life the Irish knew all too well: local politics and the Civil War. In the mid-19th century, New York City was patrolled by a series of volunteer fire companies. They had close ties to local politics as practiced by Tammany Hall and often competed – sometimes physically – to extinguish fires. With the Civil War raging in July of 1863, federal authorities announced a draft in New York – at the same time that certain Democratic Party members were warning New York’s Irish and German immigrants to prepare for emancipation of slaves and what it would mean in terms of job competition. The violence that followed the draft announcement – targeting African Americans and the rich (who could avoid the draft by paying $300) – came to be known as The New York City Draft Riots. Though eventually quelled by the largely Irish NYPD, the response to the mayhem in terms of extinguishing the many fires set by the rioters was deemed woefully inadequate. (Some fire companies even participated in the violence.) Pressure grew for a more organized and professional firefighting squad. By 1865, the Metropolitan Fire Department was rolled out, the first force paid to protect New Yorkers from fire. There was only one problem – at least as far as Tammany Hall was concerned. The Metropolitans were run by state officials rather than those based in New York City. That meant that power – and budgetary money – resided in Albany rather than in New York City. It was not until three years later, when Tammany loyalist and former New York City mayor John Hoffman became governor of New York State, that control of the fire department was set in New York City. Thus was born the Fire Department of New York.
ABOVE:Firefighter John McNamara with his son Jack. John was diagnosed with cancer of the liver, colon and stomach when his wife Jennifer was three months pregnant, and he died when Jack was three. FAR LEFT: A firefighter walks through the burning rubble as toxic fumes fill the air. CENTER: 9/14/2001 – A New York City firefighter attempts to clear his eyes of soot during rescue efforts at the World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack.
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PHOTO BY PETER FOLEY
Safety and Health Concerns
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PHOTO BY PETER FOLEY
This also gave rise to a new concern for the health and safety of firefighters. After all, on August 24th 1865, firefighter Robert Wintringham was killed in the line of duty – considered the modern FDNY’s first fatality. Thousands of others endured a variety of terrible ailments in subsequent decades. “Without question many firefighters in the past suffered from the effects of breathing in toxic fumes. Some of those ailments may have never been properly diagnosed,” Terry Golway notes. What has happened since 9/11, of course, has prompted action on a much larger scale. A bipartisan group of elected representatives, including Democrats Carolyn Maloney and Kirsten Gillibrand and Republican Peter King, recently wrote a letter to Congressional leaders arguing that 9/11 health issues must be a priority. They wrote: “Today more than 70,000 first responders or survivors residing in 429 of the 435 congressional districts across the country participate in the WTC Health Program, receiving medical monitoring and treatment for those injuries. Cancers, respiratory ailments and digestive tract disorders are just a few of the complications for those who participated in 9/11 rescue and cleanup efforts.” They added that elected representatives must “ensure first responders and survivors of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pennsylvania continue to receive the monitoring and care they deserve and need.” Advocates are hoping a vote to approve the extension of the Zadroga Act will be taken by September 11, 2015. Other advocates believe it is time to permanently remember those who died from the after-effects of 9/11. An online petition seeks to establish a downtown Manhattan memorial for those who died in
the years following 9/11. The petition states: “So many people who worked on the pile at Ground Zero in the rescue and recovery effort, as well as Lower Manhattan residents and returning workers, were exposed to a lethal cocktail of chemicals, pulverized concrete, and carcinogens. Thousands have become gravely ill and many have died terrible deaths. 9/11 killed them later. They should be honored with a memorial wall on the plaza, not just an exhibition in the unfinished museum.”
LEFT: Three firefighters from “Big Blue” FDNY Rescue 3 Co. in the Bronx. The company lost eight firefighters who responded to the call on 9/11.
A Final Memory
Finally, there is the ongoing work of the foundations that have been established to raise awareness and funds for health services, as well as to honor those who died after serving at Ground Zero. These include the Johnny Mac Foundation, which held its annual golf outing at the Dyker Beach Golf Club in Brooklyn in July. Funds will contribute to the construction of a youth center in Blue Point, Long Island, where John McNamara lived with his wife and son. “A place to go for counseling, computers, study, skateboard park, a local meeting place for everything from scouting to the local civic groups,” is how McNamara envisioned the youth center in his handwritten wish list. There’s one final thing on McNamara’s list that’s worth mentioning and that he wanted to see. “Recognition that my cancer was caused by the toxins I breathed in at the WTC the two and a half months I was honored to work there.” IA For more details about The Johnny Mac Foundation, or to donate, go to www.johnnymacfoundation.org.
ABOVE: A final salute for a fallen comrade. 343 firefighters were killed in the rescue attempts following the terrorist attack on 9/11. Scores more are suffering from ailments linked to the clean-up efforts.
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wild irish women | Margaret Higgins Sanger
Wonder Woman O
Continuing her series on Wild Irish Women, Rosemary Rogers profiles Margaret Sanger, who devoted her life to legalizing birth control, and with the help of her sister Ethel, opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S.
n October 16, 1916, Margaret Sanger opened the doors to a Brooklyn storefront and Planned Parenthood began. The centennial will be celebrated with profound gratitude by generations of women and decried with bile by (too) many male lawmakers. Sanger opened the clinic with two other nurses, her sister Ethel Higgins Byrne and Russian émigré Fania Mindel. Margaret and Ethel were the daughters of Irish-born Michael Higgins and Irish-American Anne Higgins. Michael, an ardent socialist, free speech advocate, philosopher, and prolific father imparted his political passions to Margaret, who fused them with her own brand of righteous feminism. Five years before she opened the clinic, Margaret, her husband William Sanger, and their children had moved to New York with her sister, settling in Greenwich Village. They fell in with the “Reds” crowd, Emma Goldman, John Reed, Max Eastman, Mabel Dodge Luhan – all socialists, feminists, and free speech advocates. The sisters worked with Fania Mindel in Lower East Side tenements nursing women in labor – starving immigrant mothers, old before their time, already with more children than they could manage. Margaret and Ethel saw so much of their personal story in these women – their own mother had seven miscarriages and eleven children – one delivered by an 8-year-old Margaret – in 22 years before dying at age 49. By the time Sanger had opened the Brooklyn clinic she was already established as a feminist and writer with her series on “the facts of life,” called What Every Girl Should Know. She wrote and published a magazine, The Women Rebel, in which she coined the term “Birth Control.” A mother of three, Sanger wrote, “The right to be a mother regardless of church or state” was the “basis of feminism.” But everything she had written or planned to write, everything she had done or planned to do, was illegal. Helping women through childbirth or even watching them die in the process didn’t affect Sanger as deeply as helping women recover (or not) from botched abortions. Sanger nursed one mother close to death after a self-inflicted abortion. The woman pleaded to an unsympathetic doctor for protection against another pregnancy. His advice? “Tell Jake to sleep on the roof.” The mother died six months later during a second self-inflicted abortion. Margaret
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Sanger became a lifelong opponent of abortion and vowed to dedicate her life to making contraception legal, available, and free to those who can’t afford it. A dangerous goal, since thanks to the absurd but powerful Comstock Laws, contraception was illegal, believing it led to promiscuity. The Victorian villain in all this, and he’s a big one, was a frightful windbag named Anthony Comstock. He was an evangelical Christian, YMCA devotee and head of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. He saw New York City as a latter-day Sodom and Gomorrah, a fleshpot of pimps, prostitutes and hoochie-koochie dancers. What choice had he really but to tattletale to the police and summon raids? He railed against French novels and art, once invading the Art Students League to sniff out nude paintings. He tried to suppress George Bernard Shaw’s play on prostitution, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, causing the Irish playwright to gripe (and invent a new word), “Comstockery...the world’s standing joke at the expense of the United States.” For some odd reason, Comstock found information about birth control particularly pornographic and began his crusade against the contraception industry. He persuaded Washington to create an anti-obscenity bill banning contraceptives, the eponymous Comstock Act which went into effect in 1873 and was used to persecute Margaret Sanger for decades. 1914 and 1915 were trying years for Sanger. Her marriage had unraveled, her 5-year-old daughter Peggy died of pneumonia and her articles on sex education got her arrested, forcing her to flee to Europe. The charges were dropped when, in a rare burst of humanity, the court decided that no judge would sentence a grieving mother. Margaret Sanger came back to New York even more determined. Now was the time for the Brooklyn clinic. The first day brought over 100 women lining around the block, pushing prams, holding infants, and keeping toddlers in tow. Margaret, Ethel and Fania distributed contraceptives and copies of Margaret’s pamphlets, the only information these women had ever seen about their own anatomy. The nurses heard over and over the question poor women always seemed to ask about rich women: what’s their secret? Why don’t they have a baby every year? The “secret,” of course, was contraception. Then as now, Planned Parenthood was and is about information – education on family planning, pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and understanding how contraception works. Then as now, it was/is the only health care available to women living in poverty.
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PHOTOS: LIBRARY OF CONGRESS
Then and now, it wasn’t/isn’t an abortion mill depicted by crowing moralists like Anthony Comstock of the late 19th century and Scott Walker of the early 21st century. The clinic wasn’t opened long when a distraught Mrs. Whitehurst, desperate to avoid another unwanted pregnancy, sought and got help from the nurses. The distraught Mrs. Whitehurst was an undercover policewoman. Ten days after it opened, the vice squad burst in and lugged out an examining table, an assortment of contraceptives, “books on young women” and shut the place down. Sanger, Byrne, and Mindel were arrested on obscenity charges under the Comstock Act. All were found guilty, all remained unafraid – even as they awaited trial, they re-opened the clinic two days later, were again raided, re-opened one more time until the police forced the landlord to have them evicted. In prison, Ethel, her mind on her father’s stories of Irish freedom fighters and hunger strikes, went on one herself. She was close to death, and even the press begged for her pardon. Margaret helped secure her early release by promising that Ethel would never break this law again; this angered Ethel and the two sisters were never as close again. No longer active in the birth control movement, Ethel died in 1955 from a heart attack. Margaret went on trial to make her case – exposing women to the danger of dying in childbirth was a violation of their right to life. In the courtroom, she had the unfortunate experience of having a judge wave a cervical cap in her face and announce that no woman “had the right to copulate with a feeling of security.” Offered her freedom if she promised never again to break the law, Sanger replied with a curt, “I cannot respect the law as it exists today.” Convicted, she was sent to the workhouse. But she succeeded in getting attention and the support of the public, a development that a reporter later attributed to her “Irish ancestry, which endowed her with unfailing charm and persuasive wit.” Out of the workhouse, Sanger appealed her sentence and won. A new judge issued a ruling allowing doctors to prescribe contraception in New York State. Pushing the envelope further, in 1917, she starred in a silent film, Birth Control. It was, needless to say, banned and now she slowly began her shift away from radical politics. In 1921, she founded the American Birth Control League and, in 1923, opened the first (legal) birth control clinic. To get her message across
to the Establishment and to the middle class, Sanger campaigned all over the U.S. and Europe. She began consulting with scientists trying to develop a “magic pill,” one that women could take before they were ready to be a mother. Margaret Sanger had remarried and moved upstate close to where her niece and Ethel’s daughter, Olive Byrne, lived. Olive had come under the sway of William Moulton Marston, an oddball psychologist, screenwriter, and most significantly, the creator of Wonder Woman. Marston lived with his wife, Olive, and the children from both women; the unconventional “family” had frequent visits with “Aunt Margaret.” Wonder Woman, the first female superhero was according to Jill Lepore, author of The Last Amazon, Wonder Woman Returns, “a pinup girl. She’s Eleanor Roosevelt. She’s Betty Grable. Mostly, she’s Margaret Sanger.” In 1937, the American Medical Association endorsed contraception and by the 1950s, research and development on “the magic pill” began in earnest. Margaret Sanger, aged but still the activist, brought together scientist Gregory Pincus and wealthy feminist Katherine McCormick, and, in 1960, the “magic pill” was on the market. In 1965, the year before Sanger’s death, 6.5 million American women were “on the pill” and the Comstock Laws were, finally, thrown out by the Supreme Court. Justice William O. Douglas announced the decision, paying tribute to Wonder Woman – “I am sure Mrs. Sanger, who is very ill, will rejoice in this which crowns her 50 years of dedication to the liberation of women.” IA
TOP: Margaret Sanger surrounded by supporters. ABOVE: Margaret and her sister Ethel in court. OPPOSITE PAGE: Margaret Higgins Sanger, who opened the first U.S. birth control clinic in 1916.
