Bronx Irish legend turns 100 and throws massive party in Yonkers
Joe Cunningham, music legend, celebrates in style surrounded by friends and family
Not so long ago Rose asked one of her sons how old Joe was. They told her. Rose’s response was, “God must have forgotten him then.”
It’s Joe that tells this story all the time. He gets a great kick out of it.
Joe goes back to Ireland whenever he can. His last trip was in 2011. He was 99.
He attended the official opening of the Morrison Teach Cheoil (music house) in Riverstown, Co. Sligo, a center opened up in honor of James Morrison, a gifted musician, who taught Joe many years ago.
Joe shared his memories of Morrison and recalled events from his life dating back to 1930s and 40s. Joe has a memory like an elephant.
Joe and Rose, a Co. Leitrim native, are 64 years married. They met at the Carmelite Hall in April 1948.
“I knew there and then she was the one. She was beautiful, still is,” Joe told the Irish Voice in 2008.
Rose, in a white dress, was as stunning as ever on Sunday. “Isn’t she beautiful,” Joe said to his guests.
On being married so long Joe said, “It’s not that long when you enjoy being with the one person.”
In between catching up with his party guests, Joe would make his way over to Rose on several occasions to kiss his wife on the forehead. They are as much in love today as they were 64 years ago.
Joe is the sixth of seven children. Three of his sisters joined the convent and became nuns, and the rest of his brothers immigrated to America.
Joe, following in his brothers’ footsteps, left Crusheen in 1929. He was 17. His parents lived in the U.S. from 1989 to 1902 before returning to Ireland.
While working many jobs in New York to make ends meet, Joe found his musical fingers. He learned the accordion. And from there the Joe Cunningham Band was born.
They played the New York circuit for 60 years, and now his sons have taken over where Joe left off.
On Sunday they played many old tunes, and when the opportunity arose Joe sat back and proudly and happily watched them perform. He is their biggest fan.
God may have forgotten Joe, but the people he touches along the way certainly haven’t.
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