News, People

Irish Community Mourns the Passing of Liam Hegarty

They say if you want to get something done, ask the busiest person.

That summed up the beloved Liam Hegarty, as one longtime friend put it. Hegarty is well-known for serving on the board of the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia and in various leadership roles for the Delaware County (Delco) Gaels, the Gaelic Athletic Association locally and nationally, Irish Network-Philadelphia, and the Irish American Business Chamber and Network—but his influence and rampant creativity touched many other organizations and, say those who knew him best, made them better.

Hegarty, of West Chester, born in Ednamuck, Mountcharles, County Donegal, passed away suddenly earlier this week. Born October 10, 1967, he was just 51. His untimely death leaves many trying to imagine what life will be like without his friendship and dedication.

“He really was a visionary,” says his friend of 30 years, Tom Higgins, who played with Hegarty for the Donegal football club and served on many boards with him, from the Immigration Center to the Delco Gaels. “This whole youth sports organization is basically his design, not just in Philadelphia but around the country.  The Liberty Bell championships, which happen a week before the annual Continental Youth Championships for mainly teams on the East Coast—that’s all Liam too. His idea.”

Hegarty served as youth officer of the United States Gaelic Association and chairman of the Continental Youth Championships.

He was also the first chairman of the board of the Irish Immigration Center when it reorganized several years ago. Higgins was also a member of the board. “When we went around the table asking who would be willing to be the chairman, no one spoke up. Finally, Liam said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’ He was a better person than all of us put together.”

Hegarty was chairman for three years and continued to serve on the board.

Hegarty, who grew up in Kells, County Meath, and graduated from St. Joseph University, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in accounting. He was a partner in the regional accounting firm Maguire Hegarty. One of his specialties was providing outsources chief financial officer services to Irish companies entering the U.S. market.

He is survived by wife Maureen and children Billy, Patrick, Kevin and Michael. He is the son of William J. and Elizabeth “Betty” Hegarty.A viewing will be held Monday, December 10, starting at 4 p.m., at Saints Simon and Jude Catholic Church, 8 Cavanaugh Court in West Chester. A funeral mass will be celebrated Tuesday at 11 a.m. There will be no viewing Tuesday morning.

We asked many longtime friends for their reflections on the life of Liam Hegarty and to share those and some of the many poignant posts that flooded social media after Hegarty’s death.

John O’Malley, chairman of the Irish Immigration Center board

I met Liam through just being involved with the Irish American Business Chamber and Network. We served on the board of that together for a few years. And then we also served on the board of the Irish Immigration Center for a long time. And then I knew Liam was an accountant and I’m an attorney and we tried to help each other out.

Liam was always somebody who showed up for every major or important event. You’d always figure Liam would be there. He was just very interested in our community here in Philadelphia. He gave up a lot of his time with the Immigration Center and the GAA and countless other things I probably wasn’t aware of. He was just a good guy. If there was a funeral or a viewing, Liam would always show up. He was selfless in serving the Irish community and his friends and family. He was just a great guy.

It’s going to be a huge void. He was involved in so many organizations, and a worker in every organization he was in. If people needed something done, they would ask Liam to do it.

It’s such a shock. I’m still processing it. I feel bad for his family. He’s going to be really missed.

Ciarán Porter, youth development officer for the Irish Immigration Center

I first met Liam through Gaelic football at the Delco Gaels. Liam was a very active member of the GAA in Philadelphia. Over the years I grew a stronger relationship with him. We worked on many projects together. Since he was a board member of the Immigration Center, many of the things he worked on, I would have a had a connection with him.

Liam often laid the foundation for many projects that happened here in Philadelphia. He did what needed to be done to get things to grow. He was always looking for new ideas and new projects. He never sat still, never stayed on one thing. He always added energy and excitement to ideas. He was always improving things, building partnerships and relationships.