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A Celebrity Chef on
Living Below the Line
Gabe Kennedy speaks here with R. Bryan Willits about teaching the basics of cooking in Haiti and the power of food as “a catalyst for change.”
side from his indisputable culinary prowess, Gabe Kennedy often uses his fame as a platform to promote the idea of having a more mindful relationship with the things we eat. Kennedy, age 24, was raised in Boulder, Colorado, in a family of healers – his father is a chiropractor, and his mother an acupuncturist. Ideas about Chinese herbal medicine and the curative powers of food abounded in the Kennedy home, and he recalls being lucky enough to travel extensively when he was young, discovering early on that no matter where he was he could always connect with people of different cultures through cooking. For him, food was a universal language. He worked in restaurants from age 14 through high school. Upon graduating, he went straight to the Culinary Institute of America, where he emerged at the top of his class with multiple awards. From there, he attended the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, where he sharpened his business acumen and found his entrepreneurial spirit. After graduating from Cornell, on top of starting a popcorn company and his own catering service, Kennedy worked for a restaurant consulting group, and later for a private equity group that invested in organic brands. Shortly thereafter, he became the most successful contestant on ABC’s The Taste, just before joining forces with the Irish relief organization Concern Worldwide and Live Below the Line, an organization that seeks to raise funds and awareness for the 1.2 billion people 76 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
who live below the line of extreme poverty, by challenging people to live on less than $1.50 a day. Part of Concern’s strategy is to develop selfsustaining programs and infrastructure in the communities they serve, and in line with this, they made Kennedy an ambassador to Haiti, where 77 percent of the people live below the poverty line. There, at a small culinary school with no running water and a stove that is lit by a match, Kennedy taught a basic skills class, learned what it was like to cook a meal for a group of people who could spend just 50 cents a head, and got to experience some of Haiti’s national dishes his students made for him. I recently spoke with Kennedy about his food philosophies, his experience with Concern, and his belief that we can use food as a means to heal not only people, but the planet that sustains us.
What did you take away from being on The Taste?
I think the biggest thing I learned from that show was really the power of focus, the power of commitment, and the power of intention. It was just something that I felt so deeply dedicated to doing well at. It was really powerful, and from there it just opened my world. It’s allowed me to explore and to be myself, to challenge myself and to be involved in a self-starting process that has been, quite frankly, a dream come true. I am so deeply grateful and humbled and in awe at the course of how this has all progressed over the last few months. But it’s all coming down to asking, “where can I make a difference?” Now I see that perhaps the biggest impact I can make is by sharing my viewpoint, by being some-
one who will advocate for doing things that are going to make people and the planet healthier. I’m fortunate enough to have some opportunity to do so, hopefully through media and engaging with impactful projects, and by using food as a catalyst for positive change.
So what is it exactly that you advocate?
I want people to discover – or rediscover – the joy of nourishing themselves and nourishing people that they love. We have to be involved in the process of cooking – wash the dirt off the vegetables – treat it as a practice. You really need to take some time to nourish yourself and to have a connection with your food, because it’s a really intimate thing. It goes into your body, and we know that food is an integral part of our existence. Unfortunately, I feel that people are becoming more
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Gabe Kennedy, the global ambassador to Haiti for Concern Worldwide, with two of his cooking students in Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti in May.
and more disconnected from their food – where it comes from, the story that it tells, and the implications and ramifications of their purchasing power. If I can get people into the kitchen and to start cooking with whole foods, perhaps that’s a great entrance into making a difference for both those people and the planet. I’m never going to tell someone what to eat, but I do want to get people to start thinking about their food in a new way, to have a relationship with it. Only when you start having a relationship with your food – or with anything in your life, really – can you understand it and decide what systems you want to support.
How did your work with Concern and your time in Haiti impact your thinking?
Well, I’m cooking from a place of privilege 99 percent of the time. If I’m shopping for myself I usually will buy organic, or I go out and I shop for clients, buy whatever I want, and make a delicious meal, but then maybe some of it gets thrown out. That’s not real life for most people, and going to Haiti really made me look at food in a different way – not using food and creativity from a point of endless expression or endless opportunity, but creatively within some pretty serious restrictions and confines. That’s a whole different exercise to go through as a chef, but also as a person. Going to Haiti, I was really shocked. I was expecting to see poverty, but I wasn’t expecting poverty on that level. I was expecting to see poor people, but I wasn’t expecting every single person to be really poor. Poverty doesn’t mean that you just don’t have money. Poverty means that you don’t have access; you don’t have education. You’re poor in opportunity, you’re poor in education, and you’re poor in environment and lifestyle. It’s not just a financial
thing. It’s a really large, complicated system that needs to be addressed if we want to make a difference. I was also deeply humbled by the positive attitudes of the people. There is this underlying feeling of somberness, but you also did have these moments of profound hope and acceptance and perseverance that were truly inspiring.
Do you think Concern’s work and the cooking school you were teaching at will have a positive impact?
I think it already is effective and that it’s making a difference for a small number of people now, but hopefully that can grow. I think that the people in Haiti are trying to do some really incredible things, and I think that school is one of them. Being able to take disenfranchised people, and equip them with skills that can truly make a difference in their lives – and using food as a catalyst for positive change. It’s really beautiful. A lot of what is truly going to change the world is that everyone has to take it onto themselves to do what they can to make a difference. It means doing what you can, even if that is educating nine women at a time. And it isn’t only that one cooking school. There’s a tourism project, and they’re building bed-and-breakfasts in this community. They are creating community centers and a tourism center at the top of a waterfall, building a swimming pool and a little relaxation area, trying to focus on restaurants. It’s a huge undertaking, and that’s why it was so inspiring to work with Concern. They look at a community and see what it needs and then go from there. To me that’s a smart way of doing it, it’s the most impactful way of doing it, and it’s the most interesting way of doing it. I was really fortunate to be able to witness that and be involved in it. Hopefully I was able to contribute.
Drawing on your experiences in the food industry and with Concern, what message do you have for the rest of the world? It comes down to staying curious and being mindful. I want people to ask a few questions about where food comes from, to acknowledge the beauty in it, and I think that’s the entrance into making better decisions about how you nourish yourself. When I look at food, I just think it’s so magical. Look at a corncob or a sugar snap pea – the whole universe is in that. Take a moment and think about what all this has gone through before it goes into your body. If I wanted to give a cooking message, it would be to follow your intuition – make it your own – have a relationship with it, and don’t be afraid to try things and fail. IA
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A Perfect Escape
to a Healthy Lifestyle
Tyrone native Rosemary Devlin has begun a novel wellness center in Westchester County, just north of New York City. Cliodhna Joyce-Daly traveled there to talk about Devlin’s desire to change our approach to full-body health.
ABOVE (left to right): O2 Living Center’s buildings in Cross River. Inside a morning yoga class. Rosemary Devlin with chef Tom Donnelly.
To contact O2 Living Center visit www.o2living.com or call (914) 763-6320. They are open seven days a week and welcome newcomers.
ight years ago, Rosemary Devlin’s son had a near-fatal allergic reaction to pistachios during an airplane flight overseas. Two trainee Irish nurses successfully treated it, but the incident sparked Rosemary to become a more educated consumer. “I began reading every label I came across,” Rosemary told me when I met with her this past June, “and I couldn’t believe the amount of food that was processed.” The need for a more organic approach fueled a desire to create a global community dedicated to healthy living. The chance arose when a friend was moving to Boston and needed someone to take over her yoga studio in Cross River, New York. At first, Rosemary, who was busy raising five boys and helping run EuroTech, the construction company she had founded with her husband Fay, demurred. But when the property came up for sale again the following year, Rosemary was ready. And in 2009, she bought the studio, along with Yellow Monkey Village, and transformed the enclave of captivating rustic buildings into a world-class spa and wellness facility called O2 Living Center.
mologist, Eva Vaughan, a consultant for the Dr. Hauschka brand of skin care products. All products used are organic and are produced without artificial preservatives, chemicals or GMOs. Rosemary’s primary focus for O2 Living is health from within, and she partnered with chef Tom Donnelly in 2009 to develop the in-house menu and a line of organic juices. Now, all O2 juices are packaged on site using organically non-GMO grown fruits and vegetables. They are made in a two-step juicer with a grinder and cold press to maximize the amount of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals in each glass. “The problem with other juice brands is their use of high-pressure pascalization, where all the nutrients are removed and fortified with vitamins and minerals that are unnatural,” Rosemary says. “We wanted to make sure all the nutrients were present in our juices. That’s why I decided on cold-pressed juices.” O2’s three to five day juice cleanses are a big hit with clients, who love the rejuvenation factor. Rosemary recommends that people over 40 do the cleanse at least two to three times a year. “It makes you look and feel good,” says Rosemary,
When I visited O2 Living, Rosemary’s warm and approachable personality was full on. “I want my guests to feel welcome and like they are home,” she says. “We really want to make this place a relaxing destination for a day retreat.” Part of Rosemary’s relaxation therapy is an invigorating hot yoga class. “It’s a great stress reliever,” Rosemary says. “Especially for people coming in from the city. It gets rid of their tension.” After the yoga class, Rosemary recommends that guests get an O2 Holistic spa treatment. “Everyone needs a little pampering,” she says. Full-body massages are offered daily by awardwinning serene massage therapist expert Sarita Sahni. And facials given by the lively esthetician and ender-
“and who doesn’t love that!” These juices, along with O2’s macrobiotic salads, can be purchased on site or around the Westchester County and Tri-State areas, usually in small, organic food stores like Saw Mill Clubs, Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, and Westerly Natural Market in Manhattan. Although Rosemary’s original vision was to create a humble center where she could share her love for health, O2 Living has become an expanding holistic community that is not just based on health, but living, learning, and continuing to embrace unknown potential. “I don’t know what the future holds,” she says. “But I think we’re heading in the right direction.” IA
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Can we do more for veterans?
