Kevin O’Connor is the president of the Co. Roscommon Society. He is a Teamsters Union representative out of the Newark, New Jersey Budweiser brewery.
Tell us about your Irish heritage:
“Both my parents are from Roscommon. My mother is from Lung, Ballaghaderreen and my father is from Cloonmaguane, Tibohine. Both my mother’s family and my father’s family were farmers and my father’s family also owned the general store and dance hall in Tibohine.
“My sisters, brothers and I had a great upbringing. There were seven children (four girls and three boys) in our house and there was never a dull moment. Someone was always putting on a show or in the spot light for some reason.
“Growing up you weren’t sure what your name was because our parents would call you by the names of all the other children before they got to your name. My parents worked hard and achieved the American dream. My father is a retired brewery worker who always worked a second job. My mother was a nurse who took 20 years off to raise her family and then returned to nursing and is now retired also. Both have been great role models for us to this day.”
Why did you get involved in the Roscommon Society?
“I’ve been involved for several years now and was introduced to it by Tom Giblin, a past president and well-known in the Jersey Irish community. I was one of the Roscommon Society’s honorees in 2009 have served as the society’s treasurer and hope to be going into my third year as president. Having only Roscommon heritage makes the Roscommon Society and anything ‘Roscommon’ dear to my heart.”
What kind of events does the society host?
“We hold an annual dinner dance, and next year we will be holding our 85th annual dance on March 2. The society is a member of the United Irish Counties of New York and supports many Irish organizations and events in the New York/New Jersey area. We have monthly meetings where you may run into an old friend or relative and have a good time as well. If you’re of Roscommon heritage, visit the Roscommon Society website at www.countyroscommon society ofnewyork.com.”
What is your earliest memory of visiting Ireland?
“I’ve been to Ireland several times, with the first time being 1975. Having a big family it was hard to accommodate us since our cousin’s houses had seven, seven and nine children in their families.
“We stayed with an uncle who was a bachelor. Uncle Josie got hold of a caravan and that was where my brothers and I slept out back of the house. We still talk about the day several of us tried corralling a couple of donkeys to ride them. Although it was my first time in Ireland it felt like I was there before because of all the stories of the old country over the years.”
Were you tempted to return this year for The Gathering?
“The initial reports of The Gathering are that it was a big success. My wife and I were planning on going over for The Gathering, but then an Irish cousin announced that he was getting married next year so instead of going this year we plan on going to the wedding next year.”