He always looked out for everybody else, always helping others. He was always looking at the positive and how to make things work and make them better, even if there were challenges or barriers. He had a good way of thinking.

He did a lot of work for the diaspora here in Philadelphia. He always kept that connection between Ireland and Philadelphia and America very much alive.

He’s going to be a big loss, and a huge presence we’re going to miss. He was a great man. In such a short life he achieved so much. He squeezed a lot into 51 years.

Siobhan Lyons, former executive director of the Irish Immigration Center

Liam Hegarty was chairman of the board when I was hired to take over the Irish Immigration Center in 2009, and I’m personally grateful for the opportunity he gave me to serve our community.

Much of the development of the Irish Immigration Center over the past 10 years—from our close ties with the GAA to the establishment of the first Foróige (a youth organization)in the United States—can be traced back to Liam’s vision for the center as a collaborative, convening partner for the Irish community in Philadelphia. Liam was deeply committed to the Irish community in Philadelphia and to building stronger connections between Ireland and our region. He will be greatly missed.

Leslie Alcock, former executive director of the Irish Immigrations Center

Liam was a pillar of the community.  He was involved in so much. He was always willing to help, a great support, an advocate for the Irish, especially those who couldn’t advocate for themselves. He was always available to be a listening ear and provided great guidance and wisdom.

John O’Flynn, director of operations, North Vancouver Football Club, Vancouver Canada.

It is with deep sadness when I learned of the death of Liam Hegarty. Liam had been chairperson of the CYC (Continental Youth Championships) for four years and was an unending supporter of all Irish sport, dance, you name it, endeavours. To when we first met in Colorado for the USGAA Finals—he was passionate—on that particular day—with my referee abilities. But as the years went—man, was not Liam Hegarty a servant to his community and many other communities beyond his own! It was an eye-opener to work alongside him at past CYC’s. The Canadian Gaelic Athletic Association will never forget such a legend. My sympathies to his wife Maureen, his talented children and extended family members. Is féidir a anam anam.

 St. Pat’s Donegal Gaelic Football Club, Philadelphia

 We are deeply saddened and devastated with the news of Liam Hegarty’s untimely passing. Liam was a member and former player with Donegal Philadelphia GFC. He was always there to help, assist and do whatever was needed. Liam’s involvement over the years is truly immeasurable and will be sorely missed. His energy, passion, commitment, service and love for all local events and the entire GAA family are noticeably richened by his contributions over the years. His passion for youth development within the GAA is evident with the growth of the annual CYC here in the U.S. and indeed was evident this past weekend with the successful All-Star trip here in Philadelphia. Liam Hegarty,you will be greatly missed by your GAA family and friends in Philadelphia and beyond. We extend our sincerest sympathies to Maureen, Billy, Patrick, Kevin and Michael, his parents, extended family and to all who know Liam …
Rest in Peace, Liam and until we meet again …
Go dtuga Dia suaimhneas sioraí dó.

 Karen Conaghan Race, co-founder, Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Centre

 We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of our friend, Liam Hegarty. Among many other wonderful contributions to our community, Liam was the first chairperson of the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Selection. We are forever grateful to Liam for his leadership, vision and most of all, his amazing kindness. Our heartfelt condolences to the Hegarty family and to those who loved him. Rest in Peace.

Paul Mulcaire

USGAA Youth Officer

We have lost one of the finest GAA men to grace this sport.

In the GAA, we are all volunteers, but Liam was a volunteer who outshone each one of us. Liam was dedicated to the GAA his entire life. He brought his GAA passion from Ireland to the USA and devoted his time and efforts to building the sport in this country. Liam served the GAA in many capacities over the years, including five years as the USGAA Youth Officer and four years as the CYC Chair. Our youth programs across the country have benefited from his leadership.

Liam’s effort and influence has also been felt locally at his home club, the Delaware County Gaels. His passing is a tremendous loss for Delco and the Philadelphia Division. I know we all have them in our thoughts and prayers at this time. He has left a strong legacy in Philadelphia and left us all with fond memories and stories of him.