Continued from page 33
my grandmother was Catholic, and I always tell people that what you get when you bring those two countries and those two religions together is pure perfection. Kids will ask the questions adults are afraid of. It takes a little while for adults to ease in. Kids are hilarious. They will spot me across the room and they just want to know about my arm and leg. Yesterday I was at the gym and this boy who couldn’t have been more than five years old came up to me and said, “Hey Mr. Noah, I saw you on the dancing show” and then he walked away and then he came right at me and gave me a big hug, and said, “You did good at dancing.”
PHOTO COURTESY OF NOAH GALLOWAY
How do people react to your prosthetics?
There’s so many great organizations out there that are constantly trying to do things for veterans, and the main thing I hear is that many veterans get home and close themselves off and so it’s hard for these organizations to find them – to see what they need – and that makes it a challenge.
Tell me about your “No Excuses” fund.
I have three kids of my own so kids are so special to me. My fund raises money to reduce childhood obesity in the state of Alabama and to empower injured veterans. We sponsor kids whose families don’t have the means, so that they can play games at the local YMCA, and we encourage eating healthy. I got into fitness very young and it got me through a lot in my life. I could walk into the gym with a bad attitude or upset and I always left in a good mood. So I think, introducing these kids to fitness may help them one day down the road. And I support Operation Enduring Warrior (OEW) because it’s brought in so many injured guys. If you want to do the races you have to start getting into shape, and if you start getting into shape you’re less likely to over medicate or self medicate with alcohol because it affects your workout. So it causes this positive change in your life. How did you become involved with Operation Enduring Warrior?
OEW were taking injured guys to events and honoring them. So when they contacted me, I thought it was nice, but I told them, “I don’t need a trip anywhere, I’m good.” Then they responded to me again and said, “You want to do a race with us don’t you?” I said, “I do.” I was the first injured veteran to actually put on the mask and race with these other veterans. The mask cuts off 25 percent of your oxygen so you really have to be fit, and it signifies the challenges wounded veterans go through.
Family man. From left, Colston, Rian, Noah and Jack.
After I made the cover of Men’s Health, I had veterans reach out to me and thank me for being a positive image of veterans. I realized, there’s not enough of that being shown to the American public; that there are veterans out there who are moving forward – they have struggles but they keep pushing through. And I honestly feel that the more positive stories that are out there will motivate other veterans to get going. How did you get back in shape?
It was extremely challenging for me because I was in the worst shape I’d ever been. I found a 24-hour gym so I could go in at two or three in the morning so nobody was there – and the biggest struggle was – there was no book – no magazine, there was nothing online that told me how to work out missing an arm and a leg. So I had to figure it out. For the first week or two I was in the gym, I was just messing with the equipment, seeing what worked, and I eventually discovered that I could take an ankle strap and hook it to my residual limb on my arm, and use a cable machine – and work my chest – work my shoulder – work my back – and I could do the same thing with my leg through my prosthetic. Then I figured out that I was able to work my left side separate from my right side, and that was exciting. And the fact that I’ve been able to help other people out, and say “Hey, this is what works for me” is incredible.
So what’s your message to veterans and others who want to get in shape?
It takes work. And you have to find something that is your motivation, and for me it was my children. I realized I was not being a good role model. And I needed to change that. And so whenever I wanted to give up, I had to think, no, they’re more important than me. My depression was me being very selfish and I could not be selfish and be a good father. So that’s what I had to tell myself. I had to be constantly convincing myself – this depression was me having a pity party, and I had to pull myself out of it. And what I tell a lot of veterans is: “We can never forget that we’re still soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. We are men and women who were brave enough to wear the uniform, willing to go to combat – we’re willing to do that, to sacrifice and risk our lives for the country, it is not that big of a challenge to get home and to keep moving forward and to improve yourself every day. Because sometimes we forget that. I know I did. I forgot it and I remind myself, I’m still a soldier; I’m just on a different mission now. Tell me about your tattoos.
I have one tattoo on my right arm that's from before I was injured. All of the others have been since I was injured. I’ve got one that represents the platoon I was in – it has a triangle behind it because we were in the triangle of death, and I have a mark for every friend of mine that I lost. And I have these different symbols that have these different little stories behind them, but what I want to ultimately do is, I want to finish my tattoos and I want the whole left side covered. And I have this idea that I want it so the bottom half is like a machine – but it’s a machine that is turning into a plant that’s wrapping around my body, and it’s constantly growing and changing because, this sounds funny to say out loud, but I treat my body like it’s a machine. It’s a welloiled machine that I want to take care of – and always push it to the limits. But within life you’re always growing and changing, and that’s where the top half would be like this plant. I have this thought in my head, but I haven’t had the time to go and get a tattoo artist who could really draw it up and finish it. That’s one thing I want to do. IA To learn more about Noah’s No Excuses Fund visit: noahgalloway.com/charity To read more of this interview, visit www.Irishamerica.com
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inspiring seniors |
Mother Knows Best Mary Pat Kelly writes about her 94-year-old mother whose secret to youthful aging is keeping busy and staying interested in life.
“If at first you don’t succeed, do it the way your mother told you to,” said the plaque hanging from a wire shamrock on the wall of Paddy’s On The Square in Long Grove, IL. I bought it. Who could disagree? Not me. At 94, my mom has a special kind of wisdom – a combination of her own particular insights, the mother-wit gained from nurturing six children, 12 grandchildren, plus four great-grandchildren, along with the lessons learned from living through one of history’s most tumultuous periods. Born Mariann Williams on December 23, 1920, Mom came into the world four months after women won the right to vote. “I waited,” she says. “And now I look forward to voting for Hillary.” The youngest of ten children, eight of them boys, she grew up on Chicago’s West Side. Her mother, Mary, was born in Germany; her father, Ralph, had a Welsh father and an Irish mother. Mom’s childhood was happy. Her parents built a prosperous business buying apartment buildings, hotels and even greenhouses, and moved the family to Florida. Then the Depression hit.
“Their real estate holdings went. We came back to Chicago,” Mom says. “Soon after, my mother was advised that the goiter on her neck should be removed. She didn’t want to go to the hospital. She thought them unsafe and had chosen to have all her children at home. But she was encouraged, against her better judgment, to have an operation she probably didn’t need. An infection set in and she died two months later.” 80 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Mom, who was 11 at the time, credits her dad and her best friend, Nancy, with helping her through her grief. “Nancy came from a family of girls. Her father had died so she called my father ‘Pa,’ and her mother mothered me.” The two friends loved to go dancing to the music of the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey band, and that skinny boy singer Frank Sinatra. And they still dance when they get together to reminisce about those times. “I was a freshman at DePaul University in 1938 when I met Mike Kelly, your father. He was a few years older and from the South Side of Chicago. He wore a fedora and said he wanted to be a writer,” she remembers. But then the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Mike immediately enlisted in the Navy and was chosen for pilot training. He proposed to Mariann the weekend he got his wings. “After we got engaged, your father’s Aunt Rose would introduce me to her friends by saying, ‘Mariann’s not one hundred percent Irish, but she does have two brothers who are priests.’ And having two priests in the family seemed to balance things a bit.” Mariann’s brother, Fr. Frank, married them in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York on June 5, 1943. Mike was stationed at Floyd Bennett Field, flying escort duty over the Atlantic and then learning how to catapult off aircraft carriers in preparation for an assignment in the Pacific. Both were very high risk. After the war, Mike and Mariann returned to Chicago, to a community on the South Side where most of the fathers had fought in WWII. “Did the men talk about their experiences?” I ask my mom. “Not really,” she says. “They preferred to trade funny stories about their service period. Your dad would tell about how he and a friend flew their planes low to buzz the bus I was travelling in from the base in Cherry Point, North Carolina back to Chicago when I was pregnant with you. Very exciting for me, but their commander wasn’t pleased.” My mom moved house seven times, because of my dad’s career in advertising. And she took it all in her stride. In fact, moving to her own beat might just be Mom’s secret to a long, productive life. “Most mothers did not have jobs outside the home, though we certainly all worked. A big family was the norm. Our six, five girls and one boy, was just average. Some of my friends had eight or nine children. Our energy went into family activities, often parish
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related. St. Patrick’s Day dances, the annual bazaar.” Ah, the bazaar. Every year the mothers turned Queen of all Saints gym into an “Aladdin’s Cave,” complete with roulette wheels, carnival games, cotton candy, etc. Magic! I now realize all those events my mother and her friends created required a level of coordination and invention that easily equaled the rollout of new Apple products. And the parties! I took it for granted that every milestone in the lives of my siblings and myself, as well as our dozens of cousins – first communions, confirmations, graduations – would be marked-often at a backyard barbecue with the whole family attending. There were similar gatherings at Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and many Sundays. We children and the dads helped, but really, it was my mom and my aunts who did all the work. In addition, my parents often entertained and were entertained by friends. I remember luaus and Halloween costume extravaganzas. “Why all this socializing?” I ask my mom. “Well, we had a lot to celebrate! Our husbands had survived the war and gotten good jobs. The harsh times were behind us. Like the song says, we learned to accentuate the positive,” my mom says. “Keep involved. Stay active.” This philosophy helped her through a mastectomy in 1975. “I went under anesthesia for a biopsy. The surgeon identified cancer and decided to go ahead and remove my breast, which I only discovered when I
FAR LEFT: Mariann Williams and Michael Kelly on their wedding day at St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s Lady Chapel on June 5, 1943. ABOVE: Mariann with her great-grandchildren: left to right: Charlie Lord, Jack Lord, Eddie Panian and Aidan Panian
woke up. A shock, of course, but that was the treatment then, and, 40 years later, here I am.” She is glad that today women have more say in their medical treatment. “And it is great there are so many women doctors now. My doctors are all women and they have kept me going,” she said. A positive attitude also enabled Mom to care for my dad from the time a stroke immobilized him at age 64 until he died nine years later, and to endure the loss of her sister and brothers, most of whom died too young, though her brother, my uncle Ralph, will be 100 this October. She attributes her own long, healthy life to all this interaction with family and friends. “Keep busy. Be cheerful. Care for your family and friends,” she advises. In May, Mom celebrated Mother’s Day with her great-grandchildren. They call her “GG” and see her as someone who reads them stories and plays endless games of cards. She’s still involved, still caring, and still in great shape at 94. Blessed and grateful are we her family. One last thing. When I fact-checked this article with her, my mother said, “But you forgot to write that I enjoy reading books and the newspaper and of course Irish America magazine! You can’t leave out Irish America magazine.” “You’re right,” I said, “I won’t. Especially since I know your go-to-gift for your friends is a subscription to the magazine.” “Good,” she said. Always right. Sláinte, Mom. IA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 81
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Cycles of Life | By Rosari Kingston
Lughnasa: Embracing Maturity The festival of Lughnasa was observed in Ireland at the end of the productive period in agriculture, and in folk circles it is said to correspond with the third stage in life, when it is time to reflect on maturity, achievement, and fruition.
