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In Memoriam

People

In Memoriam: Phil Bowdren

My first memory of Phil Bowdren is that he came across as just what he was: a dedicated, selfless, giving guy.

My second memory is that he made one tasty Irish stew. That’s maybe how I first got to know him—through the Hibernian Hunger Project’s annual Irish Stew Cook-off, years ago. He took a lot of pride in his ability to dish up a memorable stew.

Of course, there’s so much more than that to say about Philip H. Bowdren, former Philadelphia police officer and well-known throughout the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) and the Irish-American community for his great dedication and hard work. Bowdren passed away recently at the age of 66.

We’ll leave the memories of this good man to those who knew him best. Continue Reading

News, People

Rest in Peace, Mary O’Kane

Mary O'Kane

Mary O’Kane

A well-loved member of Philadelphia’s Irish community has passed away. Radio personality Mary O’Kane died Thursday night in hospice, attended by daughters Bonnie Kelly and Teri McQuaid.

Local radio host Marianne MacDonald remembered Mary O’Kane as “a great friend.” MacDonald will be doing a tribute show in her usual noon slot on WTMR 800 AM. Tune in to “Come West Along the Road,” and share your memories.

A funeral Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church, in Manoa, on June 5 at 10:30 am. Burial at Holy Cross Cemetery. Reception to follow at Sacred Heart Parish Hall. All are welcome.

We’ll have more to share in days to come.

People

A Tribute to a Man Who “Made Everyone Feel Important”

The late Charlie Dunlop

The late Charlie Dunlop

“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did.
But people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou

It says a lot about a man when the people he ran into at the convenience store where he bought his coffee every morning turn up at his viewing to pay their respects.

That was Charlie Dunlop.

Dunlop, a native of Donagmore, County Tyrone who lived in Havertown, died of a sudden heart attack on November 28, 2011, at the age of 45, leaving behind a wife, Nancy, a son, “wee Charlie,” now 7, and hundreds of people who could say, as one did, “Charlie Dunlop always made you feel important.”

“There are a lot of things you don’t remember, but one thing stuck in my mind, and that was meeting people I didn’t know at Charlie’s viewing who told me, ‘Oh, we know Charlie from the Wawa,’” says Nancy. “That was where he got his coffee every morning. We didn’t have a coffee maker and I said, well maybe we should get one, and Charlie said no, it was his thing to go to Wawa every morning and say hi to everyone, so we never got one. That’s the way he was, he was always laughing and telling stories, just pleasant to be around. After Charlie had passed, I had someone say to me that they thought he was so special because when you spoke to him you had all of his attention. He made everyone feel important.”

Even the customers of his electrical contracting business who flooded Nancy Dunlop’s mailbox with cards and letters, who cried with her on the phone. “They all said that he wasn’t just their electrician, he was their friend,” she recalls. “I’ve kept all those notes from my son so he could see how much people loved his father.”

Last Saturday, March 30, some of the people who loved Charlie Dunlop—there were 500 of them—paid $100 a ticket to attend a banquet to raise money to continue the work he did in the community. The opening ceremonies included everything that Charlie loved: family, GAA sports, Irish culture and music, and a united Ireland. Representatives from each of Ireland’s 32 counties carried their county’s flag into the ballroom of the Springfield Country Club along with jerseys from each of the county GAA teams. Charlie Dunlop was instrumental in founding the Tyrone Gaelic Football Club in Philadelphia which, after a hiatus of a few years, is being resurrected this year. His son was presented with a jersey from the St. Patrick’s GAA in County Tyrone which his grandfather brought with him from Ireland. It was the only jersey they had left and, ironically, it carried Charlie’s old number.

His old band mates from Clan Ceoil, John “Lefty” Kelly and Pat Kildea, played, as did Blackthorn. But the tunes that brought many to tears came from Bridget Reilly, playing Charlie’s favorite tunes, including “The Lonesome Boatman,” a slow air composed by Finbar Furey, on the tin whistle. That was Charlie’s instrument.

His friends originally started The Charlie Dunlop Memorial Fund as a scholarship fund for young Charlie. “But I didn’t feel comfortable with that,” says Nancy. “Charlie would have wanted to help other people and selfishly, I wanted people to remember him—people forget so quickly—so I wanted something in his name that would continue what he did.”

