Recent passings in the Irish and Irish American communities.
(1958 – 2018)
Former literary critic and correspondent for the Irish Times Eileen Battersby died in late December 2018 in a car accident in County Meath, aged 60. Known for her incisive reviews of a wide range of literature and her enthusiasm for all subjects, Battersby was recognized four times as the National Arts Journalist of the Year and once as Critic of the Year.
Battersby was born and raised in Los Angeles, after her family had relocated from Ireland. She received most of her secondary education in Ireland, where she would come to live and work. Pursuing English literature and history for her undergraduate degree at UCD led to her achieving her master’s there as well. Hired as a critic and feature writer at the Irish Times in 1988, she satisfied wide-ranging interests, covering Wimbledon in 1989 and reporting from the prehistoric structure at Newgrange each year on the Winter Solstice. Still, it was in her literary criticism that she found the most recognition.“She would never relent when the question was of quality – in her purview, no talent went uncelebrated, no mediocrity went unmasked,” noted Man Booker prizewinner and former literary editor of the Irish Times John Banville. “And she had such a rich sense of humour, especially when the joke was on her. Oh dear, how we shall miss her.”
Battersby leaves behind daughter Nadia, mother Elizabeth Whiston, and siblings Elizabeth, William, and Breffini. ♦
(1924 – 2019)
Irish-born pediatrician Dr. Kevin McCaul died in early February, aged 95. His career of 45 years caring for the children of Norwalk, C.T., made him a well-respected and beloved member of that community, but McCaul’s connection to Ireland never wavered.
McCaul grew up in Letterkenny, County Donegal as one of nine children of George and Margaret (née McGinty). McCaul received his M.D. from UCD and began his medical career working in various hospitals in Ireland and England while attending the Radcliffe Infirmary at Oxford.
After brief international stints as a ship’s doctor and physician at London’s 1948 Olympic Games, he moved to the University Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, to begin training in pediatrics, becoming chief resident in that department. He became a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and co-founded the Irish / American Pediatric Society. Upon moving to Connecticut, McCaul established a practice in partnership with Drs. James Minor and Jack McNamara, then later with Dr. Diane Allawi.
“Dr. McCaul was doctor to all four of my children,” Norwalk mother Carmela Tornatore recalled in an online tribute. “He will always be remembered as a gentle, caring doctor who made himself available after hours and was always there to reassure young parents that all was well.”
McCaul is predeceased by his parents and siblings. Surviving him are his wife, Colette (née Kilmartin); their three children: Kevin, Brian, and Fiona; and five grandchildren: Reid, Lindsay, Charlotte, Paige, and Will. ♦
Moira Kennedy O’Malley
(1945 – 2018)
Moira Kennedy O’Malley, co-founder and inaugural executive director of the Ireland Funds, died on Christmas Day, 2018. She was 73. Born and raised in Worcester, Massachusetts, the second of four children to John and Helen Kennedy (née Driscoll), Moira attended Albertus Magnus College in Connecticut. Later, her job processing international applications to Columbia University led her to help organize one of the first-ever democratically elected university senates at the school. Kennedy met her husband, then-law student Cormac O’Malley, at her 1970 Saint Patrick’s Day bash. The couple married six months later and honeymooned in Ireland. The son of Ernie O’Malley, one-time commandant general of the Irish Republican Army, and American artist Helen Hooke, Cormac shared Moira’s passion for the troubled country.
Back in the U.S., Moira used her skills as a hostess to advantage. At a 1975 dinner with businessman Tony O’Reilly, she opened the discussion on how to support Ireland, an aspiration which launched the Ireland Funds. Moira’s position as first executive director saw her launching fundraising events across the country, with proceeds going to such organizations as the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation and St. Michael’s House in Dublin.
Moira is mourned by her husband Cormac; daughter Bergin; son Conor; brothers Brendan, Sean, and Brian Kennedy; Sean and Brian’s respective wives, Ann and Frances; and grandsons Emmett and Elliott Boyle. ♦
(1945 – 2018)
Irish actor, artist, storyteller, and activist Jer O’Leary died in late December 2018, at the age of 73. He was known for his many roles in such movies as My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, and Braveheart, and on TV most recently as Lordsport Dockhand in Game of Thrones.
