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Ambassador's wife rode shotgun to Moneygall

One of the photographers who was in the small pool of U.S. press members covering President Obama's visit to Ireland last month was surprised by the companion beside him during a helicopter ride from Dublin to Moneygall in County Offaly.

Helicopter rides can be rough going, and even the two double rotor Chinooks that made the brief flight had a pretty bumpy ride in the gale force winds that lashed Ireland on the presidential visit day.

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"Over on one side of the chopper was an older woman. She was so small, and with reddish hair, I assumed she might be a veteran Irish news reporter along for the ride like myself," said the photographer, who asked not to be named.

He was quite concerned because the woman was extremely petite and definitely of an age that you would offer her a seat on the bus, never mind in a bouncing military helicopter.

There was no chance for small talk because of the noise, but the two exchanged smiles and the photographer made sure that the woman safely exited before he bounded away at full speed to get his camera in place for the President and First Lady Michelle Obama's walkabout in Moneygall.

"I looked over as the presidential entourage approached and there was the small woman right with President Obama," he recounted.

It turned out that the woman was no Irish reporter, but none other than Patricia Regan Rooney, wife of U.S. ambassador to Ireland Dan Rooney. A mother of nine children and grandmother of 18, the North Side of Pittsburgh native, kept up with the challenging logistics of the day rather well, all reports suggested.

"There was a brief moment when there was time for a quick personal photo, but the ambassador didn't notice I was trying to get their picture and she nudged him and said, 'He's trying to take our picture.'"

After the snap, the ambassador pulled a couple of Pittsburgh Steeler pins out of his pocket and gave them to the photographer.