It was just the thing that Jim McLaughlin would have loved. A big room filled with people he knew and a sprinkling of strangers he’d know by the end of the night, right on campus at his alma mater, St. Joseph’s University, his beloved Hawk Hill. There was music—provided by his young friend, fiddler Alex Weir, and his own brothers, Bob, who plays the flute, and Tom and his bluegrass band. And dancing. He loved to dance.
The Irish American Business Chamber and Network planned and executed a perfect Jim McLaughlin night on Thursday to honor its former president who died this year from a brain tumor at the age of 67. At his funeral mass in the chapel of St. Joe’s, the priest—a St. Joe’s professor and friend—called Jim McLaughlin “the most open, kind, and loveable” person he’d ever met.
He was like “the President’s advance man,” said friend Jack Luke, “telling the President the names of the people in the room and keeping him laughing. Jim had a lot of gifts, one being a gift with people.”
He won over 17-year-old Irish fiddler Alexander Weir when they met through a mutual friend, noted Irish flute player Kevin Crawford of the bands, Lunasa, and The Teetotallers. “Kevin introduced us to him and we all became best friends that night,” said Alex’s mother, Katherine Ball-Weir.
Former IACBN President Christine Hartmann recalled McLaughlin’s urging her to take the position after he left the IACBN presidency. “Jim would push you to always go a little bit further. I’m grateful. This were three of the most challenging and best years of my career.”
The event at Campion Hall, the student center on the St. Joe’s campus, was more than just a memorial. It was designed to kick off a fundraising campaign for a $100,000 scholarship to St. Joseph’s University in Jim McLaughlin’s name. The Plough and the Stars Pub and Restaurant—one of McLaughlin’s favorite haunts—provided the food and drink and dozens of McLaughlin’s IACBN colleagues and others donated auction items, from tickets to St. Joe’s basketball games, the 76ers, and Flyers, to a season subscription to the Inis Nua Theater Company to Wawa gift certificates.
The fundraising will be an ongoing project. To donate, send a check made out to St. Joseph’s University, Memo: James J. McLaughlin, Jr. ’70 Scholarship Fund,
to Irish American Business Chamber & Network, Inc., 200 South Broad Street, Suite 910, Philadelphia, PA 19102.
See photos of the event below.