REMEMBERING MY UNCLE JOE
My mother’s side of the family was pretty large and growing up I had plenty of Irish uncles in my life. My mother’s family has its roots back in the Old Country in West Cork and more specifically on Bere Island, a fishy town down at Ireland’s most southwestern point. Back at the turn of the last century, Bere Island I was told had a few thousand residents then. Today, the population is down to a few hundred. Nobody seems to want to live there isolated by water. Sounds kind of nice to me. Oh, By the way, I am told most folks on the island are named either Harrington or Sullivan with a touch of Callahans too. My mother was a Harrington. My grandmother was a Sullivan and first married a Callahan. My grandfather’s name was James Harrington and my great grandparents were Michael J. Harrington and Joe Sullivan. My mother was named after her maternal grandmother. lots and lots of Sulivans and Harringtons all over the place.
When I tell old timers my mother was a Harrington, they think the Harringtons up on Bunker Hill Street. I have to tell them, she was a Harrington from Rutherford Avenue.
However, this week, I wanted to show even 60 years ago, the Irish assimilated quite well to America. I had one uncle, Joseph P. Harrington who quickly enlisted in the US Navy right after Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was a member of the greatest generation but he himself was pretty lucky too. He served in the War at the San Juan Navy Yard a safe place to be compared to being near Japan. He ended up meeting his future bride and they were married shortly after peace broke out. Her name was Blanca Gonzales and they ended up with four kids, all Irish-Puerto Rican.
My Uncle Joe’s middle name was Patrick and until he passed in 1978, down in Puerto Rico, they called him Pat and never Joe. He must have looked like a Pat.
After the War ended, he ended up with a career as a U.S. Customs Officer. He was a typical Irish uncle of mind. Very sociable. Very Irish. With great humor too.
I last saw him in the Summer of 1977 shortly after his wife my Aunt Blanche passed. He was 64 years old with a great Puerto Rican tan. He came home to Charlestown to see how things had changed. He walked around the neighborhood a bit but mostly spent his time with my mother.
I enjoyed that visit by him and it would turn out to be the last time I saw him.
He passed away in early 1978 at age 65 years old. I thought that was old but then I was 30 years old then. Today, I am older than he was back in 1978.
I no longer live in Charlestown but Charlestown will live within me forever.
It is a part of my Irish DNA.