For me personally, the loss of Liam was the loss of a mentor and friend. I have been honored to work closely with Liam on a number of committees. His guidance and leadership allowed me to grow and learn during my own years volunteering for the GAA and it is because of Liam that I felt ready to assume the role of Youth Officer.

Despite the time Liam gave to the GAA, above all else, Liam was a dedicated father and husband. All who met the Hegarty family easily saw their bond and his love of family. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wife, Maureen and his sons Billy, Patrick, Kevin and Michael. Please keep them all in your prayers as they navigate this painful loss.

I know Liam’s memory will be kept alive through each of us. In order to honor him, the USGAA Youth Committee will be meeting to discuss a perpetual memorial or award in Liam’s name. I welcome any thoughts or suggestions you may have.

On behalf of the USGAA Youth Committee, I send my deepest sympathies, thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and GAA community who cared so much about him.

Fionnuala Porter McBrearty, friend, Delco Gaels

Our hearts are broken. We have lost a friend who had a hearty laugh and a gentle way. Liam was a family man whose eyes lit up when he talked about his boys: Billy, Patrick, Kevin and Michael—and his fantastic wife Maureen. Liam’s life was taken away too soon, yet everyone who knew him knows that he lived his life to the fullest. Liam was one of the go-to guys on a Gaelic field. He was often on a golf cart with a radio answering what seemed like never ending questions. Yet in between answering questions he would lift his head and say hello! He would know children’s names and ask them how their game went—because they weren’t just team members they were part of the Delco Gaels family.

Liam loved his family and friends—his face beamed when he talked about how “the lads “ surprised him for his 50th birthday—and he was always delighted when friends made makeshift beds on a couch or floor for themselves or children—because good parties last as long as possible. We rang in New Years together, watched Super Bowl games and went on a camping trip. No matter what the occasion was, Liam and Maureen always made everyone feel welcome. We will say goodbye to our friend this week, but he will live forever in our hearts—our community will find strength in each other.Maureen, Billy, Patrick, Kevin, Michael, Peggy, Annmarie, Tom, Aine, Charlie, Owen and Tara, we will be here for you.  And to Liam’s mother and father and brothers in Ireland, you can be proud of the legacy that Liam has left behind. Liam, may you rest In peace.

Jim Simpson, chair, Delaware County Gaels

“But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

— William Butler Yeats

I am sure many have heard of Liam’s passing, and condolences have been pouring in from across the world on the deep loss so many feel with this devastating news. Liam was a pillar in the Irish community not only here in Philadelphia but throughout the U.S.A and in Ireland. Liam was a stalwart in our Gaelic community. He was our rock. The whole Gaelic community will mourn Liam, as he was the embodiment of a GAA man. Liam’s service to the GAA is unmatched, it was never about him, it was always about the game and the kids. This loss will be felt worldwide. However, we feel this loss even more deeply in our Gaels family.

Liam Hegarty was not just a GAA man, he was not just a pillar of the Irish business community. Liam was the DELCO GAELS and he was our brother. More importantly, he was my friend. Words ring hollow in such a time of sorrow. I cannot dutifully express exactly how I feel.

His accomplishments are well known and well documented. Yet, this is not the Liam I mourn. I mourn my friend, who brought me into the GAA family and guided me with the wisdom and love of a brother. He is the friend I camped with, whom I spent holidays with, and the man whom I looked up to with a reverence that he never knew.

I hope that everyone in our Gaels family have had the opportunity to know the Liam I knew. Liam made me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better friend. His passing is something we will all struggle with for a long time. The only solace we have is the fact that he made us part of his extended family.

Maureen, Billy, Patrick, Kevin and Michael, we your Delco Gaels family will always be here for you, because your husband and Dad, was always there for us.

