The Irish in America


Where Were You?

Last November 24th was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President of the United States John F. Kennedy. Many people took a moment on this anniversary to remember where they were when they heard the news.

We recently received an email from Seamus Hora from County Mayo in response to our blog post. He sent along a wonderful poem he wrote describing “where I was when I learned of the sad news of the tragic passing of President J F Kennedy.”

Detroit Tigers v Washington Senators

Where Were You


In my mind I see him clearly

As he stood inside the door

We sat and gazed in silence

At the sad news that he bore.


We all were fascinated

By this man from USA

Honoured by a visit.

From charismatic JFK


The worlds greatest speaker

Simple words-But oh so true.

For a country to be proud of

You must make an effort too.


He promised as he left us,

He would return again someday

But a sniper from a window

Sadly had the final say.


We had no television

But felt that we were there

For coverage was provided

By the great Michael O Hehir


I was playing bingo

The clock had just struck ten

The gambling house Mulrennans

The bearer; Our late friend Eamon Quinn


by: Seamus Hora

Seamus Hora was born in Gorthaganny, County Roscommon. He has been employed by same company, Delaneys Ltd in Ballyhaunis, County Mayo, for 44 years. He has lived in Ballyhaunis for the past 20 years. Seamus is married to Rosaleen and the couple has one daughter, Sandra. Seamus only recently started to write poetry. and he bases his poems on his life experience. He values feedback and would like to hear what people think of his poem. Please leave a comment!

Thank you, Seamus, for sharing your poem! Stay tuned to the blog for my profile of Monica Wood, the author of the beautiful memoir, When We Were the Kennedys, later this month. You will also have the chance to win a copy of the book!


Leave a comment

Francis S. Byrne (1913-2014)

Francis (baby) with brother John and sister Winifred

Francis (baby) with brother John and sister Winifred

My grandma and I were chatting one afternoon in the Fall of 2003, just like we always did when I came for a visit on Sundays. She pulled a postcard from the pile of mail on the window sill by her chair and handed it to me.

“Francis Byrne will be 90 on December 12th,” she said. “You know, when we were small, he used to try to tell me we were the same age because we were both born in 1913. I’d say, ‘No way, Francis. I am almost a whole year older than you – my birthday is on January 12th!’ You know how kids are. I suppose I tried to boss him around because I was older or something…”

I jotted the anecdote on the postcard and we sent it back to Peggy, Francis’ daughter, for a book of memories she was putting together for his 90th birthday. I was trying to sort through the family tree in my head and I had to ask Grandma, “So, exactly who is Francis Byrne?”

Grandma smiled and told me he was Nell Regan Byrnes’s youngest son, my grandpa’s first cousin. Nell Byrne,w as also best friends with Grandma’s mom, Mary Foley. We spent the rest of the afternoon doing what I liked best: talking about family connections and the “old days”. Grandma reminded me that the banana bread recipe we all used came from Nell Byrne. (That’s a cute story that I will share soon.)

It was six months before I thought about Francis Byrne again. My Grandma died on April 23, 2004. Her death was hard on me and like most grieving family members, I felt like I was just going through the motions on the day of the funeral. I remember little of that day until the luncheon which followed the service when Gene Regan (another of my grandpa’s cousins) introduced me to the man sitting next to him.

NB,JB, FB 1942

Francis with his parents, Jack and Nell.

Francis Byrne. Francis flashed warm smile and said, “Your grandmother was a wonderful woman.” It took me a moment to realize this was Francis, son of Nell. We got to talking and for the first time in days, I forgot that I felt empty and sad and I missed my grandma. I asked Francis if he remembered his mother’s banana bread. His eyes lit up and he chuckled, “Why, yes, of course…she made delicious banana bread. I haven’t had it in years.”

I told him I made his mother’s banana bread on a regular basis – his mother had given my grandma the recipe years ago. I offered to bring him a loaf next time I made some.

“Ohhhh, that would be great. I look forward to it!”

Initially, my visits with Francis helped fill the void left by my grandma’s passing. I missed her so much. There was something that seemed so right about getting to know the son of my great-grandmother’s best friend. I liked the continuity of it. But as I got to know Francis, I thought less and less about the family connections and more about what a great man Francis was.

Francis was sharp and funny and a fantastic storyteller. He had one of those enviable, outgoing manners and could talk to anyone about anything. Francis was loyal, dedicated to his family and friends. He was concerned for the well-being of those around him. He was tough – not tough like he was mean or beat people up – tough like he dealt with the crap life threw at him, came out on the right side, and carried on.

Francis was a great friend. I miss him very much, but am thankful for the last ten years.

Francis Sylvanus Byrne

Byrne, Francis Sylvanus age 100, of Hopkins, formerly of St. Louis Park. Born 12/12/ 1913, passed away 1/1/2014. Francis was proud of being 100% Irish. lifetime member of the NARFE, and longtime worker for the Mpls Postal Service. He was a proud member of the American Legion, VFW, and Knights of Columbus in both Hopkins and St. Louis Park. Preceded in death by wife, Marie; and siblings, Edwin, John, Mary, Winifred and Shirley. Survived by daughter, Peggy (Peter) Julius; granddaughter, Breanna Julius; and friends and family. In lieu of flowers, memorials preferred to the family. Mass of Christian Burial Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014, 10:30 AM with visitation 10 AM at Holy Family Catholic Church, 5900 W. Lake St., St. Louis Park. Visitation also Tuesday, Jan. 7, 5-8 PM with prayer service 7 PM at: Strobeck Johnson Chapel 1400 Mainstreet, Hopkins 952 938-9020

Published in Star Tribune on Jan. 5, 2014


Remembering Donald

They say that one of the first steps to learning about your family history is to talk to your oldest living relatives. They actually knew the people behind the names in your family tree print-out. These relatives have stories to tell, memories to share.