What he did: Sandy-haired, “cuddly”—“He would say a little cuddly, he wouldn’t say chubby or anything,” laughs Nancy—with a perpetual grin and impish twinkle in his blue eyes, Charlie Dunlop was, by all accounts, the first one to lend a helping hand when it was needed.

“Charlie always helped, he’d always given to everything, every cause, when he was asked—and most of the time no one had to ask,” says Nancy, who was “fixed up” with Charlie by her mother when Nancy was bartending at the family tavern, McFadden’s, in Upper Darby, and Charlie was their electrician. (“She said I had to meet this buy because he was so cute and I said, ‘Mom, if you like him I’m not going to,’ but she loved him to death and thought there was nobody better. She was right,” Nancy laughs.)

“He sponsored people here, he hired young Irish and trained them,” Nancy says. “He was genuine and kind, very friendly—he would have talked to anybody, honestly—made friends very easily and never wanted anything in return. He cared about people.”

Need someone to talk to at 2 in the morning? “Charlie was a 2 AM friend,” said Patricia Crossan, who met Charlie Dunlop when they were both new immigrants 25 years ago. “And after you finished talking to him you’d think everything would be fine because Charlie told you everything would be fine.”

Need a ticket back home to Ireland to see an ailing relative? It was Charlie Dunlop who wrote out a check without blinking. “We all think we would like to be like that, but when it came down to writing out a check for $1,300 most people would balk. Not Charlie,” says Jake Quinn, a contractor from Huntington Valley, who also grew up in Donaghmore. Though Jake is closer in age to Charlie’s dad, Sean, the two became very close friends, bonding over their mutual loves, including Gaelic football and, having both experienced “the Troubles” firsthand, the dream of a united Ireland.

“Most people remember Charlie for the incredible generosity he had with his time and his treasure,” says Quinn. “And you would have never heard anything like, ‘this man owes me this’and this man owes me that.’ That wasn’t Charlie.”

You apparently didn’t have to know Charlie for long before you succumbed to his personal gravitational pull. After his death, new friends from the marina on the Eastern Shore of Maryland where Charlie and Nancy kept their boat sought out Charlie’s parents in Ireland, Sean and Ann, to express their condolences. “They’d really only known him a few months but here were these people, ringing our house and telling us about the son we had,” says Sean, who, with his wife, flew to the US last week to participate in the memorial event. “But that was typical. Everyone who came to the viewing said he did this, or he did that. It was very, very comforting for us. I can tell you that if a father wanted a good son, we got him. He was good to everyone he met.”

Those same new Eastern Shore friends also held a memorial in which they set green, white, and yellow lanterns afloat on the Chesapeake, says Jake Quinn. “There was a beautiful little ceremony on the beach and the people there told me that until Charlie came, they really didn’t know each other, but they all gravitated toward Charlie because he was so much fun, so they got to know each other.”

By its very name, a memorial is meant to keep a memory alive. In Charlie Dunlop’s case, the Charlie Dunlop Memorial Fund is designed to keep a spirit alive. For as long as it lasts, Charlie Dunlop will still be lending a hand. “It will be an emergency fund, if something happens to someone like what happened to us, someone needs an emergency flight home, when something goes wrong,” says Nancy. “It’s actually perfect. It’s something Charlie would have absolutely wanted to be involved in.”

News, People

He Was a True Gentleman in Every Way’

Paul J. Phillips Jr.

Paul J. Phillips Jr.

With the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade behind us, and St. Patrick’s Day just a few days ahead, we’re still in the thick of our annual commemoration of Irish heritage. No one loved this time of year more than Paul J. Phillips, Jr., longtime parade board member, 2006 inductee into the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, Hibernian, and 1995 Philadelphia grand marshal.

Paul Phillips died on February 26. He was 89. With the death of Philip E. “Knute” Bonner, another longtime parade official, on February 15, the Philadelphia Irish community has lost two giants.

We asked those who knew Paul to share their remembrances.

Sister James Ann Feerick, IHM, 2011 Grand Marshal

“I met Paul Phillips in 1971, when my dancers participated in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They performed with his group in the parade. In 1985, I met him again during my first year as judge for the parade, and he was a wonderful support to me. I remember how kind he was to me, and he made sure I had everything I needed. Ever since then, we have been very close, meeting at many Irish socials and church events.

“He was a true gentleman in every way, and he always put others first. His faith, family and Irish heritage were the driving forces that made him a role model for future generations. I will miss him, but his memory will live on for future years. God bless him.”