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pilgrims undertake the climb in their bare feet over sharp stone and shale sliding underfoot. In bygone days, courtships initiated at this time culminated in marriage on “Runaway Sunday” or “Galloping Tuesday,” which were the vernacular names for the last Sunday and last Tuesday before the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday. Lughnasa belongs to that third stage of a person’s life, where it is time to reflect on what has been achieved and to realize that climbing new hills with the agility of youth is no longer possible. It is the time when women enter the third cycle of their lives. If they have had children, they are grown and independent, and physiologically the menopausal years have begun. Likewise for men, the need to provide for growing children has diminished and retirement is no longer on the distant horizon. Lughnasa is therefore a time for reflection, thanksgiving and recognition of achievement. It is
PHOTO BY: ORIGINAL CINEMA QUAD POSTER
Rosari Kingston is a professionally qualified medical herbalist based in West Cork, Ireland.
he four festivals that mark the beginning of each season in Ireland are Imbolc, Bealtaine, Lughnasa and Samhain. The period of Lughnasa begins on August 1, and marks the start of the harvest season, which includes the months of August, September and October. This season ends with the great festival of Samhain, or Halloween, on November 1. Lughnasa is identified with the fruition and completion of the agricultural year and as such, may also be identified with the same period in a person’s life, and an opportunity to pause, ponder, and reflect on the years of productivity and consequent fruition. Lughnasa is named after the Irish god Lugh, whose name means light or bright one. He established the harvest festival and funeral games, Áenach Tailteann, in honor of his foster mother Tailtu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. This fair used to take place in Tailtu (Teltown, Co. Meath) and was famous in bygone days. The crowds were so great in 1168 that the Annals of the Four Masters recorded the line of horses and vehicles was six miles long. Lughnasa is a time for celebration, because traditionally farmers hoped to have the first crops ready for harvesting by this time. These crops included oats, potatoes, and fresh fruit, and the festive meal was prepared from these foods. In bygone days it was also a time for community gatherings and excursions to hills and lakes, and often included hill climbing on the first Sunday in August or last Sunday in July. The annual Puck fair in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, commences on August 10 and is a good example of the Lughnasa tradition of celebrating the start of the harvest season with music, dance, drink, and play, as well as the trading of goods and livestock. This fair also involves the crowning of a male goat by a young girl, which some scholars think is a pagan fertility symbol. If so, it suggests that even in the midst of the harvest and fruition of one year’s crops, there is already the acknowledgement that the fruitful cycle will begin again. Folklorist Máire McNeill identified 78 hills that were used for these large community occasions and pilgrimages, the most famous being the annual pilgrimage to Croagh Patrick, in Co. Mayo, which occurs on Reek Sunday, the last Sunday of July. This pilgrimage has been taking place for well over a thousand years with 15 to 30 thousand pilgrims making the ascent on that day. The mountain is 764 meters in height and the climb takes about two hours. Some
The movie poster for Dancing at Lughnasa.
a time to give thanks for past abundance and to recognize that a new period of life is beginning to unfold. Just as the farmer stores the grain, and the housewife processes the garden produce, it is a time to consider the achievements of life so that they may sustain us through this season of life. The Lughnasa period of our lives is also an opportunity to appreciate the next generation as they climb the hilltops and we can calmly observe them from the foothills without envy or regret, glad that we have reached this time of year, and appreciative of its bounty both in nature and in ourselves. IA
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to having the same painful conversation with his three children; from living as someone who prized his brain and intellect above all other qualities to someone who now believes the heart to be more reliable. O’Brien grew up in Rye, New York, the eldest boy of 10 children in an Irish Catholic family. His parents were both second-generation Irish Americans. His father, Francis Xavier O’Brien, was born and raised in the Bronx and had roots in County Clare. His mother, Virginia Brown O’Brien, grew up in Manhattan with relatives in Wexford, Dublin and Derry. From an early age, O’Brien was aware that his mother’s father, whom
Alzheimer’s One man’s mission to document his battle against early-onset Alzheimer’s By Sheila Langan
CENTER: The O’Brien clan at a tavern on the Dingle Peninsula, in August, 2010. From left: Greg, his daughter Colleen, his wife Mary Catherine, and sons Conor and Brendan.
hen Greg O’Brien wakes up each morning in his Cape Cod home, he starts with the 5 Ws – the who, what, when, where and why central to jour-
nalistic inquiry. He’s asked these questions many a time throughout his almost 40 years working as a reporter, editor and publisher. The difference is that now he’s asking them of himself. O’Brien was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s five years ago, in 2009, at 59 years of age. The disease did not catch him by surprise – he watched his maternal grandfather fight it, then his mother. But he hadn’t expected Alzheimer’s to come knocking at his door quite so soon. As he has since learned, he is not at all alone in this devastating experience. “The stereotype of an Alzheimer’s sufferer is 85 years old, in a nursing home, going to die soon anyway,” he said when we spoke over the phone in April. “But Alzheimer’s is a disease that can take 20 years to run its course. There are people like me who have horrific short term memory, who don’t recognize where they are, and they’re in their 50s and 60s; they’re still active and working. “Nobody wants to go there, everyone wants to ignore it or they’re afraid to talk about it. We need to lift the veil of denial.” Citing the quote often attributed to the Kennedy political dynasty, O’Brien declares, “I’m Irish. I don’t get mad, I get even.” His way of getting even with Alzheimer’s? Turning his reporter’s eye on himself and writing a book with the hopes of shattering the stigma of Alzheimer’s through some very necessary conversation. “It’s a demon of a disease and my mission right now through my writing is to expose this demon, to give people with Alzheimer’s and their families hope that you can live with it.” On Pluto: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s is a searingly honest tour-de-force. O’Brien intimately describes what it’s like to be him – his journey from barely acknowledged suspicions to diagnosis; from helping his mother through her battle with the disease
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they affectionately called “Daddy George,” was struggling with something. “In time, I began to realize that something was terribly wrong with my grandfather,” he writes. “His sentences were becoming shorter as his voice trailed off. He didn’t recognize us on occasion, and he stared a lot in withdrawal. Often, he just shook his head, in an acknowledgment when asked a question. I thought he was hard of hearing.” Decades later, his mother began to show similar symptoms. Initially, she simply refused to be sick. O’Brien’s father was suffering from circulatory disorders requiring constant care and medical attention. Over time, however, “Mom began sticking knives into sockets, misplacing money, brushing her teeth with liquid soap, refusing to shower, not recognizing people she knew, hallucinating, and raging at others, often directly at me.” But his mother also gave him a road map for his own battle. “Unremittingly, she cared for my dad, always refusing to succumb to disability. She encouraged me in my own progression; she taught me how to fight, how to live with Alzheimer’s, how never to give in to it.”
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hen O’Brien received his diagnosis in 2009, his mother was still alive, in the last years of her own fight with the disease. In the weeks before her death, she told him “we all have a purpose in life. Go find it!” and O’Brien promised her at her deathbed that he would write about Alzheimer’s. “I said this starts and stops right here – we’re going to talk about it now in candid terms.” O’Brien’s own experience with Alzheimer’s began with short term memory loss and confusion – not recognizing people or forgetting where he was. Then he sustained a severe head injury in a cycling accident, which, doctors explained, sped up his early onset. He learned that he carries variant ApoE4, the strongest genetic risk factor for Alzheimer’s. O’Brien has also been diagnosed with prostate cancer, which he is not seeking treatment for. “It’s my exit strategy,” he said pointedly. “I watched my grandfather and mother fight this to the end, and I don’t want that. I know there isn’t a cure right now.” Mary Catherine, O’Brien’s wife, has been with him every step of the way. One of the most wrenching scenes in On Pluto recalls the painful moment when O’Brien first tells their children – Brendan, Colleen and Conor – and, later, Brendan’s reaction to learning that his father had given him power of attorney. The family’s experience supporting O’Brien and grappling with what the disease means for them is captured in the short documentary “A Place Called Pluto,” directed by Steve James. In the weeks following his diagnosis, O’Brien, a devout Irish Catholic, began to question his faith. “The light went out in the early stages,” he said. “There was one day when I was writing in my office in Cape Cod, and I knew better but I got angry and I started throwing PHOTO COURTESY GREG O'BRIEN / IRISHCENTRAL.COM f-bombs at God, yelling, ‘You don’t give a shit!’ I was throwing so many f-bombs at the Lord I thought I was going to be turned into a pillar of salt.” But then something happened. “I went out into the driveway and noticed the back tire on my yellow Jeep was flat, which made me even angrier. I drove a mile to a service station, you could hear the thump thump of the tire hitting the road. The attendant, who’d been in school with my son Conor, took care of it right away. A few minutes later he came back and said, ‘I want to show you something.’ I was still angry so I said I didn’t care what had done it, but he showed me what he had pulled out of the tire. The culprit was a small piece of scrap metal, bent perfectly into a cross. “I felt at that point the Lord saying, ‘OK. You’re going to die someday so maybe now that you know this we can do some things together.’ I decided that on the way out I might be able to do something special.” He began by writing down everything about himself and his life. “I was afraid of forgetting all the memories, all the anecdotes. I collected almost 1,000 pages of notes and from there my gut told me this would be my book.” There were points along the way when the task seemed too daunting, but O’Brien persevered. “Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest stories out there today, so shame on me if I don’t tell it. Do I like talking about it? No. Do I need to talk about it? Yes. It’s a personal and journalistic responsibility.” O’Brien acknowledges that there are many great books about Alzheimer’s already out there. Lisa Genova, the neuroscientist/novelist who wrote Still Alice (adapted into the widely acclaimed film starring Julianne Moore) was immensely helpful to him and penned the preface to On Pluto.
