San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes White, in the media spotlight after her fire department did an heroic job helping to save survivors of the Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco. She is the daughter of Irish immigrants.
President Obama was among those who congratulated her and the other first responders on their quick actions. Two died and 48 were seriously injured when the plane crashed on Saturday en route from Seoul, South Korea.
Hayes White is a former San Francisco Grand Marshal of the St.Patrick’s Day Parade, a former honoree of the American Ireland Fund and was in the Irish American Top 100 on several occasions. She is one of the few female fire chiefs in any major city.
When honored by the American Ireland Fund she stated that her pride and joy were her mom, Patricia Hayes; siblings Dan, Gerilyn and Patty; and her sons, Riley, Logan and Sean. Without their support, she said, she never could have become the chief.
Her father Tom Hayes was a native of County Limerick and one of 14 siblings. In 1949, he immigrated to the States to take his chance at living the American dream.
"He was my mentor, friend, confidante, adviser," said Hayes-White. "In a tough situation, he was the first person I'd turn to.
"Because of my Irish heritage, I was raised in a culture of optimism and hope. I look at the glass as half full," she concluded as she thanked the crowd at the American ireladn Fund dinner in 2010. "These are values near and dear to me. And values I hope to pass on to the next generation."
Her father became involved in politics, served on numerous boards and committees, was also an athlete and was inducted into the San Francisco GAA Hall of Fame in 2008. Joanne said , “He always said, ‘Death is part of life and we all will have our day.’”
Hayes-White and her ex-husband Sean divorced in 2009 and she later accused her ex-husband of threatening one of her sons. He claimed she owed him alimony payments.