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Meet the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese

Our roses continue to amaze me. We probably have more success with them than with any other plant in our garden except, of course, with weeds. We do have an abundance of weeds. We now have a white rose bush with pale pink edging, standing right next to our hot pink rose bush. After hearing the forecast for rain, Hubby went out the other evening, after his walk at Castle Island, and put a handful of rose food around each of our bushes. The same evening, I took four pink geraniums and four red geraniums into the back yard to put them in our whiskey barrels. As I loosened the dirt in each barrel, I began being attacked by tiny bugs, almost like sand fleas. I planted the geraniums as quickly as possible and beat a hasty retreat into the safety of my home. I will put the white and pink impatiens around the geraniums after I spray each barrel with a little bug spray.

Sometime in April, Hubby, Daughter Sue, and I, along with our friend Eileen Burke, received an invitation from the Irish Pastoral Centre to meet the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, at Florian Hall on Wednesday morning, May 27. Because I was working that morning, I had to decline the invitation but Hubby, Sue, and Eileen were excited to go. This was a special day for the Irish Pastoral Centre; it was the official launch of the Senior Citizen Outreach Program. What better person to help launch the program but the President of Ireland.

Hubby, Sue, and Eileen arrived early at Florian Hall and met Eileen Collins and Norma Conley. Some of our friends from the Pastoral Centre’s monthly luncheon at the Irish Cultural Centre were also there. There was a sing-a-long to begin the program, with music provided by the IPC’s Senior Program and the Comhaltas Music School. When Mrs. McAleese and her husband Martin entered Florian, they were welcomed by Mark Mathers, president of the Board of Trustees of the IPC. Then there was another short musical performance. Sister Marguerite Kelly, Executive Director of the IPC, then presented gifts to President McAleese.

President McAleese spoke, off the cuff, to all those present. She charmed everyone. (Undoubtedly she has kissed the Blarney Stone for she has “the gift of gab.”) She had her photo taken with two centenarians from the IPC, Catherine McAteer and Mary Fitzgerald. Then came the highlight of the morning. Mrs. McAleese shook hands with everyone in Florian Hall. While Daughter Sue was standing in line, she remembered that she had made a red, white, and blue Swarovski Crystal bracelet for a friend. She took the bracelet from her handbag and presented it to Mrs. McAleese as “a memento of your visit to the U.S.A.” The President was delighted with Sue’s thoughtful gift. When pal Eileen shook hands, she told the President that her daughter Eileen “Jr.” lives and works in Ireland. As Hubby, Sue, and Eileen were leaving Florian Hall after Mrs. McAleese and her husband had departed, Hubby had to hold Sue and Eileen down on terra firma because they were so elated at meeting Mrs. Aleese. By the way, our friends from the monthly luncheons at the Irish Cultural Centre sent their beautiful floral centerpiece from their table home with Hubby and Sue for me. It is still in good shape and is sitting on the small marble table in our front hall. By the way, the program from the morning of festivities at Florian Hall, mentions that a special word of thanks should be given to Cora Flood, the coordinator of the Senior Citizen Outreach Program, I agree. Cora is a joy!

Thanks to a kind invitation from our friend Ed, I did not miss out on seeing Mrs. McAleese. Hubby and I were invited to attend the 20th anniversary of the Irish Immigration Center’s Solas Awards Dinner that evening. We checked out Mapquest because it had been quite a while since we had been into the Westin Copley Hotel. Pal Ed told us that the best garage in which to park was the Tent City Garage. We found the garage and walked over to the Westin Hotel. We arrived at the height of the reception. The reception area outside the banquet room was jammed with people. I finally found Ed, his daughter Maureen, and their friend Della, who were speaking with Ed’s cousin, Sister Brenda Forry, CSJ. She was accompanied by her friends, Sister Mary Murphy and Sister Marilyn McGoldrick. Both Sister Mary and Sister Marilyn came over to me and said, “You’re Barbara from the High School Day.” Both had attended many of the High School Information Days, put on by the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association for 25 years. My friend Nancy Harrington and I organized the event every year for the association. They told me that many children were helped in choosing their high school because of these High School Days. I kidded Sister Mary by telling her that my grandmother was Mary Murphy. Sister Marilyn then said that her grandmother was Mary Murphy. That certainly was quite a common name in Ireland.

