Businessman, Irish American, and a mentor and friend to so many, John T. Sharkey of Lido Beach, New York, passed away peacefully on June 25, 2018. In his memory, IrishCentral is sharing his obituary and tributes from those who knew him and his passion for Ireland.
The grandson of Tyrone and Roscommon natives, John was born in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen to the late John and Lillian Sharkey. He was a graduate of Guardian Angel Grammar School, Power Memorial Academy and Iona College.
John is survived by his best friend and loving wife of 59 years, Helen (nee Saunders). He is also survived by his daughter Jacqueline, granddaughter Samantha Nicole, his son Brian and his wife Maria, and son-in-law Robert Eduardo. He is also survived by his sisters Virginia and Lillian and his brother Michael and his wife Alice. He also leaves behind several nieces and nephews.
John was the Chairman of Kane, Saunders & Smart. In 1986, he joined a newly-created group of seasoned executives at MCI to assist in designing and implementing a Corporate Accounts Division to market their high-end telecommunication/technology. John retired in 2000 upon the completion of the MCI and WorldCom merger. Prior to MCI, he was with Litton Industries, General Electric Company, Control Data Corporation, and ROLM Corporation.
John was dedicated to charitable initiatives, specifically, organizations related to peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. John was a Board member of The Ireland Funds America, Belfast’s FLAX Trust, Glucksman House at New York University, HeartShare Human Services of New York and ‘Co-Operation Ireland’, Belfast. John was also a founding member of The Ireland Funds Wine Geese Society.
A recipient of numerous accolades, John was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the HeartShare Services ‘Man of the Year’, the Lou Gehrig Humanitarian Award for ‘the Communication Independence for the neurologically Impaired’, The 1999 Millennium Award, The Leading Irish Americans of the 20th Century and the St Patrick’s Home Humanitarian Award. In 1999, the Smurfit Business School at University College Dublin announced Ireland’s first ‘Chair in Electronic Commerce’ named in his honor.
John was a lifelong friend to many and a well-respected mentor held in high esteem. John enjoyed traveling the world but was a true Irish-American New Yorker at heart. He will be sorely missed by his family and friends.
Tributes have poured in from friends and those whose lives he touched.
“‘John was deeply immersed in the resolution of the conflict in Northern Ireland but he did it in a way that he treated everyone who he met with civility, dignity and grace. I was privileged to know him and enjoy his decency,” said Peter Sheridan, Chief Executive, Co-Operation Ireland.
Donard Gaynor, non-executive Director of Glanbia, who served on the Co-Operation Ireland board with Sharkey, recalled his passion for the Irish Wine Geese, and the fascinating stories he would share after their travels.
Jim Clerkin, President and CEO of Moët Hennessy USA and Chairman of Co-Operation Ireland, left a heartfelt tribute to Sharkey, whom he described as “a very thoughtful, kind and gentleman. He and I both shared a love for wine and he was thrilled when he learned that I too was an honoree of the “wine geese” from Kinsale.”
He recalled how Sharkey “often would call me at the office out of the blue and offer sage advice and remind me, especially in the work of Co-Operation Ireland that ‘patience was a virtue.’
“I am proud to say that John was a special friend to me. John was generous with his time, his money and he and his beloved wife Helen often opened up their beautiful home to welcome family, friends and often in support of the home country.”
On Sharkey’s memorial page, Bill Erikson wrote:
“John was one of my favorite people - a good father, husband, citizen, and consummate professional. He was a true New Yorker who even when he achieved great heights never lost sight of those in need. He was a man of purpose and great causes - quick to reach out to his network to raise money for organizations large and small. His sense of charity was profound. I will never forget that when John hosted events for MCI at Madison Square Garden, he would always be sure that any extra food was bundled up so he could drop it off to those who needed it on his way home. He was a great sales and business leader with a common touch. He was incredibly smart, witty, dedicated to his team and staff and always remembered to give praise and counsel to his "Shark Club" while at MCI (I still have a jacket or two). I will miss him greatly. Rest in peace, John.”
“So sad to lose a giant of Irish America who had a heart of gold and was an innovative and fearless entrepreneur. Sincere condolences to Helen and all the family. It was only a few weeks ago that he and Helen came out to support the showing of the film, John Hume in America, hosted by the Ireland Funds. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann,” shared Ted Smyth.
In lieu of flowers, the Sharkey family asks for donations to Heartshare.Org