Nearly ten years ago my mom and I set out to learn more about our family and arranged to meet two of my grandpa’s cousins – Donald and Gerald Regan. The brothers taught us much more than we thought possible about my grandpa, the entire Regan family, and growing up in Clontarf, Minnesota .

Donald passed away last month, one day shy of his 96th birthday. He was a loving husband, father, and grandfather, a proud Navy veteran of World War II, a successful businessman, and a former mayor of DeGraff, Minnesota. Donald was friendly, outgoing, and charming. He loved to be in the mix and hear the latest news. Donald’s brother Gerald said he inherited these traits from the “Regan side” of the family. I will miss Donald’s delightful gift for storytelling and am grateful I had the chance to listen.

Donald and his sister, Kathryn.

Donald and his sister, Kathryn.

The first time I met Donald in early 2004*, he brought my mom and me on a driving tour of Tara Township. As we drove out from Clontarf, with what seemed to me to be an endless expanse of land on either side of the road, Donald began telling us who lived and farmed each section, beginning with the original nineteenth century settlers through the present-day owners. From the front seat, his brother Gerald filled in the gaps. I was in awe – I didn’t even know the names of the forty other residents of my condominium!

As we slowly rounded a corner, Donald pointed out a grove of trees set off from the road, and he stopped the car.

“Can you see a house in there? That’s where John was born. Let’s see if we can’t get closer.”

John was my grandpa and Donald’s first cousin. Donald and Gerald grew up across the railroad tracks from my grandpa in Clontarf. Donald took a sharp turn into the “driveway” – a muddy springtime mess of rocks and decaying twigs. I was certain we would get stuck, but Donald knew what he was doing. We got out of the car and walked up to the house. Donald made sure we didn’t get too close, it wasn’t safe. There was my grandpa’s birthplace, glass gone from the windows and walls gently caving in, but still standing thanks to that grove of trees.

Several years later, when Donald had moved into the Manor in Benson, he navigated his scooter down to the Whistle Stop Cafe to meet us for lunch, with the same purpose and confidence with which he drove up to Grandpa’s house that Spring day. I liked how Donald maintained his independence – with a touch of determination. Mom and I came to town a couple of times a year, meeting Donald and Gerald for lunch and a chat about “old times”. Without fail, Donald and Gerald dazzled us with entertaining tales of life in Clontarf.

At each meeting with the brothers, I waited patiently for Donald to break out his “Annie voice”. In a high-pitched tone he would say, “Oh, Sonny!” mimicking my great-grandmother Annie Hill Regan’s chastising her son for some transgression or another. I simply loved how Donald scrunched up his nose and exclaimed this phrase with a twinkle in his eye. This meant the world to me, and I think Donald got a kick out of it as well.

Donald helped fill in the gaps in our family history left by my grandpa’s early passing. My mom and I were a captive audience as Donald and Gerald reminisced about old times. As Donald helped me get to know my grandpa through his memories, he gave me a special glimpse into his own life. The Donald who was a protective older brother to Kathryn, a boy earning a little extra money sweeping out the furnace at McDermott’s in Clontarf with his brother Gerald, and Julia’s youngest son. We were lucky that Donald was so generous with his memories, his time, and his friendship. Rest in peace, Donald.

*I am sure I met Donald in the 1980s at a Regan Family picnic, but I didn’t get to know him until Spring of 2004 when my mom and I first visited Clontarf together.

Donald W. Regan

September 14, 1917 – September 13, 2013

Donald W. Regan, 95 of Benson died Friday, September 13, 2013 at Meadow Lane Nursing Home in Benson.  Mass of Christian burial will be 10:30 a.m. Saturday, October 5, 2013 at St. Bridget’s Catholic Church in DeGraff.  Burial will be in the church cemetery.  Visitation will be held from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. Friday at the church with a rosary at 4:30 p.m.  Visitation will continue on Saturday for one hour prior to the service.  Funeral arrangements are with the Harvey Anderson Funeral Home in Willmar.

Don_0Donald William Regan was born on September 14, 1917 in Clontarf, the son of Patrick and Julia (Duggan) Regan.  He attended Clontarf Elementary and Benson High School, graduating in 1936. After his schooling he entered the U.S. Navy where he served his country during WWII.   On December 27, 1945, Don was united in marriage to Margaret Helen Coy at the Catholic Church of Visitation in Danvers. They made their home in DeGraff where Don managed the DeGraff Lumber Company. They were able to share in 57 years of marriage before Margaret’s death on July 27,2002. Don enjoyed traveling, dancing, watching sports, especially Notre Dame football, Vikings and Twins.  He was the Commander of the Hughes-McCormack Post of the American Legion until his death, was a member of Knights of Columbus and had served on the school board, city council and was mayor of DeGraff.

Donald W. Regan died Friday, September 13, 2013 at Meadow Lane Nursing Home in Benson at the age of 95. He is survived by his children, William Regan of Benson, Julia (Everett) Richardson of Surprise, AZ, Dr.Timothy (Michelle) Regan of Santa Rosa, CA, Patrick Regan of Mpls, Duggan (Cindy) Regan of DeGraff and Daniel Regan of Blaine;  7 grandchildren; 3 step-grandchildren and 6 step-great-grandchildren.  Don was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret; son, Bruce; siblings, Clarence, Howard, Catherine, Agnes and Marjorie.

– from Harvey, Anderson & Johnson Funeral Home