It's with a heavy heart I put pen to paper this cold Tuesday afternoon in Co. Meath. My husband John and I have just walked out of a beautiful church in Duleek, a quaint town in Meath that was once home to a wonderful man known as John Meegan.
On January 6 John left this world all too early. I guess it was his time. He was needed on the other side for greater things I’m sure. It’s always the good guys that leave this earth too early.
John, in his early fifties when he passed away just after Christmas while visiting his partner Marie Claude in Canada, left Duleek many years ago to pursue the dream that New York was offering all young Irish emigrants.
John lived in Yonkers, and when I say everyone on McLean Avenue knew John it’s not an exaggeration. If you didn’t know John personally you knew his friendly face.
A little after 6 p.m. every evening John could be found in the Irish Coffee Shop on McLean having his dinner, catching up with his best friends and just simply cheering up the world with his fun and games. His laugh was infectious.
I personally recall one evening meeting John after “one of those days.” I think I was missing home (Ireland) and my family. After a five-minute conversation with John my mood was instantly lifted.
John just had that way about him. He was always in a great mood, his smile was larger than life and his laugh — a hearty laugh from the soul — could be heard rippling up and down McLean. He was just one of those guys that made everyone he came in contact with feel great, including myself.
John was a rally man and was partial to golf and Irish music. But he lived for the rally car scene. He didn’t miss many races.
He traveled the length and breadth of the country watching his friends compete. His son Christopher documented the rallies visually and often wrote reports for various sites and papers, including our sister publication Irish Central Community News.
John had lots of best friends in New York. One of those was Charlie Donnelly who unfortunately also passed away suddenly in 2012, but certainly John’s number one was his son Christopher.
John and Chris were inseparable. On each and every occasion I met John it was Chris he first spoke about. I’ve never known a parent to be so proud of a teenager.
My experience with parents and their teenagers is more often than not disgruntlement and worry. There was never a negative word out of John’s mouth about his son.
You see, John and Chris were joined at the hip. They were best friends. They had mutual respect for each other, and John’s heart swelled with joy when he spoke about his handsome boy.
As Chris grew up and became a man John’s love for him grew even more, and it was like icing on the cake when Chris was accepted to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut to study journalism.
People poured out the doors of the church in Meath today to pay their respects in the rain to John’s family. His poor mother, Olive, survives John and was shaken with grief at the loss of her son. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church during the funeral ceremony.
I heard from friends in Yonkers over the past few days that the same scene was mirrored in St. Barnabas Church, where John was very active during his life there, at a Mass for him last Saturday.
John was a carpenter and a mighty one at that, but unfortunately I didn’t know John as well as I would have liked. I did, however, contact some of his friends in New York who spoke very highly of the vivacious character.
Shane McCann first came into contact with John through his cousin Charlie Donnelly many years ago. The pair had an instant connection and John helped Shane settle into life in New York.
“I have a lot of fun memories from the rallies (he was always putting up the flags on the roadside) working with John and of course with my wedding,” Shane recalled.
“He was an amazing character, always had a smile on his face and his laugh is unforgettable. John was a big hearted man who would always be there if you ever needed help. He was always willing to teach or school anyone. His biggest achievement is his son Christopher who he adored.”
Some of John’s closest friends were Fiona and Paddy Brennan. Their friendship spanned 15 years.
“John always had the generator going at full speed to have the kettle hot for the Barry’s Tea for the boys whenever they came in after a stage at the rallies,” recalls Fiona.
The boys used to spend months before a rally getting the buzz going.
“There was always great banter. They used to look so forward to see who would beat Tom Lawless or Charlie Donnelly and the ball breaking would go on in the evening over a cup of tea on McLean,” Fiona said.
“John knew everybody. He was so outgoing and always had a smile on his face.
“We will miss him for the texts and the phone calls. If John never called, Paddy would say, ‘Jesus Meegan didn’t call today.’ So we will miss him dearly. The cups of tea on the corner of the Irish Mini Mart or the Irish Coffee Shop will not be the same.”
Dympna Lynch met John about eight years ago. She was having dinner with her then 2-year-old daughter in Moriarty’s on McLean and it was proving a challenge to get her to eat. John came over to the table, spoke to little Mikayla and she was instantly smitten by his good charms.
“He convinced her to eat all her dinner and then they ordered dessert,” remembers Dympna fondly.
“She called him her big boyfriend. Every time she saw him she would give him a hug and chat away with him. Well Mikayla is now 10 and was so sad to hear her friend had a sick heart and is gone to heaven. She insisted on coming to the Mass for him and had the biggest smile at Communion when she got to see his beaming face — smiling at her once again.
“She insisted on writing a message in the condolence book — I told her just write her name. She wrote Mikayla, I love you xoxo.
“I will truly miss his face and that smile that would brighten your darkest of days,” said Dympna.
Today Chris said goodbye to his wonderful father as he was buried in his home place of Dunleek. Chris will return to John’s New York family, and together they will keep the memory of John alive through the many rallies they will continue to attend.
RIP John Meegan. You were one of the greats.