Kathy McGee Burns, Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association board member and former president

“Paul Phillips, Jr. was always there. Turn around at an event, and you knew that he would be still there, like a reassuring rock—a Gibraltar or an Everest, a Mount Rushmore. He made the Observance family whole.

“He lived life to the fullest, active in so many groups. I found out that he was a sailor, flying aboard the slow, lumbering PBY-5 Catalina, which saved many lives.

“He will be with us, as a protective spirit. We will see Paul again one day, before God.”

Karen Boyce McCollum, performer and parade commentator

“I had the pleasure of getting to know Paul through our mutual involvement in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Paul was a longtime devoted member of the board and organization, and I have participated in the parade since I was a child, performed at many of the parade association’s parties, events, and Masses through the years. This was our connection. Paul knew my parents for years—they both spoke so highly of him. Paul was special. He was someone who was always such a pleasure to meet and speak to at the various events and on parade day, of course. He was a friendly and kind gentleman with a sweet, unassuming smile and way.

“Paul was a treasure. He was dedicated to his family, his church, and to the Irish community. He was a hard worker and contributed for the right reasons, and not for reward or recognition. As a matter of fact, his son Chris said that Paul was very happy to be grand marshal of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s parade, but he questioned whether he was deserving of the honor in comparison to some of the others who possessed more formal credentials than he felt he had. Truthfully, I think that a man like Paul—a gentleman, a community man, a family man, a faithful man, and a hard-working, happy man—is THE most deserving type of person for that honor.

“To sing at Paul’s funeral was an honor for me. Chris told me that he and his dad had taken two memorable and very special trips to Knock Shrine in County Mayo. I was honored to sing ‘Our Lady of Knock’ for Paul, as we celebrated his life. One of his family members told me that that hymn ‘Our Lady of Knock,’ along with the angels, guided Paul to his final resting place. Those words gave me such a beautiful vision. I will miss Paul and I believe his example will be continued. His dedication and passion for our community, even as he grew weaker, was inspiring to me, and his devotion to his family was certainly passed on to his son Chris. Chris’ devotion and love for his dad until his very last day was beautiful to witness.

“Rest in peace, Paul. You made a difference and set an example for so many in our Irish community, which is the most important credential there is.”

Patrick Mulhern, president, Josep E. Montgomery Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 65

“I first met Paul in 1998, when I became a member of Division 65. I was one of the youngest brothers in the division at that time, but Paul didn’t make that distinction. He treated me as an equal, and through subsequent years of observation I realized that this was one of his unique traits.

“Paul always seemed to operate on an even keel, never overreacting to any situation. He was a doer and involved in so many organizations.

“Paul’s love for his faith, his country, his family and his heritage made him a unanimous selection for our 2008 Fleadh an Earraigh Division Award.

“Paul truly personified the motto of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of ‘Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.’ As a younger president of the Joseph E. Montgomery AOH Division 65, I cherished his sound counsel.

“Paul was the consummate gentleman and will be missed by all.”

Michael Bradley, director of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade

“Paul was the backbone and moral conscience of our Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade board for over 50 years, and he was the treasurer for 40 years. If you look up the word ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, you will see a photo of Paul. He was very proud of his Bishop Neumann High School Class of 1941 roots and the Grays Ferry section of South Philly. Paul was on more boards, and knew more priests and nuns than anyone I have ever known. He was kind to everyone and always had good advice when you needed it. We are all better people for having known Paul.”

News, People

‘He Was a True Gentleman in Every Way’

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

With the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade behind us, and St. Patrick’s Day just a few days ahead, we’re still in the thick of our annual commemoration of Irish heritage. No one loved this time of year more than Paul J. Phillips, Jr., longtime parade board member, 2006 inductee into the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame, Hibernian, and 1995 Philadelphia grand marshal.

Paul Phillips died on February 26. He was 89. With the death of Philip E. “Knute” Bonner, another longtime parade official, on February 15, the Philadelphia Irish community has lost two giants.

We asked those who knew Paul to share their remembrances.

Sister James Ann Feerick, IHM, 2011 Grand Marshal

“I met Paul Phillips in 1971, when my dancers participated in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. They performed with his group in the parade. In 1985, I met him again during my first year as judge for the parade, and he was a wonderful support to me. I remember how kind he was to me, and he made sure I had everything I needed. Ever since then, we have been very close, meeting at many Irish socials and church events.

