Irish eyes were indeed smiling on the day Kathleen Hayes Rollins Snavely of Syracuse, New York became the longest living person in Irish history.
When the clock struck 12am GMT (8pm EST) on Thursday, March 27, 2015, Snavely, born in Feakle, Co. Clare in 1902, surpassed the previous record of 113 years, 37 days, held by Annie Isabella Scott of Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.
The previous Wednesday, to mark the impending milestone, Kathleen’s friends Dave Liddell and Laurie Black, Onondaga County officials including Executive Joanie Mahoney, Syracuse Post-Standard reporter Sean Kirst, and the staff of the Centers at St. Camillus, where Kathleen lives, gathered for a small celebration.
Flowers were presented, Kathleen told stories of leaving Ireland in 1921 – before Ireland was a free state - at 19 years of age, and of her early years in Syracuse. Speaking of her humble beginnings and of the years of hard work she and her first husband, Roxie Rollins, put in as they built their business, Seneca Dairy, up from the ground, she expressed admiration for people who work hard over those born with a silver spoon.
"The dress doesn't make the woman," she said "It's what's inside the dress that matters."
But it wouldn’t have been a proper Irish celebration without a song.
Two members of the St. Camillus staff – Candace Lawrence and Michael O’Connor, who also happens to sing with the Syracuse Opera, serenaded Kathleen with the Irish American classic “When Irish Eyes are Smiling.”
Kathleen joined in with delight, her voice gravely but confident as she remembered all the words:
* Originally published in March 2015.