The Irish in America

A Grandpa’s 100th Birthday


Today is my grandpa John William Regan’s 100th birthday. He was born on a farm in Tara Township, near Clontarf, Minnesota on July 23, 1913. John was the only child of Neil and Annie Hill Regan. Neil was a first-generation Irish American and Annie came from Kill, County Kildare. He was baptized at St. Malachy Catholic Church on August 10th.

Grandpa had red curls. Annie kept his hair in long ringlets until Grandpa had ear surgery at age four and had his hair cut.

Neil, Annie, and John – 1915

John must have had fun helping his dad on the farm.

John also kept Annie company on the farm. Annie doted on her son – you can tell by his dapper outfit!

In 1921 the family of three moved off the farm and into the town of Clontarf. The eight-year-old John finally started school and Annie had John take violin lessons from a local musician.

At school, my grandpa became known as “Red” Regan because of his hair. Soon playing ball and running around with the other boys took precedence over violin practice. Grandpa had a life-long love for cars and began driving at a young age.

Grandpa graduated from Benson High School in 1933. He was a star on the football team. I guess that stands to reason since he was nearly twenty-years-old during his senior year!

After graduation, Grandpa worked behind the bar at Bruno Perrizo’s in Clontarf. Here he is in his apron with childhood pal Leo Molony.

My grandpa moved to Minneapolis in the late 1930s. He hit it off with Agnes McMahon over a game of cribbage at his friend (and Agnes’ cousin) John Foley’s place. John and Agnes were married in 1941.

It’s strange to think of my grandpa’s 100th birthday because he didn’t even live to see his 58th. He passed away the year before I was born, but I am lucky to have learned about my grandpa through the memories and stories my grandma, mother, my grandpa’s cousins, and old friends shared with me over the years. I missed out on something really special – he would have been a fantastic grandpa!


Author: Aine

I live in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My heritage pretty much covers the map of Ireland: great-great-grandparents from Cork (Crowley, Foley, Regan), a great-great-grandmother from Clare (Quinn), a great-great-grandfather from Fermanagh (McMahon) and his wife's parents from Mayo (McAndrew), a great-grandmother from Connemara (Hannon) married to my great-grandfather from Laois (McCormack), great-grandparents from Sligo (Flannery), and a great-grandmother from Kildare (Hill). All of those people ended up in Minnesota, where my four grandparents were born. Three and four generations after my people left Ireland for America, I retain all Irish heritage. So much for the melting pot...

6 thoughts on “A Grandpa’s 100th Birthday

  1. This is a truly wonderful spread of pictures. My favorite is the baby picture, where John’s expression is so playful and serene — kind of like his high school picture.

  2. Although he didn’t live a long life, it certainly looks like your Grandpa lived a happy life. Look at that adorable smile in his baby picture … and the same smile can be seen throughout all the photos. Thanks for sharing his story.

    • Thanks, Carol. I think that baby picture is adorable, too! My mom says he was such a friendly, easy and outgoing man. He was ALWAYS the dad who drove my mom and her friends to the movies, dances, etc. He also waited with her in line for Elvis concert tickets. That’s a pretty good dad! 🙂

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  3. How lucky you are to have so many photographs of him from infancy up… he was handsome from the ‘get -go’ wasn’t he? Lovely post !

    • Thanks, Angela! It has been really cool over the past ten years or so, I have gotten to know a few of my grandpa’s cousins and neighbors and learned about what he was like as a child and young adult – before he met my grandma. Would have loved to have him as a grandpa…:)

  4. Great photos! As I’m reading, I wondered why you did not include any up to date photos. Now I see why. Why did he die young? I think there is a part two waiting to be posted, right? I will look for it.

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