“He was a true gentleman in every way, and he always put others first. His faith, family and Irish heritage were the driving forces that made him a role model for future generations. I will miss him, but his memory will live on for future years. God bless him.”

Kathy McGee Burns, Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association board member and former president

“Paul Phillips, Jr. was always there. Turn around at an event, and you knew that he would be still there, like a reassuring rock—a Gibraltar or an Everest, a Mount Rushmore. He made the Observance family whole.

“He lived life to the fullest, active in so many groups. I found out that he was a sailor, flying aboard the slow, lumbering PBY-5 Catalina, which saved many lives.

“He will be with us, as a protective spirit. We will see Paul again one day, before God.”

Karen Boyce McCollum, performer and parade commentator

“I had the pleasure of getting to know Paul through our mutual involvement in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Paul was a longtime devoted member of the board and organization, and I have participated in the parade since I was a child, performed at many of the parade association’s parties, events, and Masses through the years. This was our connection. Paul knew my parents for years—they both spoke so highly of him. Paul was special. He was someone who was always such a pleasure to meet and speak to at the various events and on parade day, of course. He was a friendly and kind gentleman with a sweet, unassuming smile and way.

“Paul was a treasure. He was dedicated to his family, his church, and to the Irish community. He was a hard worker and contributed for the right reasons, and not for reward or recognition. As a matter of fact, his son Chris said that Paul was very happy to be grand marshal of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s parade, but he questioned whether he was deserving of the honor in comparison to some of the others who possessed more formal credentials than he felt he had. Truthfully, I think that a man like Paul—a gentleman, a community man, a family man, a faithful man, and a hard-working, happy man—is THE most deserving type of person for that honor.

“To sing at Paul’s funeral was an honor for me. Chris told me that he and his dad had taken two memorable and very special trips to Knock Shrine in County Mayo. I was honored to sing ‘Our Lady of Knock’ for Paul, as we celebrated his life. One of his family members told me that that hymn ‘Our Lady of Knock,’ along with the angels, guided Paul to his final resting place. Those words gave me such a beautiful vision. I will miss Paul and I believe his example will be continued. His dedication and passion for our community, even as he grew weaker, was inspiring to me, and his devotion to his family was certainly passed on to his son Chris. Chris’ devotion and love for his dad until his very last day was beautiful to witness.

“Rest in peace, Paul. You made a difference and set an example for so many in our Irish community, which is the most important credential there is.”

Patrick Mulhern, president, Josep E. Montgomery Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 65

“I first met Paul in 1998, when I became a member of Division 65. I was one of the youngest brothers in the division at that time, but Paul didn’t make that distinction. He treated me as an equal, and through subsequent years of observation I realized that this was one of his unique traits.

“Paul always seemed to operate on an even keel, never overreacting to any situation. He was a doer and involved in so many organizations.

“Paul’s love for his faith, his country, his family and his heritage made him a unanimous selection for our 2008 Fleadh an Earraigh Division Award.

“Paul truly personified the motto of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of ‘Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.’ As a younger president of the Joseph E. Montgomery AOH Division 65, I cherished his sound counsel.

“Paul was the consummate gentleman and will be missed by all.”

Michael Bradley, director of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade

“Paul was the backbone and moral conscience of our Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade board for over 50 years, and he was the treasurer for 40 years. If you look up the word ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, you will see a photo of Paul. He was very proud of his Bishop Neumann High School Class of 1941 roots and the Grays Ferry section of South Philly. Paul was on more boards, and knew more priests and nuns than anyone I have ever known. He was kind to everyone and always had good advice when you needed it. We are all better people for having known Paul.”

People

Farewell to Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

He is being remembered as the “backbone and moral conscience of our Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board.” Paul J. Phillips, Jr., passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89. His death follows by less than two weeks the passing of another longtime parade board member Philip E. “Knute” Bonner.

“If you look up the word ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, you will see a photo of Paul,” wrote parade director Michael Bradley in a remembrance on the parade website. “He was very proud of his Bishop Neumann High School Class of 1941 roots and the Grays Ferry section of South Philly.  Paul was on more boards and knew more priests and nuns than anyone I have ever known.  He was kind to everyone and always had good advice when you needed it.  We are all better people for having known Paul.”

