Special NY fundraiser in memory of John
Published 19/11/2013 | 05:40
A special fundraiser for the family of the late John O'Hara from Tourlestrane is to be held in his adopted New York next month.
Like thousands of immigrants before him, John left his beloved native Sligo to go to New York with the dream of a better life.
No one imagined the dream would end so soon.
John died suddenly of a suspected heart attack on August 14th this year, leaving behind his beloved wife, Alice, and five small children.
Upon arrival to the U.S in 1993 John stayed with friends Michael and Brendan Cunney, also from Co. Sligo.
He quickly settled into a new and exciting life in Pearl River, NY where he began working in the Cunney's sheet metal company.
In 2000 he started his own contracting company.
John met his wife, Alice (a second generation Irish-American), in O'Malley's Pub also in Pearl River and they were married two years later in July 1999 in Sligo.
"John was a wonderful man," says longtime friend and colleague, Gerry McGwynne.
"He would give you the shirt off his back and whenever we needed anything done in the house or extra help at work, John was there. Always!
"He had one of the biggest hearts I know ... always giving ... he was a carpenter by trade but John could turn his hands to anything and create magic."
Everyone who knew John has described him as a "wonderful man with a heart of gold".
He was a "brilliant brother, son, husband, father ... loved by all.
"A very giving man," says his brother Francis, heart-broken by John's sudden death.
"He was a fantastic family man," adds Ailish Cunney, (who went to school with John in Tourlestrane.)
Ailish later married John's friend Mike Cunney in 1997.
"He was always talking about the kids.
"Everything John did was for them ... the extra hours he put in at the Sheet Metal company and then his own company too ... working nights and weekends to help take care of his growing family."
Alice and John had five children in quick succession.
Shane, the eldest, is aged 9. He was quickly followed two years later by the birth of twins, Austin and Owen, now aged 7; then Ailish, age 5 and then, JP, age 4.
Any spare time he had, John spent with his children playing Gaelic football or soccer.
The children also inherited their father's love for the NY Jets and would often be seen in their matching green Jets jerseys cheering on the game.
Perhaps John's greatest joy was bringing the three oldest boys back to Ireland this past summer, just two months before his untimely death.
He brought them to all his old haunts and taught them how to fish.
Alice says: "He wanted the children to know their heritage and to be as proud of being Irish as he was.
"He would tell them about the fairies and folklore stories before sending them off to bed and so they were over-the-moon at the thoughts of finally heading to Ireland."
"We were never happier," adds Alice.
"John had always wanted to show his children the beauty and magic of the land he himself loved so deeply and pined after when he moved to the U.S.
"He loved America ... . but his heart was always back in Sligo."
John's death is a huge loss for his friends and family.
Particularly tragic is the sense of loss for his children who wonder where their dad has gone and why he isn't around anymore.
The people in Pearl River are a close-knit community that is like a "little Ireland" with a multitude of Irish.
The community remains as close in death as they were in life.
And that is why they have all gathered together to create a special Memorial Benefit in John's name to help raise much-needed funds for Alice and John's five beautiful children to help them deal with a very uncertain future.
Long-distance runner, Tom McGrath will run a marathon-length distance over 5 hours (one hour for each of the children) in Central Avenue Park on December 8th with a fundraiser to follow in Emmett's Castle.
* The O'Hara family needs your help to raise funds and awareness for this special event.
You can also donate directly via: www.youcaring.com/johnohara
For more information or questions please contact:
Fiona McKinney @ Fiona0916@hotmail.com