Liam, my brother and friend, sleep well, and we will never tread on your dreams, we will do our best to fulfill them.

Love your friend

Jimmy Simpson

Brian Cleary, former board member, Irish Immigration Center; co-owner, McKenna’s Kitchen, Havertown

Liam Hegarty was a mentor to many, including me. I sat on the board of the Irish Immigration Center with Liam for almost five years. His partner, Paul Maguire, and Liam offered me a lot of opportunities to expand my business practices into the Irish community and Ireland. In December 2016 we went to Ireland together to work on a project. Liam took me to Paul’s alma mater, Trinity College. We looked at the Book of Kells and all the books in the book rooms. I had wanted to hit the Irish Whiskey Museum. He said, ‘Jesus, Cleary, you’ve got about as fine a collection as they do. But ya don’t have the Kells.” Best decision ever. We walked up Grafton Street at Christmas talking about the contributions of the Irish to the world. It was a special trip.

We ended up with a client at a local pub. They were selling chances to win 10 grand in Euros, 10 Euro a ticket. He bought four. On each he wrote his American phone and address and in the name column he wrote “the Delco Gaels” That’s how he rolls . . . He was a beautiful friend and I will miss his generosity of spirit and the gleam in the corner of his eyes when he told ya a tale.”

Paul Maguire, partner, Maguire Hegarty, LLC

On Monday I lost my dear friend and partner Liam. We had known each other since the early ’90s and since then watched our families grow happily and since forming our partnership in 2010 our careers progress together.

We had a unique offering in addition to regular accounting and tax services in that our Irish backgrounds allowed us to interact with companies from home and other countries as they entered the U.S. marketplace. We could talk their language and give a clear perspective in doing business in this country.

Liam’s personality was perfectly suited to this role and he was welcome in business communities not only in the USA but throughout the length and breadth of Ireland and the UK.

His death has created a large void in our hearts and firm but we will follow his mantra that “it will work out alright” and will strive to continue his legacy in that field.

A man is known by this friends and our clients are our friends and the outpouring of love for Liam this week is reflected in some of these lines from emails for all around the world.

We loved Liam over here, he was one of a kind and will be dearly missed”

He was a kind and wonderful man”

I was privileged to share happy and productive times with him in Ireland on numerous occasions

Liam was always very positive, helpful and most of all completely decent with me in our dealings”

I can tell you like many other folks who know Liam, I too shed a tear for the man when I learned of his death a few hours ago”

“He stood out for his kindness and willingness to share advice and friendship to a newcomer to the city”.

“From the very first day I met the two of you, it was clear you were more than good friends. You both travelled different roads and ended up in Philadelphia. Your experiences, your collective ambition and your depth of mutual respect bonded you two together tremendously” 

“It is fitting that the GAA All-stars are in Philadelphia this week, a visit that I am sure was a triumph of many years of work that Liam gave to Philadelphia GAA. If Saint Peter has any sense, he will keep the bar in heaven open until Philadelphia’s All Star, Liam, arrives to allow him to toast his many friends and family he leaves behind”

Liam was such a wonderful guy and he helped my organization so, so very much

“Such a brilliant and wonderful man”

“As you know Liam called to see us when he was in Ireland for the Ploughing and it was great to finally meet him”

“Great guy & lovely family. 

You guys made a great team”

“It was a pleasure to deal with him.  We only met as recently as September in the Herbert Park Hotel in Dublin”

“He made us so welcome in Philadelphia in the summer and ensured we had an amazing experience.  Liam’s passion for the business and sporting life of Philadelphia and Ireland was clear for all to see and he was most definitely a friend of ours here at Ulster University”

“He was a gentleman and we enjoyed working with him over the past number of years”

These unsolicited comments indicate how highly regarded my friend was by his clients and colleagues.

On our family’s behalf we will paraphrase W B Yeats

“Think where man’s glory most begins and ends, 
And say our glory was we had such a friend.”

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