We’ll have more to share about this gentle man, but for now let use share some of our memories in pictures.

News, People

Farewell to Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

Paul J. Phillips, Jr.

He is being remembered as the “backbone and moral conscience of our Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board.” Paul J. Phillips, Jr., passed away on Tuesday at the age of 89. His death follows by less than two weeks the passing of another longtime parade board member Philip E. “Knute” Bonner.

“If you look up the word ‘gentleman’ in the dictionary, you will see a photo of Paul,” wrote parade director Michael Bradley in a remembrance on the parade website. “He was very proud of his Bishop Neumann High School Class of 1941 roots and the Grays Ferry section of South Philly.  Paul was on more boards and knew more priests and nuns than anyone I have ever known.  He was kind to everyone and always had good advice when you needed it.  We are all better people for having known Paul.”

We’ll have more to share about this gentle man, but for now let use share some of our memories in pictures.

News, People

“He Still Has Us Laughing:” Knute Bonner Remembered

Knute Bonner gets a hug from Bridie McCafferty, left, and her sister, Peggy.

Knute Bonner gets a hug from Bridie McCafferty, left, and her sister, Peggy.

When Knute Bonner died last week at the age of 87, Philadelphia’s Irish and Irish-American community lost one of its most colorful, kind and puckish characters. On Sunday, March 10, when the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade passes along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, it will be without its 2001 grand marshal. For those who knew Knute Bonner, it’s a moment of sadness, but also—as is the case with any Irish wake—it’s a moment to share stories.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of them. We asked a few of his friends to share their thoughts.

Michael Bradley, Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Director

“The Knute I Knew.” That would be a great title of a book written about him.  He would jump from how he didn’t feel good, to showing me the wound on his leg, to telling you one of his jokes, to singing a song and possibly back to how we miss so-and-so who just passed—all in the same five minutes. Knute had a great outlook on life. He was always positive, and always ended with a chuckle—like he knew something you didn’t.

He was an entertainer, and when the red light and spotlight came on, he came on, the crowd came on, and the crowd loved him, and he loved them!

He thought the Irish were the greatest race on earth, but he didn’t really talk to me about being Irish, it was more about St. Patrick’s Day. That day meant the world to him. I still get chills down the back of my neck when I think of him singing “It’s a great day for the Irish.”

He also started the Southwest St Patrick’s Club in 1950, before I was even born, and to see those men and women still march with their third-generation marchers is a real tribute to Knute, since most of them have moved out of Southwest Philly. He was also very proud of all the Irish in SW Philly and West Catholic.

My best best story about Knute is not an Irish one.  My son Colin was in fourth grade at St Pius X in Broomall. This was awhile ago since he now is a sophomore at Penn State with Knute’s grandson Shane. The teacher asked if any of the students knew anyone from World War II to share some stories. I told him, you have to bring Knute in—no one can tell better stories than Knute.

Well, it was a day I wasn’t going to miss. Knute started out by not seeing the chain in the schoolyard that separates the kids from the parking lot, and he drove right through it—starting the day off with a bang. He then tells me—kind of loud—when we get into class that “they sure didn’t make teachers who looked like this when I was in school”!

Paul Phillips and Knute Bonner

Paul Phillips and Knute Bonner

And for the next hour and a half—he was supposed to talk for 15 minutes or so—he had the teacher, myself and every kid in the class mesmerized!  He started out telling them about his best friend from Bartram High School who was killed right in front of him. He talked about how their helmets were protection against bullets, but how they also shaved in them, and ate beans they cooked out of them—sometimes, all in the same day! He mixed in so many funny, sad, memorable, and patriotic stories in one big run-on story, he held my attention—jumping from story to story to story without missing a beat!

He was almost 80 years old and there wasn’t a veteran in America who could hold a candle to Knute that day. He tried to pass around a huge German sword, which the teacher rightfully took off the first kid, but that never deterred Knute; he never missed a beat. He just kept on going.

At the end, he asked if he could sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” and he told all the kids how they should always stand up straight, look at the flag, and remember all the people who gave their lives for this country. He had tears flowing down his checks—me, too—but he switched gears in classic Knute style and told them if they ever saw ANYONE who was sitting at a game when our National Anthem was being played or sung, that is was OK to go up and kick them right in the ass, as the tears turn again in mid-story to that laugh of his. The teacher looked at me and said it was not alright to go kick anyone, but Knute said to listen to him!

