James (Jim) Cagney
By Miriam Nyhan
James (Jim) Bernard Cagney, born in 1933 in Ireland, passed away peacefully in his sleep beside the love of his life, Bridget M. Cagney, in their home in Sunnyside, Queens, New York on July 28, 2020. Jim was raised in Gibbings Grove House in the parish of Milford Co. Cork. He was the son of the late Michael and Nora (neé Drinan) Cagney and was predeceased by his siblings Michael J., Aileen and Cornelius Vincent (Vin) Cagney. A historic home and a hub of equestrian pursuits, Gibbings Grove was the seat of the family of the same name from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth centuries before the Cagney family purchased it circa 1896.
Jim met Bridget (neé Osborne) – whom he affectionately referred to as Bríd – in the late 1950s at a dance at University College Cork where he was a fellow student of Bridget’s brother, George. At UCC Jim also enjoyed pursuits like athletics, hurling and tennis while he lived with his uncle, Dr. Patrick Cagney, in Redclyffe on the Western Road just down the road from ‘the College’. Coincidently, Dr. Cagney, who signed Michael Collins’s death certificate in 1922, was the medic who had signed Bridget’s birth certificate, in a twist of fate from which Bridget’s mother derived much pleasure when she met Jim as her daughter’s suitor.
Jim graduated with a degree in Chemistry and Experimental Physics from UCC in 1960 and he and Bridget were married at the university’s historic Honan Chapel in 1963. After a stint in County Limerick, they immigrated to New York on one of the last voyages of the RMS Queen Elizabeth, arriving in New York City on July 4, 1967. They settled on 42nd Street in Sunnyside, Queens where they would live until he passed. Jim pursued a career as a chemist working with adhesives for various companies in the New York metropolitan area and prior to his retirement he was employed at Basic Adhesives in Brooklyn as an Industrial Chemist for 46 years. He spoke often about his daily routine of driving across the Kosciuszko Bridge to work in Brooklyn from Queens, jokingly referring to the busy thoroughfare as the “Kamikaze” Bridge.
Like his beloved wife, Jim lived a very active life volunteering in many Irish and American non-profit, civic and veteran organizations, such as September Space, World Cares Center, the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross and the parishes around his home in Sunnyside. He was proud to have supported Bridget in helping the first responders in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks at “Point Thank You.” A member of the County Cork B. P. & P. Association for many years, both Jim and Bridget were joint recipients of the prestigious Frank T. Carvill Distinguished Service Award in 2015. They rarely missed any ‘Cork’ events in recent years.
Many Irish New Yorkers are familiar with seeing him, with his side-kick Bridget, at events in the city and they were dedicated attendees of programs at NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House, the Irish Arts Center, the Irish Rep., the Irish Consulate, the New York Irish Center and the American Irish Historical Society. An avid reader and a passionate scholar of the Irish language, Jim spent hours happily researching and refreshing his knowledge of the language and he used it whenever he got an opportunity. He loved to master things and would spend hours, for example, going through the menu functions of his mobile phone or the declensions of a noun in Irish. He and Bridget loved nothing more than to lounge for hours over newspapers in a Starbucks in Manhattan or Queens, often resulting in them striking up a conversation with strangers who were always pleased to have encountered the dynamic and friendly couple. Weather permitting, they could be found many evenings enjoying an ice cream together on the benches on 46th Street just like childhood sweethearts. Always a proud Cork man, until very recent years, Jim regularly travelled home to Ireland where they spent time in their home in Ballincollig and enjoyed seeing extended family there and in North Cork and excursions down ‘Pana’. He and Bridget also loved the alumni events for his alma mater and were dedicated attendees of the New York events organized by UCC.
Jim adored Bridget and their relationship was a joy to watch and share in any, even small, way. He will be missed by his wide circle of friends in New York; their wonderful neighbors (especially Mel and Nora); his brothers-in-law and sisters-in law; and his nieces and nephews. Most of all, he will always be lovingly remembered and missed by Bridget with whom he had shared so much of his rich life. He was truly Bridget’s soulmate and theirs was a model romance.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.