“But,” he added, “I’m finding that people now want to hear from the front row.” The view from the front row is hard to take. O’Brien depends on his laptop and his iPhone, to keep notes, to tell him where he is, even sometimes for the meaning of a word when he can’t recall it. At times, up to 60 percent of O’Brien’s short-term memory is gone. He experiences intense rage, he sees things that aren’t there, he falls into depression, he has moments where he doesn’t recognize his closest family members. It’s a tormentingly gradual process, too, “like having a sliver of your brain shaved off every day, or death by 1,000 cuts.”
ough as it is, with an estimated 35 million people worldwide suffering from Alzheimer’s today, it’s an important view to share. The feedback and connections since On Pluto was released last August have been profound. O’Brien recalled one chance encounter at Boston’s Logan Airport: “In November, on my way back from Ireland, when I got off the plane I had to make a lot of phone calls so I worked out of a restaurant there at Logan. All of a sudden I noticed a young woman was looking at me and I saw that she had a copy of On Pluto. She was there at the airport picking up her relatives from Wexford for a family gathering and she had just given a copy of the book to her father. I talked to him for a while and it turned out he had early onset like me, we cried a little and had a really good talk. “Then a few days later I got an email from his daughter inviting us over to her family’s place in Duncannon, so in July we’re going over to spend a week in Wexford with her father.” Ireland, where he wrote parts of On Pluto, offers O’Brien peace and comfort. Since his parents passed away, he made a promise to visit at least once or twice a year. “It’s a soul searching trip for me,” he said. “I feel a part of Ireland, I feel at peace in Ireland. It makes me feel like I’m going home.” The family usually travels along Ireland’s western coast – to Galway, the Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, the Ring of Kerry, Kinsale and Cork – before taking the train to Dublin. O’Brien credits his Irish heritage with helping him place more faith in his heart as his brain becomes less dependable. “I don’t trust my brain anymore. It used to be my best friend and now I don’t see any chance of reconciliation,” he said, “so I write and speak from the heart. I think the Irish have always done that, whether it’s poetry or prose.” Besides, he added, “memory isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. We all remember different things – how big was that fish again? Was it really a sunny day? I could give a speech to a crowded room and two people will give different accounts. The essence is the heart.” IA This article was originally published April 22 on IrishCentral.com. To learn more about Greg O’Brien and On Pluto, visit his website onpluto.org/greg-obrien.
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“I Believe in Her”
An interview with debut novelist Kevin Jack McEnroe By Adam Farley
ABOVE: McEnroe with his tattoo of his grandmother, Joanna Moore. Under her image reads, “Serenity Side Down.” TOP RIGHT: Kevin Jack McEnroe, author of Our Town. Partly visible is the first tattoo McEnroe got – an eight-circle celtic cross found in the Book of Kells.
Our Town is published by Counterpoint Press. (229 pages / $25)
t 29, Kevin Jack McEnroe calls his grandmother, the actress Joanna Moore, his “guardian angel.” He credits her, and his debut novel Our Town, a fictionalized account of Moore’s life and struggles with failed relationships and substance abuse, with helping him come to know himself better. So much so that got a tattoo of her on his left arm just after the book was published. Moore (named Dorothy White in the novel, a reference to her full given name of Dorothy Joanne Cook), along with actor Ryan O’Neal, are the parents of actress Tatum O’Neal, McEnroe’s mother. His father is the famed tennis player John McEnroe. Both his grandmother and mother lost custody of their children as a result of substance abuse and were often the subjects of tabloid articles. All of this, however, situates him nicely to write the intimate novel this is, that lifts the tabloid curtain on the darker side of Hollywood and personal defeat – something McEnroe knows himself. The same day he was offered, but had not yet signed, the book deal, he was arrested for trying to buy cocaine in New York, and ended up on the front page of The New York Post the following day with the headline, “Family Curse: McEnroe & Tatum kid in drug bust.” After rehab and a year off drugs now, he acknowledges Joanna, as he calls her, familiarly, has been a significant part of his professional writing career from the start. Though they only met once when he was five, that meeting became the genesis for this novel. As an undergraduate, he was assigned to write a story from the perspective of the opposite gender, and he took Joanna’s. “I wrote this story that was about this grandmother and her grandson and the way he viewed her and looked up to her, as if he was the only person in the world who might do that,” he says. “From then on I kept coming back to that character, and a version of that first story has been in the book since.” That compulsion to return to Joanna comes through in the unique narrative voice of the novel, which might be described as urgent, but casual familiarity, with the tics of an oral history. It is one of the most compelling aspects of this debut. When we meet at a small coffee shop around the corner from his apartment in Brooklyn, this is where we begin. I’m fascinated by the narrative voice. It felt like the narrator had to tell this story, but also that it had already been told. Right, that it’s very im-
portant. My initial instinct in writing the book was
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that the story of my grandmother is just a cautionary tale of “this person is just a fuck up,” and I thought there was more to it than that. So perhaps you think you know this story, but you don’t know this part, and maybe this part is actually the most important. There was something about her ability to not believe in herself. To be close to success but then believe she didn’t deserve it, and to screw it up and get in her own way. That’s a theme of the book – to constantly get in your own way. And that was the thing that I eventually felt like I understood about her. Because I had felt like I had that too. And it made me really empathize with her. And I hope that came through.
What research did you do for the book? My
mom remembered that later in her life Joanna used to write short stories. She’d never told me that, and she found a big binder of her writings. That was the most significant research I did – to read all the way through those and try to figure out how Joanna’s brain worked. Even in her diary she had this ability to disassociate herself from the actuality of the situation – she’d be losing her kids in custody battle and yet be writing things to herself like “lost four pounds today” and “skin looks beautiful.” So she actually has – I’m sure drugs and alcohol really allow for this – this ability to disassociate from the actual reality and just sort of be in the exact moment she was in. And in fact I know that drugs and alcohol do that. Drugs, specifically, can allow you to feel like you’re living just for that and those moments where you feel happy and everything else falls away. I thought she was just a failed actress, I had no idea she had this secret passion for wanting to tell a flowery children’s story about happy kids and good parents – kind of an alternative history for her own life. And that’s what I knew this needed to be – not taking her stuff, but the idea of honoring her in that way. Did writing this book affect your relationship with your parents? Your mom, specifically? It
made it better. She didn’t read it until I had a galley and she read it and she called me crying and told me Joanna would love it. I think Joanna was viewed as this cautionary tale, and my mom even felt that way for a long time, too, wondering, “Why are you choosing drugs more than your kids?” But it’s not a choice at that point. You don’t think in those terms. One of the things that happened when I finished the book was that I was able to actually understand my mom and the fact that it’s not a choice. And that made me able
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if she had only ever realized this is what she had, she’d be able to fix it. But she thought it was so many other things.
And you feel that’s something inherited? I do, just because Tatum has it,
Joanna has it, more so even than drugs and alcohol. And I think I finally fully realized then why I was so interested in Joanna. I put two and two together and I realized I was really writing about the fact that she had something inside of her and that she had passed that down to me that is just sort of an inability to get out of your own way at times. And once I knew that was in me, I could think, “Oh, I know what that feeling is,” and every time I feel that I can stop.
How do you do that now? I just know what it is. And I was never able to recognize it before. I just thought I was making specific mistakes – one thing would happen, and then another, but there was no link as to why. But now I’m able to see the pattern. And when I really figured that out is when I was able to create a thesis for the book. So that’s why I can’t really say I regret it all. In fact I think it’s one of the best things to ever happen to me. Yeah? Yeah, because it changed my life for the better. I probably could have
to forgive her, which made us even closer. And I’m very happy about that. It’s almost part of the book’s mythos now that you were offered the book deal the same day you were arrested. Did that change your conception of how the novel would be shaped? I took it a lot more se-
riously. I spent 20 hours in jail, in the tombs, holed up, and it was just unbelievably horrendous. I was so down on myself and thinking, “Oh God, I’ve done this. I’ve screwed my dreams up and everything I’ve ever wanted is falling away from me.” But Joanna’s really my guardian angel. I’m not religious, but there was something sort of cosmic about saying, “Okay, this is still real, I need to, for her, take this seriously, take my life more seriously, and cobble together something that really means something.” I became more empathetic to her, so the book changed from being this semi-factual account to me feeling like I understood her even more – and myself even more, and the fact that I couldn’t do that anymore – and it became maybe more of a love story to her. I think it always had some of that, but I came to believe that this needed to honor her because she saved my life. The first line I wrote after I got arrested was “But she always got in her own way. She never quite figured out how to get out of her own way.” And I thought this is what the book is about. That’s what the narrator has – everything has to come back to that. That is something she doesn’t even understand herself. But now I do. And the narrator does too. And
casually done drugs for years like everyone else I know. But drugs allowed me to not be particularly productive and got in the way of things. So now I have a strict no-drug policy and it’s been pretty good. I looked back and realized that I always did drugs when I was uncomfortable. If I was out somewhere I didn’t like, that’s when I would always say, okay, lets get some drugs. And now I feel like if I go to places where I’m comfortable, I don’t even think about it. And that really has been a very positive change. I’d love to hear more about your attention to detail. Some of the ways you describe Dorothy’s clothing, or the process of her putting on makeup, or even what she herself is noticing, it seems like a key into her psychological state of mind in that moment. To be honest, it bogs a lot of
people down, but what I wanted to get across was a sense of set design, and the way the characters view the world. And the way the chemicals are getting in the way of how the characters view the world – to constantly exhaust you. The dissociative element to Joanna’s stories had a lot to do with that, too – the characters are pushed away from how they feel by focusing on other things. And I also feel like it was a tactic for me, as the writer, to see if I can distract you enough so as not to feel like Dorothy is a bad person. I never felt like she was a bad person, but I thought some people might. But I felt like the readership I have would, hopefully, over time, relate to her, and feel like there’s something about her that is lovable. And I want her to shine because she doesn’t know how to. I think what the book does a really good job of is creating a good sense of tragic sympathy for Joanna. I think it’s that we all have some of that in us.
