Beloved Rory Staunton

Rory Staunton, age 12 when he passed away, was always a little Irishman. He died in a New York hospital last weekend of a freak toxic infection.

Though born in Manhattan and a resident of Queens from an early age, he brought out his brightest colors where Ireland was concerned.

One of my first images of my nephew is as a four year old proudly flying the Irish tricolor in his house shortly before his family headed off to Ireland for the summer.

When there, he had a great friend in his cousin Donal in Westport County, Mayo. The two would be out and about all day, racing on the nearby beach, planning and plotting the games little boys play.

His father remembers a night when a gaggle of cousins and Rory decided to camp out all night. The longer the night went, the more the kids began to abandon it as things went bump in the night and temperatures dropped. Rory was the last to survive, brave as usual.

The rest of the time his mother and father, Ciaran and Orlaith, stayed in my sister Triona’s holiday home in West Kerry, hard by the Brandon mountain, wild and scenic and utterly isolated and where generations of the O’Dowds hailed from.

12-Year-Old Rory Staunton’s life is celebrated in style at New York church

When darkness comes and illness strikes a child

Rory Staunton, a beautiful boy, leaves this earth. The hardest column I will ever have to write

Rory loved it there and I walked the roads with him several times showing where his grandfather’s farm was and where 14 kids were raised on a patch of land that would “scarcely bathe a star” as Yeats remarked.

He loved to hang out in the pubs there, listen to the fishermen tell their tall tales, race down to the piers to see the boats come in and measure up the catch.

Padraig, his relative there, marked Rory out early as an Irish lad.

“That fellow is not American at all,” he’d say, looking at the flaming red head, so clearly at home among the locals.

“Yerrah, he’s one of ours,” he’d say.

He was indeed one of theirs and now he is home among them though not the way any of us could ever have imagined.

Aer Lingus Flight 104 took off from New York last night with Rory’s little body on board. There was never a question but that he would go back to his people.

The airline could not have been more accommodating and helpful to us family members heading back on our long journey home with Rory.

We arrived in Dublin on a cold but clear spring morning into the embrace of the loving tribe. Family had come from all over to bear him home.

Over the next two days before he finally rests beside his nana in an Irish graveyard, the Irish tribes he springs from, the Stauntons from Mayo to the O’Dowds from Kerry and Louth, will embrace him back into their bosom now.

Their laughing American Irish boy is home.