Friday 24 March 2017

Posthumous honour for Himself as Chicago pays tribute to Christy

Respect: Mary O'Connor with the City of Chicago's special posthumous tribute to her late husband, golfer Christy O'Connor Sr Photo: Steve Humphreys
Respect: Mary O'Connor with the City of Chicago's special posthumous tribute to her late husband, golfer Christy O'Connor Sr Photo: Steve Humphreys

Dermot Gilleece

Five months after his death, a great Irish sportsman remains strong in the memory, even as far afield as the US.

"Isn't this a lovely surprise, especially for the children?" said Mary O'Connor, as she held up a special tribute to the man they called 'Himself'. Inside a dark green folder carrying the embossed seal of the City of Chicago, were two parchment pages representing a special, posthumous tribute to golfer Christy O'Connor Sr. The gesture was initiated by Edward M Burke, an Irish American with the distinction of being the longest-serving alderman in the history of Chicago.

Christy O'Connor Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Christy O'Connor Photo: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

It got to the O'Connor home in North Dublin by a decidedly interesting route. "Fr Hogan dropped it into me," explained Mary. "He was the man who said Christy's funeral mass." One imagines a Transatlantic linking of clergymen, landing it with Fr Martin Hogan, the parish priest of St John the Baptist Church on Clontarf Road, to where the folder was addressed, accompanied by an explanatory letter from Alderman Burke, chairman of the Chicago Council's finance committee. It read: "Dear Mrs O'Connor. Please accept my condolences on the loss of your husband, Christy O'Connor Sr. I also extend my sympathy to all the members of your family.

"As a token of our admiration and esteem, the Chicago City Council has adopted a resolution in memory of Christy. Enclosed with this letter please find a parchment copy of this resolution. Although this kind of commemoration can never replace your personal loss, I hope, in some small way, it demonstrates our respect for his memory."

Alderman Burke (72) has a birthday on December 29, which happens to be a week after that of Christy Sr who was 91 when he died last May. A life-long democrat, he was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1969, representing the city's Southwest Side, where it is reckoned that 10pc of the population is of Irish extraction.

"I loved the States, and Christy and I made quite a few trips there over the years for Ryder Cup matches and senior events," said Mary. "But to my knowledge, we never got to Chicago. Which makes this all the more thoughtful."

The pressures of rearing a young family caused Mary to miss Ryder Cup trips to California in 1955 and again in 1959. But she went with Christy to Atlanta in 1963, to Houston in 1967 and St Louis in 1971. Later, there were trips to the Texas home of Doug Sanders with whom O'Connor played in senior tournaments in the 1970s and early 1980s.

The document, couched in formal legalese, begins: "Whereas, Christy O'Connor Sr has been called to eternal life by the wisdom of God at the age of 91."

And it ends: "Be is resolved, that we, the Major and the members of the Chicago City Council do hereby commemorate Christy O'Connor Sr, for his grace-filled life and do hereby express our condolences to his family; and Be It Further Resolved that a suitable copy of this resolution be presented to the family of Christy Sr."

It is signed by the mayor, Rahm Emanuel, and the city clerk, Susana Mendoza.

Sunday Independent

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