We all have ways we can screw up our lives. Really it’s that feeling of knowing you’re doing something wrong but you do it anyway. And hasn’t every person in their lives done that once? Even if you’re dieting, and you say, “I’m on a diet but fuck it.” And it feels good. Imagine that. Shine a magnifying glass on that feeling, and that’s how you live your life – “I’m losing my kids but fuck it. I can go have a drink now.” But I feel like everyone I know, or at least everyone I care about, has that in them. And it’s tragic to go through your entire life and never realize that you’re worth more. And I do want people to love her. Because I, or at least the narrator, loves her – there’s a lot of love there. And I believe in her. The narrator believes in her. And I want everyone else to. IA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 87
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Eat Your While most people think of Ireland as a nation of “meat and potato” eaters, vegetables and dairy products are also a vital part of the Irish diet. By Edythe Preet
THIS PAGE: Don’t underestimate the importance of multicolored veggies in the Irish diet. OPPOSITE PAGE: Eat like a Nobel laureate with the 1972 cookbook comprising recipes devised for George Bernard Shaw by the woman who was his cook and housekeeper during the last 16 years of his life.
ne of my favorite Irish proverbs concerns Ireland’s most famous vegetable: “Be eating one potato, peeling a second, have a third in your fist, and your eye on a fourth.” For me the adage implies: Always have a back-up plan. Ireland’s other tremendously popular veggie figures in its own morsel of good advice: “There’s no use boiling your cabbage twice.” The message here seems to be: Do it right the first time. Odds are, the second saying has been around much longer. Potatoes became a primary staple only after their introduction to the Irish pantry in the mid16th century. On the other hand, cabbage, which is called brassagh in Irish, has been a documented Irish culinary essential for more than 1,000 years. Pieces of charred bone and massive shell middens found at archaeological sites evidence the consumption of seafood and meat in ancient Ireland. Even though it is difficult to prove which vegetables were eaten before the 8th century, it is safe to assume that people relied on what they could gather in the wild such as onions, leeks, sorrel, nettles and watercress. The revered hazelnut, capable of bestowing wisdom on whoever ate it (as told in the tale of clever Fionn mac Cumhaill who ate a salmon that had fed on the magical nut), was collected and used in cakes as a ground meal, roasted or eaten raw. Various fruits – sloes, wild cherries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, rowans, whortleberries, crabapples and elderberries – would have been gathered in the summer and either eaten fresh or dried. The only fruit authenticated to have been deliberately cultivated is the apple. A passage in the 8th century Brehon Laws stipulates that a tenant who lost his land for any reason must be compensated for any apple trees he had planted. Things began to change with the arrival of Christianity and monasteries. Medieval monks nurtured extensive gardens where they grew all manner of edible plants as well as medicinal herbs. From the 9th to 12th century, literature mentions the lubgort or vegetable garden that was fertilized with manure in the autumn and planted in the spring with a variety of vegetables. The onion-like cainenn was widely cultivated, and eaten raw or added to stews. Immus (celery), foltchep (a kind of chive or leek), meacan (carrots), and cerrbacan (parsnips) were also grown. Peas and beans were introduced by the Normans for thickening stews or mixing with cereals to make
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a type of bread. After the 12th century, turnips were also planted, plus a type of wild cabbage and kale. Watercress was used as a salad vegetable and added to stews as were several water plant roots, which were also eaten as vegetables. A wild garlic called crem was primarily a flavoring agent but it was also eaten as a vegetable. In the days of the High Kings, a chieftain’s wealth was measured by his cattle holdings, as illustrated in Táin Bó Cúailgne (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), the early 12th century epic in the Ulster Cycle of hero tales that recounts how a war erupted over the theft of a bull. The vast majority of animals in Ireland’s herds were, however, dairy cows that were more prized
because they provided a constant and virtually free supply of ‘white meats’ (milk, butter, and cheese). In the 11th century tale Aislinge Meic Con Glinne, the Ardagh scholar Mac Conglinne calls himself “greedy and hungry for white-meats” and visits the court of the Munster king where he finds a wondrous cornucopia of good things to eat. The importance of dairy cows is further illustrated in Odhar Chiarain (St. Ciaran’s Cow), which appears in the 12th century Leabhar na hUidre (Book of the Dun Cow). Although cow’s milk was the most common source of “white meat,” the milk of goats and sheep is also mentioned in early records. Goat’s milk, now known to be more easily digested than cow’s milk due to its low lactose content, was rightly, though serendipitously, believed to be the best food for children and invalids. Sheep’s milk was considered a luxury, possibly because sheep produce much less milk than cows. From these three milks the Irish made many
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sláinte | recipes Champ
cheeses: tanach, a hard-pressed skim milk cheese; that, a soft cheese made from warm sour milk curds; gruth, a curdy buttermilk cheese; mulchan, a soft buttermilk cheese that was pressed and molded; and milsean, sweet milk curds that were eaten at the end of a banquet or festival feast. A semi-soft cream cheese made from thick sweet cream with a bit of salt and dry mustard was also popular. Cheese is even mentioned in accounts of Saint Patrick and Saint Brigid, Ireland’s patrons. Patrick is said to have had a cheese maker in his retinue on his missionary travels. Legend tells that Brigid once made enough cheese to feed all the people of Leinster with just a few cups of milk. While most people think of Ireland as a nation with a “meat and potatoes” culinary tradition, vegetables and dairy products have always played key roles in everyone’s diet. Meat appeared frequently at meals only on the wealthiest tables, with the general population experiencing such culinary delight solely on special occasions, if at all. It should be no surprise, then, that there has been strong interest in a “vegetarian” diet in Ireland for more than 130 years. The Belfast Vegetarian Association was formed in 1878 as a branch of England’s Vegetarian Society, and by 1890, the movement had spread to Dublin. The present Vegetarian Society of Ireland was founded in 1978. Its primary aim is to advance education, and to promote the positive aspects of vegetarianism in relation to health, animal welfare and environmental issues. To that end, the Society publishes a quarterly magazine entitled The Irish Vegetarian and a cookbook titled Simply Vegetarian, organizes vegetarian-themed meet-ups all around the country, sponsors the annual World Vegetarian Day fair in Dublin, promotes “Meat Free Monday” as a way for people to transition to alternative proteins other than meat, and offers dozens of easy international vegetarian recipes on its website, vegetarian.ie. Ireland’s most famous vegetarian was the acclaimed playwright and politically active Nobel laureate George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950). A staunch vegetarian for 70 years, he is said to have stated: “Animals are my friends, and I don’t eat my friends.” Perhaps this too will become an Irish proverb someday. Something to think about. Sláinte! IA
RECIPES 3-Cheese Broccoli Flan
1 medium broccoli crown, steamed & chopped roughly 2 ⁄3 cup crumbled feta cheese 2 ⁄3 cup shredded cheddar cheese 1 ⁄2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese 3 eggs, beaten 2 1⁄2 cups milk
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch glass pie pan. Sprinkle with chopped broccoli, feta, cheddar and half of the parmesan. Mix beaten eggs with milk and then pour slowly over the broccoli and cheese until it almost reaches the top edge of the pie pan. Sprinkle remaining parmesan cheese over the surface. Place the pie pan on a rimmed cookie sheet (in case the flan bubbles over during cooking). Bake for approx. 45 minutes or until a knife slipped into the flan can be withdrawn without any milky custard adhering to it. Makes 6-8 servings.
1 1⁄2 pound potatoes, peeled and cut in eighths 1 bunch scallions, minced 1 ⁄2 cup milk
Place potatoes in pot with water to cover, bring to a boil and cook until fork tender, then drain. While potatoes cook, put minced scallions in a small saucepan with milk and heat, but don’t boil. Mash drained potatoes, scoop scallions from milk and stir into mashed potatoes. Add enough milk to make the mixture creamy. Serves 4. (Note: if any champ is left over, mix in a few tablespoons of flour the next day and fry in patties to make Fadge – yumm!)
12 medium size leeks 1 cup milk 1 ⁄2 cup cream 1 egg yolk, beaten salt and pepper
Clean the leeks well and trim them, leaving some green. Cook them whole in the milk for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and place in a serving dish, reserving the hot milk. Combine the egg yolk with the cream and stir this mixture into the hot milk; season to taste with salt and pepper. Then heat gently, stirring until it thickens but do not boil. Pour the cream sauce over the leeks and serve. Makes 2-4 servings.
(Irish Traditional Food / Theodora Fitzgibbons)
A Few Recipes from The Vegetarian Society of Ireland Arabic: Pita or Arabic bread heated with humus. Make a salad of sliced red onion, lettuce and sweet tomatoes with mint leaves, parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with olives and sundried tomatoes. British/Irish: Baked beans on wholemeal toast with chicory (or lettuce), walnuts, apple slices, dollop of egg-free mayonnaise, some salad leaves with dressing. Italian: Ciabatta or other Italian bread served with cooked French lentils, sliced tomato with balsamic vinegar, dried oregano and olive oil sprinkled over. Add some basil leaves, sorrel and chopped pecans. Mexican: A can of refried beans heated, spread on heated wholemeal tortilla. Add some chopped onion, toasted pine nuts, corn, chopped cherry tomatoes, salsa, chopped jalapenos, sliced avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 89
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what are you like | By Patricia Harty
What is your current state of mind?
I am pretty bushed after doing a televised interview and two radio shows at a literary festival in Hay on Wye, which is on the border between England and Wales. This is, perhaps the eleventh town I have been to in the last three weeks, in Ireland, Britain, the U.S. and Canada. I have lost count, actually. But it has been great to return to places where I have read before – wonderful independent bookstores like Politics and Prose in Washington and The Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I can’t believe I am still here, still hitting some of the markers I am hoping to hit: each new book is as hard or as engaging as the last, and you never know how it will all work out. It is also interesting to find myself older and a bit wiser. The last time I was in this beautiful little town I was lonely and slightly lost, looking for connection, wondering who was in the bar. This time I am happy to walk in the sunshine, go back to the bed and breakfast, make tea.
Your greatest extravagance?
The most expensive thing I ever bought was my career as a writer. Writing is the only job where you earn money in order to do it, and not the other way around. For the first fifteen years or so I supported my fiction with other work. It is a luxury, and it is an extravagance, and it is a privilege to work doing something you love, which expresses and enhances your most authentic self.
Do you have a hero in real life?
I am all for ordinary people. There is always something to admire. 90 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine?
I do “protagonists” not “heroes.” My favorite characters are flawed.
What is on your bedside table?
Melatonin tablets, bought in a U.S. pharmacy and taken back over the pond to get me over the jetlag. I am in a dotey, traditional house in Hay, with wisteria over the door and the most surprising and beautiful garden out the back, full of fruit trees and shrubs, with a vegetable patch and grapes growing up against a red brick wall. So English, and yet so real.
Your earliest memory?
I remember my cot as a baby. It was built by my father and painted blue with special lead-free “nursery” paint. I reached between the bars and tore the wallpaper away in strips from the seam. I don’t know when this happened, exactly. My first dateable memory is of a pot stand beside a step in a holiday cottage when I was eighteen months old. In the distance is a woman in a chair. She has white hair. It is my Granny and she is reading a book. My mother, as I discovered later, has gone to hospital with my eldest brother, who broke his collar bone that year. I think I am about to upset the pot stand. Both these memories are silent, tranced, slightly furtive.
Did you read a lot as a child? And if so what was your favorite book or author?
I read everything I could get my hands on at home and from the library beside my school in Rathmines, Dublin. My mother wanted me to love Wind in the Willows, a book she had adored as a child, but I was an Alice In Wonderland sort of girl. To be more precise, my favorite book was Alice Through the Looking Glass.
When did you begin to think of yourself as a writer?
Hard to say. I have kept everything I wrote from the age of thirteen or fourteen, so it must have started around then.
PHOTO BY: JOE O'SHAUGHNESSY
nne Enright was born in Dublin, where she now lives and works. She has published three volumes of stories, one book of nonfiction, and five novels. Her 2007 novel, The Gathering, won the Man Booker Prize, and her novel, The Forgotten Waltz, won the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. She is currently the inaugural Laureate for Irish Fiction. Her most recent book, The Green Road, is a tale of family and fracture, compassion and selfishness – a book about the gaps in the human heart and how we strive to fill them.
