The death last weekend of Tom Moran, a giant in the Irish American community, continues the bad year that our community is enduring.
Men of the caliber of Bill Flynn, like Moran the former president, CEO and chairman of Mutual of America; MCI’s John Sharkey; and Bill Burke of Bank of Ireland and Country Bank have boarded the boat across the river Styx, leaving a huge void behind them.
All of them shared one defining trait: they made it from very little and never forgot their good fortune.
Moran worked as a cemetery worker, a hot dog salesman and a taxi driver to make ends meet. He never forgot his Catholic upbringing and the help of nuns and priests he met along the way.
Flynn, who passed in June, was a young boy during the worst of the Depression, growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Queens near where LaGuardia Airport now stands.
His father, miraculously, kept his job and Bill remembered his mother making dinner for dozens of neighborhood kids whose parents were destitute. Flynn was especially fond of quoting the line of Helen Keller in which she said, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”
Flynn and Moran took their forefathers beliefs and shaped their lives and accomplishments around them.
Burke was one of those emigrants, a banker who helped countless Irish businesses get off the ground by trusting the word of new businessmen. They rarely let him down.
Bill had come from Sligo with a few dollars and a dream, one he lived to see come through.
Sharkey was a child of Hell’s Kitchen, New York, as tough a neighborhood as existed in the 1930s. He made his way through life and earned a reputation as an utter gentleman. He was one of those who helped form phone giant MCI and partook in numerous liftoffs of new companies, but always he himself stayed grounded.
Don Keough, an Irish American legend and a giant of the American business world, passed away in 2015 but was the role model for so many successful Irish Americans.
He was a child of the Depression and one who was left homeless after a fire burned down his family’s modest farmhouse.
From such unpromising beginnings he became president of the largest international company on earth, Coca-Cola, but never forgot his Irish roots.
In his 88 years, from his humble upbringing to his role as a leader of Coke, one of the biggest companies in the world, Keough was a shining example of commitment to family and faith, hard work and determination.
“The rise of the Keough family from the prairies to the pinnacle of Wall Street is the story of Irish America in microcosm. If the immigrant Michael Keough could see his great-grandson today, what would he think?” a tribute to Keough said when he received an honorary degree from Trinity College Dublin in 2007.
“He would recognize in Don Keough the classic Irish immigrant values of commitment to family and faith, community and country, hard work, determination, good humor, lack of pretentiousness, unflagging energy, an ability to adapt to fresh challenges, an attitude that people should wear out, not rust out.”
The same goes for all those mentioned in this editorial. We will find it very hard to replace them, if not impossible. Simply put, we will never see their likes again.