The Coke Side of Life

The ad which gave a pleasant surprise to some Irish America readers

By Tara Dougherty, Editorial Assistant
April / May 2009

How one Coca-Cola ad gave an Irish America reader a very pleasant surprise.

The photo at right depicts Anne Marie Nevins and Joseph Michael Kenney on their honeymoon in Ireland in 1932. The image may be familiar to readers as it has often been featured in the Coca-Cola ads on the back cover of Irish America. Anne and Joe’s daughter Mary had no idea that the photo was on the back cover of the magazine, which her husband had subscribed to for years.

Their granddaughter Diane tells the story of when her aunt Mary made the discovery: “The day my uncle’s magazine arrived in the mail, my aunt had it stacked with the rest of the envelopes. She set the stack down on the table, and stopped in her tracks. There, smiling up at her, were her parents. The magazine was face-down in the stack and the envelopes shifted just enough for her to see their picture.”

Soon after Mary saw the picture, the family scrambled to find more copies of the magazine. Tommy, another of Anne and Joe’s grandchildren, visited a kiosk at Grand Central Station where he bought every copy. The following day, his cousin, Diane’s sister, went to the same kiosk only to be told “Some guy came and bought all the Irish Americas yesterday.” That guy, it turns out, was her own cousin.

Anne Marie Nevins and Joseph Michael Kenney were both first-generation Irish-Americans, born in New York City in 1897 and 1898 respectively. Anne’s mother, Bridget Finan Nevins from County Sligo, emigrated at the age of sixteen. Joe’s mother was Mary Lane (Leane) from Kerry.

When the couple met, Joe was a young World War I veteran and widower with two children, Mary and Jerry, and Anne was working as a private secretary. They were married on June 1, 1932 and honeymooned in Ireland. At the time, the International Eucharistic Congress of the Catholic Church was being held in Ireland and they were able to attend some of the ceremonies as well as visit a few pubs.
“At one pub they stopped in, Pop complained that his beer was too warm, so the bartender added some ice cubes to it,” Diane says. “That wasn’t exactly what Pop wanted, but there you go. At the time in Ireland, beer and ale were served without the benefit of refrigeration!”
Anne and Joe later had three children of their own, Joanne, Joe Jr. (Bud) and Peg. Joe worked as Deputy Chief Clerk of the New York State Supreme Court in Jamaica, New York. He died at the age of 69, shortly after retiring. Anne lived in the family house in Flushing, New York until her death at age 83.

Jerry, two-time Hawaii Iron Man Triathlon champion, is survived by two children. Bud is survived by two children and eight grandchildren.

Mary, now 84, is married with one son and three grandchildren. Joanne has six children and nine grandchildren to boast of. She is retired at the age of 75. Peg, now 72, and husband Ralph have retired to Marco Island, Florida. They have six children and fourteen grandchildren.
Though the Kenney family now has homes spanning the country from Phoenix to San Jose, the family ties remain strong. Diane says, “Anne and Joe’s children were fortunate to start their adult, married lives living in close proximity to one another. That gave us grandchildren the opportunity to develop close relationships which still exist today.”

In 1999, over 100 members of the Kenney family gathered for a reunion at Lake George, New York. Anne and Joe’s daughter Joanne observed, “The far-flung aunts, uncles and cousins all seemed to resemble one another. It was great!”

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