Born in Dublin to Denis and Sadie O’Leary (née Healy), O’Leary left school at 14 to get a job as a messenger boy. He joined the I.R.A. at 21, and by 27 was imprisoned for activities associated with his membership. In Mountjoy Prison he learned a skill that he would use the rest of his life: graphic art design. Marrying fiancée Eithne O’Brien, who had waited out his sentence, O’Leary went on to win successive competitions hosted by the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, and was asked to produce new designs for the union’s banners. He introduced the likenesses of James Connolly and James Larkin, the latter of whom inspired his lifelong performance as an actor.
Larkin was his first and ongoing role, starting in 1975’s The Non-Stop Connolly Show on the Dublin stage. The performance continued in iterations of Larkin’s speeches at funerals, celebrations, and other occasions. Writer Peter Sheridan said O’Leary’s delivery “was probably the greatest example of taking an audience on a journey they never suspected they were going on.”
O’Leary is predeceased by his son, Diarmuid, his brother Denis, and his wife Eithne, who died in 2017. He leaves behind daughters Norah and Clare and sisters Margaret and Carmel. ♦
(1922 – 2019)
Kevin Roche, the prominent Dublin-born, American architect who brought his modernist style to many significant buildings, passed away on Friday, March 1, at his home in Guilford, Connecticut, at the age of 96.
Though he was a soft-spoken man, his work spoke for itself, broadcasting to the whole city his confidence and talent. His bold, innovative buildings include the J.P. Morgan Bank headquarters on Wall Street, the expansion of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the skyscrapers of United Nations Plaza, the redesign of the Central Park Zoo, and the Ford Foundation headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, to name a few.
Roche was raised in Mitchelstown, County Cork, and graduated from University College Dublin in 1945. In 1948 he left Ireland for graduate school at the Illinois Institute of Technology.
In 1950 he joined Eero Saarinen and Associates, where he met his future architectural partner, John Dinkeloo, as well as his partner in life, his wife Jane. In 1966, after Saarinen’s death, Roche and Dinkeloo formed Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLC and completed 12 major unfinished Saarinen projects, including St. Louis’ famous Gateway Arch.
In 1982, Roche became one of the first recipients of the Pritzker Prize, the highest architectural honor, generally regarded as architecture’s equivalent to the Nobel Prize. In 2017 Irish filmmaker Mark Noonan released a feature documentary entitled Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect. Roche was interviewed by Irish America in 1989, and inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012. His remarks on his induction were used in Noonan’s documentary.
The New York Times called Roche “one of the rare architects who was admired and trusted by corporate executives, museum boards, and government officials, who allowed him wide leeway in expressing his restless formal imagination.”
In a true testament to Roche’s character, he befriended his critic, Yale architecture historian Vincent Scully, who once criticized Roche’s New Haven buildings for exuding a “paramilitary dandyism.” Roche even was one of the people to eulogize Scully at his memorial service in 2017.
In his Pritzker acceptance speech Roche asked, “Is not the act of building an act of faith in the future, and of hope?” Indeed, it is. He is survived by his wife, five children, and 15 grandchildren. ♦
(1928 – 2019)
Former federal judge Patricia Mary McGowan Wald died in January 2019, at 90 years old. Wald made history as the first female judge to preside in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., serving as its chief for five years.
Raised in Torrington, Connecticut, by a single mother, Wald worked school holidays in a factory that produced surgical and sewing needles, then ball bearings during the war. The work prepared her for a rigorous career and fueled a lasting interest in labor and family law. After graduating as her high school’s valedictorian, she attended Connecticut College for Women, then earned a fellowship to Yale Law.
Marrying Robert Wald in 1952, Patricia worked nights and weekends while raising her family. Her work ethic made her a rising star, working diligently to defend the underprivileged by helping to legislate bail reform to accommodate low-income defendants and educational opportunities for mentally and physically disabled students. She became the assistant attorney general under President Carter before accepting a federal judgeship, the beginning of a career full of highlights: helping to restructure the legal system of the former USSR, a two-year stint on the war crimes tribunal presiding over the former Yugoslavia, and a ruling that sexual orientation could not be the sole basis for military discharge.
A career strung with hard-won successes gave Wald a philosophical view of defeat: “You always have a sad feeling when you write a dissent because it means you lost,” Judge Wald said in an interview with The Bar Report. “But you write them because you have faith that maybe they will play out at some time in the future, and because of the integrity you owe to yourself.”
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recalled the extent of Wald’s dedication. “In all of her work and days as a lawyer, then judge, she pursued justice with passion – heart, mind and soul…and unsparingly devoted her efforts to advancing the health and welfare of humankind.”
Wald is predeceased by her husband Robert and survived by their sons Douglas and Thomas, daughters Sarah, Johanna, and Frederica, 10 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild. ♦