We sat at a wonderful table for the Solas Awards Dinner. Ed’s cousin, reknowned Irish artist Vincent Crotty, sat next to me. The centerpiece was a magnificent purple orchid plant. The table was set beautifully, with lots of forks and knives. I figured the dinner was going to be a gastronomic delight, just from the place settings. We were welcomed by Bob Hildreth, Executive Director of the Foundation for an Open America. We stood as Mary Conroy Henderson sang the national anthems of both the U.S. and Ireland. Then Sister Lena Deevy, Executive Director of the Irish Immigration Center, came to the microphone as everyone gave her a standing ovation for all the wonderful work she accomplishes. Sister Lena then introduced Rev. Robert Francis Hennessey, an auxiliary bishop of Boston, who gave the invocation.
Dinner was then served. The salad had a tasty black cherry vinaigrette dressing. The entrée was herb-crusted chicken, with carrots, asparagus, and whipped potato. (It left “growing lads” like Vincent Crotty and Hubby wanting more.) The desserts were varied: triple chocolate mousse, wild berry compote, vanilla bean infused crème, shaved chocolate and passion fruit cake, with raspberry sauce and mango puree. (I had the last one--scrumptious; thank goodness it was small.) This was topped with sauvignon blanc wine.

Then we had a special treat. Out on the stage came a small group of Irish musicians. I recognized Brian O’Donovan from his Christmas special on Ch. 2. I also knew one of the dancers, Kieran Jordan, my friend ”K.J.,” with whom I used to work. The group played several Irish songs. “K.J” and her partner danced to some of them. (They are outstanding step dancers.) “K.J.’s” husband Vincent, who was sitting next to me, was so proud when he heard the thunderous ovations given to the musicians and the dancers.

Then it was time for the evening’s honoree to be introduced. What grander person was there to introduce Mrs. McAleese but the Honorable Jean Kennedy Smith, the former Ambassador to Ireland. She spoke beautifully, by the way. Then President McAleese came to the microphone. She told us that she was thrilled to be the recipient of the Solas Award that evening. (If I remember correctly, “solas” means “friend.”) Mrs. McAleese spoke for probably 20 minutes and charmed the more than 1,100 guests present. There was one unfortunate part of the evening. We weren’t able to shake hands with Mrs. McAleese. Because of the tight security, we were not allowed to leave our seats until Mrs. McAleese and her husband had left the ballroom. I have a lovely memento of this spectacular evening. I was given the purple orchid centerpiece to take home.

A while ago, I mentioned that there would be four new Lincoln pennies distributed during 2009, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Lincoln. I read that the first of these new pennies were released last week so watch for them in your change.

Because Hubby and I were invited to attend the Solas Awards Dinner at which the President of Ireland was being honored, we were unfortunately unable to attend the May 27 meeting of the Pope’s Hill Neighborhood Association. President Phil Carver (re-elected, thank goodness) kindly sent me a list of the officers and E Board members for the 2009-2010 Pope’s Hill year. The other terrific officers are Vice President Mike Juliano, Recording Secretary Chris Whittemore, Corresponding Secretary Janice Schneiderman, and Treasurer Judy Burke. The Executive Board consists of Kate and Mike Brohel, Michele Cooper, Kathy Costello, Pat Dennehy, Melissa Driscoll, Therese Fitzgerald, Robert Genduso, Caroline Hanlon, Noreen Hegarty, Alice and Susan Holloran, Jim King, Tom Lynch, Derek Mourad, and John Schneiderman. My friends Jack O’Connor and Joe Harty join me in serving as Senior Advisors. Please feel free to speak with any of the officers, E Board members, or Senior Advisors if you have local problems.
The theme of the Adams Street Library’s Summer Reading Program is going to be a blast, “Starship Adventures at Your Library.” The library is planning a great many fun activities. They need our help in collecting recycled materials to make spaceships, planets, astronauts, aliens, and more. Please drop off these items: paper towel rolls, bathroom tissue rolls, rinsed 20-oz. or 2-liter plastic soda bottles, rinsed ½ gallon milk or juice cartons, old tennis, soccer, or baseballs, old plastic Frisbees, and unwanted sheathed or unsheathed copper or stereo wire, at the library.

If you are in downtown Boston on Sat. or Sun., June 13 and 14, join in the festivities at Arch St. as the friars from St. Anthony’s Shrine, in honor of St. Anthony’s feast day, hold a Street Fair between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on both days. There will be raffles, a live band, St. Anthony’s bread, St. Anthony’s lilies, a balloon lady, give-aways, and more.

This Sunday, June 14, is Flag Day. Be sure to fly “Old Glory.”