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a sense that her life is, somehow, about to change. We don’t know if her life will change, but we love her for wanting something better. Hardly anything happens in this story, and yet it is very moving.
Do you strike up conversations on long plane journeys?
Yes I do. But only towards the end. I also talk to taxi drivers and random strangers. This evening a little girl sang a lullaby for me in a café, all in Welsh. It made me very happy.
Do you have a hidden talent?
After two weeks of interviews I don’t know if anything I have is hidden. I can touch my toes. I can actually put my hands flat on the floor. Is that a talent?
Favorite country you have visited?
How does your own family react to your fictional family. Do they accuse you of writing about them? No. Because I don’t.
Best advice ever received?
My mother has great advice. Many years ago she advised me against offending people’s religious beliefs. She said, “If someone worships a stone in the road, and you laugh at them, they will pick it up and hit you with it.” I don’t know how useful this advice has been to me personally, but it does show how truly smart my mother can be.
You did a brilliant job of switching of narrators in The Green Road – how did you conceive the structure of the book?
I think I improvised for the first year or so. Messed about. Inched along. Somewhere in there, the structure I needed became apparent, and I began to stick to it.
When you are teaching, what was your favorite book to assign and discuss with your students?
I love talking about Raymond Carver’s story “Fat.” It is a tiny, glancing moment in an ordinary life – a waitress feels great empathy for a fat customer; her boyfriend laughs at her for it and she has
ABOVE: Anne Enright. LEFT: The Green Road (W.W. Norton, 2015).
I am pretty much against the idea of “favorite” anything. I like new things, new places, new books, food, perfume. I don’t settle or make lists. Judging things, organizing them, just wears me out.
What books do you find yourself returning to again and again?
I return often to the poetry of my youth – Yeats, in particular.
Is it true that Irish women writers don’t get the same attention as men? (I’m thinking the Field Day Anthology first volume, which had no women). And if so, why?
Well that is a million dollar question – if we knew why women were so excluded then we could fix it. Calling Irish men out on their misogyny seems a bit rough when Irish men are so nice. I suspect that Irish anxiety about the female voice starts very early. I mean it is not sexualized. Irish men aren’t freaked by their girlfriends, but by their mothers. And what man wants to listen to his mother?
What do you do to relax and clear your head.
I walk by the sea. Sometimes it is hard to stay out of it, indeed, and I have a swim. Water fixes everything for me.
What’s next for you?
Sleep, car, plane, car, The Listowel Writer’s Festival (which IS my “favorite”) in County Kerry. IA August / September 2015 IRISH AMERICA 91
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crossword | By Darina Molloy Across
1 New Lance Armstrong biopic (4) 3 Kate Middleton aka the Duchess of ________ (9) 7 Des Bishop’s NY neighborhood (8) 9 See 12 down (7) 13 Hit U2 song, also covered by Mica Paris and Mary J. Blige (3) 14 California site of tragic Irish student deaths in balcony collapse (8) 15 To eat snacks instead of full meals (5) 17 It’s 2,240 lbs in the UK and Ireland, but 2,000 lbs in the US (3) 19 The name of this county in Irish means ‘church of the toothless one’ (7) 20 This Patrick was in Grey’s Anatomy until recently (7) 22 The ____ Museum is located in Limerick (4) 24 Novelist John Irving is a native of this state (1, 1) 26 Shaun Davey’s seminal work for uillean piper Liam O’Flynn: The ______ Voyage (7) 28 See 44 across (4) 30 A member of The Society of Jesus (6) 31 See 34 down (6) 32 (& 28 down) Guildford Four lawyer (6)
35 This Mr. White wrote Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little (1,1) 37 Hugh Leonard’s Broadway play (2) 39 Conradh na Gaeilge or The _____ League (6) 42 Designated heritage town in Co. Limerick (5) 44 (& 28 across) County Roscommon’s Gaelic football stadium (4) 45 See 46 across (4) 46 (& 45 across) Students from this US university will attend summer school in Kylemore Abbey, Connemara from next year on (5)
2 (& 27 down) Stand-up comedian, actor and writer whose birth name was Richard Quinnslon (5) 4 Modern Stonehenge-like structure constructed off the northwest coast of Co. Mayo in 2011 (11) 5 Nickname of former Ireland rugby star, based on his initials (3) 6 This rock type is readily dissolved by water (9) 8 The dominant color in the Irish countryside (5)
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10 Dennis O’Brien’s mobile phone business (7) 11 Untruthful person (4) 12 James Joyce’s literary alter ego (7) 16 This county, as Gaeilge, is Cill Dara (7) 18 Expression of pain (2) 21 Small body of water, often in gardens (4) 23 (& 36 down) His memoir about the Irish War of Independence was called Guerilla Days in Ireland (3) 25 See 30 down (6)
Please send your completed crossword puzzle to Irish America, 875 Sixth Avenue, Suite 201, New York, NY 10001, to arrive no later than September 1st, 2015. A winner will be drawn from among all correct entries. If there are no correct solutions, the prize will be awarded for the completed puzzle which comes closest in the opinion of our staff. Winner’s name will be published along with the solution in our next issue. Xerox copies are acceptable.Winner of the June/July Crossword: Coleman Hession, Springfield, IL
92 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
26 27 28 29 30
See 43 down (6) See 2 down (5) See 32 across (6) To be aware of (4) (& 25 down) Mad Men’s Lane Pryce (5) 33 This Dublin-born Mr. Turner is the star of TV’s Poldark (5) 34 (& 31 across) Ireland’s most renowned stained glass artist (5)
36 See 23 down (5) 38 The acute accent over vowels in the Irish language (4) 40 An amount of a mineral that fills a crack or space in rock (4) 41 To sleep outside (4) 43 (& 26 down) Iconic Sligo mountain (3)
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review of books | recently published books “
By Nuala O’Connor
he Irish put great store in spinning a narrative around every small thing,” quips Emily Dickinson in Nuala O’Connor’s revelatory American debut novel Miss Emily. O’Connor’s narrative is no small feat, bringing together the life of Dickinson the poet and her fictional Irish maid Ada Concannon. What follows is a moving and often engrossing tale of the bonds of friendship, the power of language, and the intricacies of the human heart. O’Connor, who won rave reviews for her short stories in Ireland, turns her lyrical eye on one of the towering figures of American poetry, Emily Dickinson. Gone is the tragic image of the recluse haunted by death that has marred Dickinson’s image. Instead, O’Connor’s creation is imbued with humor and tinted with a subversion that can subtly be found in Dickinson’s poetry. O’Connor’s prose recalls the ethereal splendor of Dickinson’s metaphors and the robust language it is built upon. This is found in Dickinson herself who is “blanched, bleached, and bloodless to look at,” but inside “will roar and flash with color.” Not only does O’Connor capture the cadences of Dickinson’s language, but the ample research devoted to Dickinson’s life is seamlessly reimagined complete with solidly detailed sketches of the eccentric Dickinson family, the 19th century America they grew out of, and perhaps the most interesting is the commentary O’Connor provides Dickinson’s sister-in-law Sue who is described as “somewhat unknowable and changeable,” but who in many ways was Dickinson’s muse. While the story itself is called Miss Emily, readers will find that their hearts and minds will be taken by 18-year-old Ada Concannon, the dutiful and independent Irish maid. Ada’s is a story of Irish immigration, assimilation, and resiliency in a volatile period in American history that did not look kindly on immigrants. O’Connor conjures shadowed echoes of the Famine in Ada’s story, but her heroine is not a weak and submissive caricature; instead she takes pride in her work and draws strength from her newfound independence. For both women, their bonds of friendship are solidified in baking and the beauties of language, whether Dickinson’s poetry or Ada’s singing. While fictional, their relationship is the centerpiece of this tale, and while parts of the story are over baked, Miss Emily is a book one savors one spoonful at a time.
– Matthew Skwiat (Penguin / 256pp / $16)
94 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
The Accident Season
By Moïra Fowley-Doyle
his debut novel from Irish author Moïra Fowley-Doyle is a contemporary Irish fairy tale for young adults. Contained in the narrative are elements of the paranormal and the ethereal, accompanied by its share of dark and ominous twists. The novel follows the misfortunes of a dysfunctional, accidentprone family who find themselves in the midst of the “accident season” every October. This is a season filled with cuts and bruises, frequent visits to the emergency room, and plenty of near misses. The main plot is focused on uncovering the mystery of whether these accidents are really just coincidences, as some members of the family wish to believe, or something more sinister. Long-held secrets are revealed throughout the novel, while press-
ing questions torment individual family members. For Cara, the novel’s protagonist, this accident season coincides with her transition into adulthood. She uncovers secrets and truths about herself and her family and must confront the possibility that while she may have been aware of these all along, she lacked the courage to face up to them. In Cara’s world the lines between reality and imagination are often blurred. It is only when she gains an awareness of the distinction between the two that she can separate accident from intent. No longer held back by her child-like naivete, she finally sees people and their actions for who and what they really are. Fowley-Doyle touches on elements of Irish mythology and folklore to create a world in which reality and fact is superseded by fairy tales and superstition. The lyrical quality to her writing and the ability to keep the readers’ attention with each new reveal and twist make The Accident Season a captivating read and a solid debut.
– Siobhán Peters (Kathy Dawson / 304pp / $17.99)
Revisiting Rosemary Kennedy
imothy Shriver’s Fully Alive: Discovering What Matters Most (Sarah Crichton / 304pp / $15) and Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff’s The Missing Kennedy: Rosemary Kennedy and the Secret Bonds of Four Women (Bancroft Press / 214pp / $25) are two books that poignantly disclose our nation’s shortcomings, both historically and contemporarily, when it comes to understanding the mentally ill and intellectually challenged. These books also reveal the dearth of research concerning the women of the Kennedy family, which pales in comparison to the body of work focused on its men. As both of these authors show, this is especially true of Rosemary Kennedy, the eldest Kennedy sister, who was lobotomized and kept from her family and the public eye for over 20 years. Shriver’s Fully Alive (newly out in paperback) deals a great deal with the Kennedy and Shriver families’ influence in shaping national policies and organizations concerned with helping the intellectually challenged. Shriver details how his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, was an early champion for the developmentally disabled, and documents her role in the establishment of the President’s
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Eileen Gray: Her Work and Her World
By Jennifer Goff
ennifer Goff’s painstakingly-researched book on Eileen Gray, the Irish architect and furniture designer comes at a fortuitous time: a TV documentary on Gray’s life, Gray Matters, aired last October, and Mary McGuckian’s biopic, The Price of Desire, which deals with Gray’s famous falling out with Le Corbusier, comes out this year. Gray’s work has also seen two recent retrospectives in Paris and in Dublin. Goff, curator of the Eileen Gray Collection at the National Museum of Ireland, organizes the chapters not strictly chronologically, but thematically by either an aspect of the designer’s work or her personal life. She makes a point to devote a chapter each to Gray’s lacquer and her
carpets, including color photographs of many of these pieces in her lesswell-known media. She cites Gray’s house, designed for longtime partner and sometimes lover, Jean Badovici, as the designer’s most famous project and her masterpiece. Though Gray was notoriously private and destroyed many of her personal documents, Eileen Gray: Her Work and her World includes much of her private ephemera, including family photos and copies of typewritten letters. An entire chapter examines the correspondence between Gray and her niece, painter Prunella Clough; the two were exceedingly close, and their letters provide an interesting look at Gray’s family life, as well as her own personality and sense of humor.