Knute’s visit was in the month of January. Kids don’t remember what you taught them yesterday, but on the last week of school, the kids voted on the best day of school and there were 34 votes for Knute Bonner Day, and 0 for any other day of school.

Knute was on the parade board since the early ‘60s, so there wasn’t much he hadn’t seen, and I always respected that. At his last meeting he attended in January, an issue came up about us inviting all the veterans, and I suggested that they all march together with the 82nd Airborne, but I wanted to get Knute’s opinion. So I asked him to address the audience and he did so eloquently, and thoughtfully and told us how his group, the Battle of the Bulge, had too few members to march. His last public comments were that of a man who was 87 years old, but we hung on every word in deep respect for what that man did for our parade and our country.

Happy 84th Birthday

Happy 84th Birthday

Bob Gessler, President of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association

He was simply an omnipresent figure. From the very first time I became involved, there was Knute.

He served on the parade board for over 50 years, and was, if the not the longest-serving member, very near the longest. He was on the board longer than I’ve been around. Just imagine the love you must have for your heritage, your faith and your city to serve that long.

He was a person who always cared about every person in the parade. He thought about how we can eliminate delays, how we can make the parade better and more enjoyable for everyone.

He obviously lived his life caring and striving to make it better for everyone. He made it known to all that he served in the Battle of the Bulge, and it never was a “me” thing; rather a tribute to all those who served with him.

He was truly a remarkable, many-faceted man and one hell of an Irishman.

Mary Frances Fogg, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board Member

Knute Bonner was always joking, and always good for a laugh. For years at the parade meetings Knute has been asking the board to purchase walkie-talkies, so we can talk to each other and to the marshals during the parade. So after years of Knute asking, a few weeks ago I purchased walkie-talkies, and I was going to present them to him at the Grand Marshal Annual Dinner this year. I knew he would get a kick out of it, and finally put this discussion to rest.

So after hearing of Knute’s passing, I thought about the walkie-talkies, and I sent a few members of the board an email telling them about the purchase. Kathy McGee Burns suggested that we put one of the walkie-talkies in the coffin. I quickly responded that she would have to take possession of the other one just in case he calls! And knowing Knute, he will!

God Bless Knute, and his wonderful sense of humor. He still has us laughing. He will be greatly missed.

Bridie McCafferty, St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board Member

Knute Bonner was a sweetheart. He made you feel like you were the most important person in the world when he saw you.
He was not a politician or a celebrity, but you wouldn’t believe the crowds that came to pay tribute to him at his viewing and funeral Mass. This shows how he touched so many people.

Knute was the life of the party, made lifelong friends quickly, and was always up for a bit of fun. When he motioned you to come near him with that twinkle in his eye, and he changed his voice to a whisper, you knew you were going to hear a joke or funny story.

But it was his quiet and humble way of doing charitable work for those less fortunate that I will also remember. For many years, Knute put on Irish Cabaret shows for the elderly at local nursing homes. The joy he brought to his audiences was, as they say, priceless. His life was one of loving service to his family, the church, the Irish community, and veteran causes. You couldn’t meet anyone more generous than Knute.

Knute’s love of God created a joy of life which he richly shared with others, and a sense of service and duty to others that extended to risking his own life in WWII.

We are all the better for knowing Knute.

And I can only imagine what March 17th will be like in heaven this year, with Knute singing ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ with St. Patrick himself.

God bless you Knute, and God bless your wonderful family.

Kathy McGee Burns, Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board Member

I can never remember a funeral as big and beautiful as Knute’s. It was a tribute to a great man. In his death, he was remembered as he lived—not in a maudlin way, but in a happy way.

Knute was buried dressed in his emerald green high-top sneakers, with a shillelagh, his WWII cap, his service decorations,a grand marshal’s sash, a walkie-talkie,an Irish shamrock tie, a book titled “Irish Philadelphia,” a rose in his pocket , a CD playing songs from his string band days, and his Green Top Hat.

I watched the people lean over and kiss him, or rub his hand. I bet there were 1,000 people who came to say goodbye to Knute. The eulogy by a family friend, John Delaney, was nothing short of a vaudeville show, filled with Knute jokes. Pat (Bonner) told me that they closed I-95 for the procession of a “Fallen Hero”as they went to the cemetery.What a farewell party!