Those We Lost

From left: Jackie Healy-Rae, Kevin M. Kearney, Aodhan Madden, and J.J. Sheridan.

By Irish America Staff
February / March 2015

Jackie Healy-Rae

1931 – 2014

Following a long illness, Former Fianna Fáil TD for South Kerry Jackie Healy-Rae died early December. He was 83. Acknowledging Healy-Rae’s deep involvement with and appreciation for the people he represented in Kerry, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern called him “a great man who was very loyal. He never forgot his constituents and fought tooth and nail for them.”

Healy-Rae was born in Kilgarvan, Co. Kerry on March 9, 1931, the oldest of six children. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1953, but returned to Ireland not long after, joining the hurling and football leagues and winning county hurling titles in 1956 and ’58. He was also a noted saxophonist and popular publican, founding a local Kilgarvan pub in 1969 which thrives to this day under his son’s management.

He was involved in politics from the 1960s on, first as an election campaigner and then as director of elections. He broke with Fianna Fáil in 1997 after they refused to nominate him as a candidate, and ran successfully as an independent. He later made up with Fianna Fáil in the 2007 election.

“I knew Jackie very well and was always very fond of him,” said Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin. “Jackie always had a great sense of humor and very dry wit and he never forgot where he came from.”

– M.S.

Kevin M. Kearney

1953 – 2015

Kevin M. Kearney passed away in early January. He is survived by his wife Mary Beth, his three children, Christine, Elisa, and Sean, his granddaughter Marion, and two brothers, John and James.

Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, Kevin decided to fight and put himself forward for an experimental clinical trial, which he believed extended his life, allowing him to continue to work a full-time job, dance at his daughter’s wedding, and celebrate the birth of his first grandchild. Together with family and friends, Kevin organized a 5 K run “Fun Run” in Rockaway on March 29, 2014 to raise funds for Sloan Kettering pancreatic cancer research. Despite the weather, hundreds turned out for the run and partied afterwards at the Irish Circle bar on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

Kevin, whose mother’s family is from Mayo and Sligo and whose father’s family is from Longford, graduated from Manhattan College and St. John’s University School of Law. He was a lifelong resident of Rockaway, and served as Honorary Grand Marshall of the 2011 Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

A partner at Wingate, Kearney and Cullen, Kevin represented the Diocese of Brooklyn for 37 years. He was a member of the National Association of Diocesan Attorneys, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, an active member of Catholic Charities, the Emer- ald Society, Futures in Education, and the Rockaway Gliders. He was also an active board member of Concern U.S.A. and traveled extensively with the group reviewing projects in Asia, Africa and Central America. He was on the board of Mutual of America, was listed on the Irish Voice Legal 100, and was the recipient of the St. Thomas More Award at Irish Person of the Year at the Great Irish Fair.

– P.H.

Aodhan Madden

1947 – 2014

Aodhan Madden, the award-winning Irish playwright, memoirist, and member of Aosdana passed away at age 67. Madden hit his stride in the 1980s and early ’90s writing a string of successful plays that were produced in the Abbey and Peacock theatres in Dublin. Among the standouts were Midnight Door, Sea Urchins, and Candlemas Night. He twice won the prestigious Oz Whitehead Award for Drama in 1984 and ’85 for Remember Mauritania and Death of a Queen respectively.

Madden was born in Dublin in 1947 and started out in journalism in the 1970s, working for The Irish Press newspaper. He sheds a comic light on this period in his memoir Fear and Loathing in Dublin (2009), saying of his ragtag co-workers, “they were mostly middle-aged men in varying stages of mental and physical disrepair. Some had stopped talking to others years before.”

From there, Madden published a book of poems, Demons in 1978 and then began work as a playwright. He was greeted with success both on stage and on the radio, putting on a number of productions for RTÉ, including Obituaries in 1992. Madden was a also a successful short story and screenplay writer, penning Night Train (1998) which was directed by John Lynch and featured the award winning John Hurt.

He is survived by many brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews.

– M.S.

J.J. Sheridan

1951 – 2014

James (J.J.) Sheridan, one of the leading Irish concert pianists and 2011 Irish America Top 100 honoree died on New Year’s Eve in New York City. He was 63.

Throughout his extensive career Sheridan released critically acclaimed classical Irish music, including an eight-disc Complete Works of Turlough O’Carolan and interpretations of other bards of the 18th and 19th centuries like Edward Bunting, George Petrie and Patrick Weston Joyce.

James Sheridan was born in Borris-in-Ossory, Co. Laois in 1951. He graduated from the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin where he studied under the late John O’Sullivan. In 1988 he founded Trigon Recordings where he released major collections of Irish composers. Sheridan relocated to Atlanta, Georgia where he put on a number of popular concerts and music events. Very connected to his Catholic faith, Sheridan also played for a number of churches and charities as well as the Boston Symphony Hall and on Adrian Flannelly’s popular radio show.

– M.S.

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