Goff has made Gray her life’s work, and she told The Irish Times she spent ten years on the book. The book may appeal more to those already familiar with Gray’s work than those encountering her for the first time, as it has a rather frustrating lack of comprehensive images of Gray’s own home, Tempe à Pailla. But Goff’s dedication shows throughout the nuanced, extensive volume that covers both the personal and the artistic.
– Julia Brodsky (Irish Academic Press / 512pp / €59.95)
Panel on Mental Retardation and Camp Shriver, a summer camp for children both with and without disabilities. All of this work culminated in the creation of the Special Olympics in 1968, and which the author has been heavily involved with. The text abounds with insightful, instructive, and often times amusing anecdotes about other determined women as well, like Loretta Claiborne, who was not only a top athlete in the Special Olympics, but went on to finish the Boston Marathon in the top 100 women of the world. Such stories are where Shriver’s book really shines. His empathy for the intellectually challenged and his lifelong and direct involvement in their lives, and in the lives of those who fight to better the standing of the intellectually challenged in our society, afford him the ability to tell their story. His direct access to his famous family’s personal recollections of this same struggle also gives him a unique insider’s perspective. The same can be said about Koehler-Pentacoff’s The Missing Kennedy. It was her aunt, Sister Paulus, who was Rosemary Kennedy’s caretaker at Saint Coletta, where Rosemary was kept for many years after her lobotomy only exacerbated her intellectual and emotional challenges.
The Negotiator By George Mitchell
emoirs of American statesmen are generally categorized by dryness and anemic prose. George Mitchell’s new memoir, The Negotiator, avoids these pitfalls. Mitchell came to national attention as a junior senator from Maine, but gained acclaim as one of the key negotiators in the Good Friday Agreement. In stoic prose, Mitchell recounts his Maine upbringing, rise as senator, and crusade for social reform. He waxes nostalgic on his love of basketball and details his humorous encounter meeting Ingrid Bergman in Paris who asked for a light he didn’t have, but “made it a point to carry matches whenever I went out.” Occasionally, Mitchell sounds like he’s still campaigning – “Having lived through the tragedy of unemployment, I know that most of those out of work would prefer to be working” – but these moments are overcome by the moments of humor and candidness elsewhere. But the heart of the book is in Ireland, where his initial “brief” and “interesting” assignment in 1995 hatched into a meaningful Irish-American legacy. He details the IRA attack in Omagh, and the tumultuous time that followed. In the end Mitchell said, “I am and always will be an American, and proud of it, but a large part of my heart and emotions forever will be in Northern Ireland.”
– Matthew Skwiat (Simon and Schuster / 402pp / $28)
While Koehler-Pentacoff’s book offers an intimate glance at the sheltered life that Rosemary lived while her glamorous family grew in prestige and power, her book is more of a personal and family memoir that deals a great deal less with Rosemary Kennedy than its title suggests. Though its discursive nature can leave the reader feeling lost and disoriented, it still serves to highlight the need for this story to be told in greater definitive detail. For those simply interested in the story of Rosemary Kennedy, Shriver’s book contains chapters that deliver a clearer explanation of the events that led to his aunt’s lobotomy and subsequent banishment. Shriver and Koehler-Pentacoff’s accounts don’t always match up, but both authors stress the fact that Rosemary served as an inspiration for the Kennedy and Shriver families’ involvement in the lives of the intellectually challenged, underscoring the need for more and better-researched accounts by uninvolved parties. Still, both books head in the welcome direction of telling the largely untold story of Rosemary Kennedy, and the story of the intellectually challenged and their allies in the fight to place them as equal members of society.
– R. Bryan Willits
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015 IRISH AMERICA 95
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photo album | the Shields family
My Irish American Mother
TOP: Graduation photo of Seton Shields.
RIGHT: Seton (left) and Stacy, already fitted with an arm, on her first birthday.
FAR RIGHT TOP: Stacy’s first arm.
FAR RIGHT BOTTOM: Seton Shields, President & CEO of Health Management Strategies, Inc.
’ve written about several Irish American mothers for this magazine – Eugenia Biden, Lorna Colbert, and Anne Meara – and the word that always comes to mind is indomitable. Nothing breaks them, which makes it all the more shocking when we lose them. My mother was a member of this club. The last-minute child in a Jersey City family that included two older sisters, Mom was named Seton by her mother’s cousin, Sr. Aldegonde of the Sisters of Charity, founded by Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Born a Shields, she resumed use of her maiden name post-divorce, so most knew her as Seton Shields. Like her sister Bea, Mom studied nursing. Her R.N. training and time in St. Vincent’s emergency room in New York would provoke later warnings against motorcycles (“the gravel gets embedded in your skin”), but more critically, equip her for the curves life tossed her way. By 21, she was married and living in France with two children with birth defects. As a blue baby whose heart healed spontaneously, I got off easy, but not so my parents. My baby book is riddled with notations in Mom’s tidy script that only medical professionals would understand. And then came my sister. On the day of her birth, Dad wrote a letter to his parents stateside. “There is no doubt that she’s a delicate beauty but, unfortunately, not perfectly so. God gave us Stacy without a right forearm and hand,” he wrote. “We have, however, come to recognize and accept the situation with the avowed determination 96 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
to make Stacy’s life all that it should be. To achieve this end, nothing will be spared.” As a nurse, Mom instantly grasped more than the readily apparent implications. Without an arm, Stacy would lack balance, and that would have a ripple effect in terms of her development in even such basics as crawling and walking, so Stacy soon became the youngest person ever fitted with a prosthetic. That kind of resolve and advocacy helps explain how Stacy went on to, among other accomplishments, become the star of our high school boys’ tennis team and mother of four remarkable children now Doogie-Howsering their way through a pile of degrees. That same determination would also lead Mom to parlay her nursing degree into a career as a health care executive. Tasked with launching a subsidiary, she landed a $70 million contract the first year and was on her way to becoming the rarest of creatures – a female CEO in the 1980s. To this day, she’s the only CEO I’ve heard of who could run a corporation by day and whip up a feast for a dozen or sew Halloween costumes for her grandchildren by night. When she departed too soon, several who knew Mom best assured me that she was up there giving St. Peter a hard time. As one wrote, “She was a powerhouse of a woman. I’ll bet she’s even now demanding to see someone in charge and wondering aloud why this heaven place is not any better organized than it is, after all this time.” Yes, that’s her. Indomitable still. – Megan Smolenyak
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last word | By Thomas Cahill
Irish Really Are
he shocking news leapt across the airwaves and sped along the Internet – the Irish, by national vote, had declared gay marriage equal to the straight version. Gay marriage, something virtually unknown just a few years ago, had been approved as fully lawful and valid within the borders of the Irish Republic. Had been approved, not just by a majority of Irish voters, but by nearly two-thirds of them, many of them old men and old women, residents of rural areas who had grown up in hidebound circumstances – in a newly independent country that nearly all observers viewed as conservative in the extreme, sexually repressive, socially reproving, and hideously conventional. How on earth did Ireland become the first country on earth to allow such a thing, not by a decision of its judiciary, nor by a vote of its parliament, but by popular election, by the decision of a grand majority of its citizens? How have we so misunderstood the Irish as to presume that such a moment could never come to pass? That the Irish, of all people, would never lead the world in such a manner? A few moments after the news hit the airwaves I received a joyous email from an American friend, the biographer Donald Spoto, who moved to Denmark years ago when he married his Danish husband. He wrote: “I have always believed, contrary to the evidence provided by so many fake Irish ‘religious’ men in the U.S.A., that the people of Ireland are essentially humane, compassionate and sensible people.” Donald had the misfortune to be born to a pathologically cruel woman and a man who was rarely there. His sanity, his centeredness, perhaps even his life were saved by a community of religious women, nearly all of whom had Irish surnames. He knows the difference between genuine religion and fake. The Irish may get many things wrong, but they are compassionate even toward those who are exceedingly unlike themselves. They have an almost instinctive sense that sooner or later the snow must fall on us all, that, as Joyce writes at the close of Dubliners, his great collection of short stories, the snow falls “through the universe… upon all the living and the dead.” It is this belief in the essential oneness of all humanity that has for many years given us Dublin’s Saint Patrick’s Day parade, an exercise in wild universality, welcoming everything and everyone – 98 IRISH AMERICA AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 2015
and, therefore, much more fun than New York City’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which only this year welcomed for the first time one small gay group of paraders. The woeful absences of so many others cannot be attributed to Irish up-tightness so much as to American Puritanism. Otherwise, why would the Dublin parade welcome us all, while the New York parade looks down its nose? The monumental model of compassion in Irish culture is, of course, Saint Patrick himself, the fifth-century apostle to Ireland. As his beloved Irish converts were being snatched away to Britain by pirates and forced into slavery, Patrick was left at the shore to mourn their plight: “In sadness and grief, shall I cry aloud. O most lovely and loving brethren and sons whom I have begotten in Christ, what shall I do for you?...The wickedness of the wicked has prevailed against us.” Patrick’s compassion reaches its acme when he considers the plight of the Irish women forced into slavery: “But it is the women kept in slavery who suffer the most – and who keep their spirits up despite the menacing and terrorizing they must endure.” Such clear sympathy for the plight of women is virtually unique at this stage of human history. Patrick is also the first human being in history to speak out unequivocally against slavery. Nor will any voice as strong as his be heard again till the seventeenth century. It is Irish compassion that wins out in the end over all other virtues, however fine those may be. Such compassion, such grand compassion – especially toward those whom others deem outcasts – in the end conquers all, perhaps even death itself, to follow us, whoever we are, however outcast, beyond the Joycean snow, even beyond this world, as Patrick in his imagination followed his stolen and slaughtered Irish children toward ultimate dignity: “O most dear ones…I can see you, beginning the journey to the land where there is no night nor sorrow nor death…. You shall seize the everlasting kingdoms, as he himself promised, when he said: ‘They shall come from the east and the west and shall sit down with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.’” IA
Senator David Norris following the launch of the “You’re not out until you’re out to your TD” campaign.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Thomas Cahill is the author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Volume I of The Hinges of History.
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The annual Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 issue, featuring Dancing with the Stars' Noah Galloway. Plus, look inside Dublin's Croke Park; th...
Published on Jul 28, 2015
The annual Healthcare and Life Sciences 50 issue, featuring Dancing with the Stars' Noah Galloway. Plus, look inside Dublin's Croke Park; th...