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Hugh Carey drew inspiration from his Irish roots

We mourn the loss of Governor Hugh L. Carey, a great Irish American, humanitarian, statesman and benefactor of America and Ireland.

Our paths crossed many times. I have a treasure chest of positive memories that explain some of the links he had with all 32 counties, as well as with Irish Americans in all circles.

I first met Democratic candidate for congress Carey in 1960. He and my boss, New Jersey State Senator John A. Lynch, were active in government in their states. Carey was running for Congress, Lynch was active in the presidential campaign of Senator John F. Kennedy. Both were committed to seeing the first Catholic Irish-American president elected to the White House.

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Lynch was active in planning whistle stops in certain counties in New Jersey for Kennedy. The phone calls between New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. were many that summer and fall. Carey's calls were many too, and important.

Carey won election and was sworn in on January 3, 1961. President Kennedy won the presidency and was sworn into office on January 20.

Years later I mentioned to Congressman Carey how many of his calls were directed to me in that summer and fall of 1960. I mentioned I was a "Kennedy girl," a part of the Kennedy welcoming party in New Jersey. Carey quipped, "You are a New Yorker. You could have come across the Hudson River and helped my campaign." He was always known for his quick retorts.

After 13 years in Congress, Carey ran for governor of New York. We met again at events along the campaign trail in New York City. I helped his campaign. I told him I wanted to see him in the governor's mansion in Albany, my home town. He roared and said "Our paths have led to the U.S. Capitol and to the capitol in Albany. Where next I wonder?"

I laughed and said, "Ireland of course." It is the paths leading to Ireland that are the most vivid in my mind. Governor Carey served two terms as governor and returned to New York City to work for W. R. Grace & Co. and as "of counsel" to law firms.

He invited me to the home of one of his law partners in Manhattan. This reception was planned to aid the Flax Trust, founded by Father Myles Kavanagh of Belfast. Carey had gathered together the movers and shakers in the Big Apple and the Empire State.

His good friend, J. Peter Grace, CEO of W.R. Grace, along with dozens of corporate executives, attorneys and Wall Street moguls, heard and responded to the need to help Belfast at a time when discrimination in employment was a serious problem.

The Flax Trust, an international research, investment, educational, socio-economic training non-profit entity was, and would become even moreso over the next few decades, a successful center of employment for the people of Belfast of all faiths, and a center of American and international company offices at their Belfast location.

Governor Carey put Belfast on the fast track with those he knew who could make it a successful city. The Flax Trust was duly assured the expertise and generosity of Irish America. Today, it is a model for all to emulate and stands as a tribute to Hugh Carey and all who answered his call for the people of the Six Counties.

Carey told me how much he loved his County Galway heritage and was a frequent, happy visitor, to Ireland. Our paths duly crossed again when New Jersey and Ireland linked up culturally.

The New Jersey State Symphony announced it would be playing a two week classical and traditional Irish music festival in the village of Adare in County Limerick. Thanks to Adare Manor owners, Tom and Judy Kane of New Jersey, true visionaries, our state symphony found a perfect setting blending Beethoven with James Galway, Phil Coulter, the Chieftains, Mary Black and various Irish classical artists. Best of all, The RTE Symphony Orchestra teamed up with the New Jersey Symphony, so orchestras forging permanent cultural ties. The American musicians were in awe of Ireland's beauty and hospitality.

My role was to produce a TV documentary on the first-ever cultural ties between the Garden State and the Emerald Isle. It was a dream come true. I was exactly 14 miles from my mom's home town of Killaloe, County Clare. I produced two documentaries because we had so much beautiful music and vistas of Ireland to show American audiences.

I titled them: "We Are the Music Makers...The Dreamers of Dreams" borrowed from O'Shaughnessy's poem. The second documentary was entitled "A Summer to Savor" and it dealt with the discovery of the richness of Irish culture by the musicians from New Jersey.

Hugh Carey was in the middle of the festivities, enjoying every note and praising Ireland to the hilt. At the receptions following the concerts everyone was treated to Carey lifting his voice in song. "Danny Boy," his favorite, was his lead song. The audience asked for an encore and he added "Galway Bay," in tribute to his family's Galway heritage.

During the festival, Carey spoke of the need to support Ireland in every way possible. He was a great ambassador for Ireland in business and cultural enrichment. He loved Ireland, and Ireland loved him in return.

Hugh L. Carey earned many titles in his lifetime of 92 years. He was Colonel Carey during his U.S. army career in WWII.

He was Congressman Carey and Governor Carey. One of his titles that he truly liked to share stories about was as a member "The Four Horsemen" along with Senator Edward Kennedy, Speaker Tip O'Neill and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Their work for peace with justice, fair employment and a shared government was a goal the four adhered to throughout their public careers. The "Four Horsemen" are now together forever in their heavenly home.

Governor Hugh L. Carey's legacy lives on, in New York, in America, and in Ireland, the cornerstones of his life, all of them deeply loved.