Those We Lost: Recent Passings in the Irish-American community

Composer John Barry

By Irish America staff
April / May 2011

A Tribute to Those who have Passed

John Barry


Oscar-winning composer John Barry died on January 30 from a heart attack, at age 77. Barry’s compositions heightened the drama and complimented the moods of films such as Out of Africa, Dances With Wolves, Midnight Cowboy and Born Free. He was also the man behind the iconic music heard in all of the James Bond installments from Dr. No to The Living Daylights.

Born John Barry Prendergast on November 3, 1933 in York, England, Barry became familiar with films at an early age. His father, a Cork native, started off as a projectionist and then ran a small chain of cinemas in northern England. At a young age, Barry learned to play the piano and the trumpet, and dabbled in many other instruments.

After performing with an army band during his few years in the service, he started the John Barry Seven. In addition to playing live, the group also scored theme music for a few hit TV shows, such as Juke Box Jury, which garnered them attention.

Soon after Barry began composing for films,  he was signed to be Monty Norman’s back-up for Dr. No. Years later the two composers disputed whether Barry had actually taken charge of the soundtrack and Norman successfully sued him for libel. There was never any doubt, however, that the rest of the Bond music was entirely Barry’s.

He married four times, including once to Jane Birkin, and spent his last three decades mostly in Oyster Bay, N.Y. with his fourth wife, Laurie. Barry is survived by Laurie and their four children: Kate, Jonpatrick, Sian and Suzanne; and five grandchildren.
– S.L.


Mary Cleere Haran

Mary Cleere Haran, cabaret singer, passed away on February 5, 2011 in Deerfield Beach, FL. She was 58. Haran died two days after tragically being hit by a car while riding her bicycle.

Haran was born May 13, 1952 in San Francisco, CA, the second of eight children. Performing was in her blood – her father taught theater and film at San Francisco City College. She began as an Irish step dancer but, desiring to use the upper part of her body, Haran dropped step dancing and became a violinist. Unable to master the violin, she found that she could sing.
Though she came of age during the Haight-Ashbury period of the 1960s, Haran was inspired by the music and films of the 1930s and 1940s. She moved to New York in the 1970s, and made her Broadway debut in The 1940s Radio Hour in 1979. Her off-Broadway appearances included Manhattan Music, Swingtime Canteen and Heebie Jeebies.

Haran made her Manhattan cabaret debut in 1988 at the Ballroom. Four years later, the first of her six recordings, “There’s a Small Hotel,” was released. In addition to her cabaret work, Haran had a recurring role on 100 Centre Street, and produced, wrote or contributed to several PBS documentaries, including Doris Day: Sentimental Journey and Michael Feinstein’s The Great American Songbook.
Haran is survived by her son, Jacob, from her marriage to writer-director Joe Gilford; six siblings: Terence, Brigid, Ned and Time Haran, Bronwyn Harris and Eithne Bullick; and her stepmother, Loyce Haran.
– K.R.


John Horan

John J. Horan, former  CEO of Merck & Co. Inc, died of natural causes in New Jersey on January 22, 2011. He was 90.
From 1976 to 1985, Horan had a large impact on the pharmaceutical company. Under his leadership, Merck’s research, development and sales force increased significantly, making it the largest drug company in the world at the time. Horan also held an important role in humanitarian efforts by supporting the research for a drug to prevent and treat river blindness. Through the World Health Organization, Merck sent the drug to countries in need, free of charge.

A native of Staten Island, Horan graduated from Manhattan College in 1940. He went on to serve as an officer in the United States Navy Amphibious Forces from 1942 to 1946, during World War II. He was a part of history: he helped to send orders that led to the launch of the D-Day invasion while serving as communications officer on the staff of Admiral John Wilkes.

Following his time with the Navy, Horan earned a law degree from Columbia and worked his way up after starting out in the legal department of Merck in 1952. After retiring as CEO, he remained active in the company, serving as a member of the Board of Directors and as its vice chairman until 1993.

Horan is survived by his wife of 66 years, Julia Fitzgerald; four children, Mary Alice Ryan, Thomas, John, and David; grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
– K.M.


Kieran McGonnell

Kieran McGonnell, a contemporary Irish-born artist, died suddenly on January 11 due to complications from a head injury suffered in November. He was residing in Chicago, IL, where he had recently moved from Brooklyn, NY. In an Irish Echo article entitled “Top 40 under 40,” McGonnell had been selected as one of the top young Irish success stories living in the U.S.

His innovative artwork was characterized by a bold, vivid use of color, incorporating everything from oil paint and watercolors to air brush spray paint. His pieces featured a cavalcade of dazzling imagery from history, mythology, literature, architecture, popular culture and politics.

