As she received the third annual Joseph E. Montgomery Award from Ancient Order of Hibernians Div. 62 on Sunday—the first woman to be given the award—Kathy McGee Burns joked that the event was her “second date” with another award-winner, Mickey Walsh, former president of the division.
The two had actually met when she was 16 and he was 20 and a lifeguard at the Jersey shore. She explained that he had invited her to his 21st birthday party as his date, though because she had lied about her age, he didn’t know how young she was. They didn’t meet again for several decades when she saw him sitting on a stool in the bar at the Irish Center—a home away from home for McGee Burns, who was the first woman president of the Donegal Association and current president of the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, just two of the many organizations in which she takes a leadership role.
“I went up to him and asked him if he was Mickey Walsh,” she told the crowd at the Spring Valley Banquet Center in Springfield on Sunday, April 11. “He said, ‘Yep.’ Then I asked him, ‘Do you remember your date at your 21st birthday party. He said, ‘Nope.’”
The man of few words laughed heartily along with the rest of the audience.
The AOH—the Joseph E. Montgomery Division, the only AOH named for a living person—is in its third year of its Fleadh an Earraigh, honoring those who live the AOH motto of friendship, unity and Christian charity.
Also honored this year were James Feerick, a 43-year member of AOH Div. 65. The eldest of six children born to James and Anne Frank of County Mayo, Feerick, a lawyer and graduate of Villanova Law School, is also a musician who played with the All Ireland Orchestra and with local musicians Tommy Moffit and Joe Burke. He has served on the board of the Philadelphia Irish Center, and is a member of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick the Knights of Columbus Trinity Council in Upper Darby, the St. Thomas Moore Alumni Association, and the Mayo Association, for which his sister, Sister James Ann, serves as chaplain.
Harry “Mickey” Walsh, also the son of Irish immigrants, a Navy Reserve veteran, ran the family business, Walsh’s Classic Tavern in University City, until 1996 when the business was sold. He is a former Democratic ward leader in Philadelphia’s 27th Ward and worked as a liaison between the juvenile courts and parents of troubled teens to help keep families together. He was the first president of the Haverford Hawks Youth Ice Hockey Club and has volunteered at the Irish Immigration Center in Upper Darby.