McGonnell’s work was exhibited extensively over the past twenty years, on both sides of the Atlantic. In the U.S., his work has been displayed at the Haggerty Museum (Milwaukee), Jan Larsen Fine Art (NY), Axel-Raben Fine Art (NY), and hundreds of other locations including The Kennedy Center Festival.

His work was used as the backdrop for the Fall 2000 New York Fashion previews for the prominent men’s fashion magazine D.N.R. He also painted stage designs for Sean Curran Modern Dance Company’s “Six Laments,” which has been touring the U.S. since its premiere in 1999. McGonnell was profiled in many publications throughout the U.S. and Ireland, including The New York Times, Boston Globe, L.A. Times, Irish Tribune and Irish Business Post.

In addition to his partner of 17 years, Gregg Driben, McGonnell is survived by his mother, Carmel McGonnell; brothers, Paul and Aiden; and sister, Karen.


TP McKenna

Irish actor TP McKenna, famous for his roles in The Avengers and Straw Dogs, passed away in London on February 13th, following a long illness. He was 81.

Thomas Patrick McKenna, better known as TP, was born on September  7, 1929 in Mullagh, Co. Cavan, Ireland. He attended Mullagh School and St Patrick’s College, Cavan, where he perfected his soprano voice in Gilbert and Sullivan operas and became interested in theater.

McKenna first worked with Ulster Bank. When he was transferred to Dublin, he joined the Shakespeare Society and the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society. In 1953, the bank wanted to transfer him to the quiet town of Killeshandra in Cavan, but McKenna quit the job to pursue a professional acting career.

McKenna acted in over 70 stage roles between 1953 and 1964, joining the Abbey Theatre and performing with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company. This led to television roles on shows such as The Saint, Jason King, Dr Who, The Sweeney, and Minder. He also acted in movie adaptations of the James Joyce novels Ulysses and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as well as films Red Scorpion and Straw Dogs.

McKenna is survived by sons Ralph, Kilian, Breffni, Stephen and daughter  Sally, daughter-in-law Karin,  grandsons Tom & Finnian, three brothers, five sisters extended family and  friends. McKenna’s wife May White, whom he married in 1955, passed away in 2006. He was laid to rest alongside her in Mullagh, Ireland.
– K.M.


Gary Moore

Renowned musician Gary Moore passed away on February 6, 2011 in Estepona, Spain, following  a heart attack. He was 58.

Robert William Gary Moore was born April 4, 1952 in Belfast, Northern Ireland – one of five children born to Bobby Moore, a promoter, and his homemaker wife, Winnie. He moved to Dublin in 1968, and joined the band Skid Row in 1969. While his time with Skid Row was brief, it brought him into contact with Phil Lynott, a founding member of Thin Lizzy, and a friend and collaborator until Lynott’s death in 1986.

After leaving Skid Row, Moore released his first solo album in 1973, Grinding Stone. He followed this with a brief stint with Thin Lizzy in early 1974, recording the lead guitar on “Still in Love with You” from the band’s fourth album, Nightlife. It would be the first of three stints with the band: he temporarily replaced guitarist Brian Robertson on the band’s 1977 tour of the United States, and rejoined from 1978-1979 to record Black Rose: A Rock Legend with the band.

Throughout his forty-year-career, Moore toured and recorded with a variety of artists and released 20 solo studio albums, the last being 2008’s Bad for You Baby. He also recorded three albums with Coliseum II between 1976 and 1977, and numerous live albums.
Moore is survived by his four children: daughters Saoirse and Lily; sons Jack and Gus; and his partner Jo.
 – K.R.


Charles Nolan

Designer Charles Nolan passed away on January 31, 2011 in his Upper West Side Manhattan home at age 53. The cause was cancer of the head and neck.

Nolan was born on June 5, 1957. The fifth of nine children born to Philip Francis and Elizabeth Frances Nolan, he was raised in Brooklyn and Massapequa, NY. Nolan possessed an interest in fashion from a young age, once staying up all night to watch a royal wedding, mostly to see the gown. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, he worked for Frank Tignino, Bill Haire, Bill Blass, Christian Dior, and Ellen Tracy before becoming the head designer of Anne Klein in 2001, revitalizing the collection.

In 2003, Nolan left Anne Klein to volunteer for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. A year later, he established his own label, setting up a shop on 30 Gansevoort Street and selling his designs at Saks Fifth Avenue. To showcase his clothing’s wearability, Nolan preferred to hire regular people as models, including a retired police detective and swimmer Dara Torres.

Nolan is survived by his partner, Andrew Tobias; his father Philip Francis Nolan;  and eight brothers and sisters
– K.R.

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