I am Mary Pat. I started my life in 1958 in Yonkers, New York. I was the first child born to Joseph O’Meara and Mary Eileen. They named me “Mary Patricia O’Meara”, which I think is a pretty nice name. I had two sets of grandparents and many aunts and uncles. My mother was the oldest of 8 children and my dad was 1 of 8. So by now you have a few clues to see I was born into two Irish Catholic families.
My mom explained that she met my father while she was walking to morning mass at Monastery Church of the Sacred Heart. (This is extremely different from the way I met my ex-husband, but that is for future blog postings.) My mom and dad got married and then I was born. My parents had rough patches in their marriage, but seemed to be getting the marriage act together when my dad was killed in a car accident.
I was too young to remember my dad, so I learned about him through stories told and retold by family and friends who knew him well. My dad, Joey O’Meara was well respected. Joey was a big muscular man who seemed to have a reputation for being a good friend and a strong fighter throughout Yonkers.
The one story about my father that remains my favorite is the ‘Great Sammy Fight’. I could hear told over again and never be tired of that story. So I am going to tell you my version of the “Great Sammy Fight”.
My O’Meara grandparents, George and Peg lived in an apartment above a store on Lake Avenue in Yonkers. My grandma, Peg would sit in a chair by the window staring out onto the street. This is where she thought, prayed and kept watch over the Emerald Isle Pub across the street. Many nights she acted as the alarm to Grandpa George, exclaiming “George, Joey is fighting!” Short in stature George, would jump from bed, throw on clothes, rush down to the pub and stop the tall, muscular Joey.
Joey had been known to be the protector. If someone smaller or more vulnerable was being treated unjustly, Joey was there to defend them. Sammy, on the other hand, was a bully. Sammy was picking on friends of Joey’s who were not capable of matching Sammy’s brute strength. Sammy chose my father’s friends to beat-up as to taunt my dad to a “showdown”.
The legendary night began the same as most nights at the Emerald Isle, my dad, along with his brother and best friend, George talked with friends while knocking back a few pints. When the pub door opened and in walked Sammy and goons. A hush filled the bar as everyone knew that this would be a not so usual night. Grandma Peg must have had one of her instinctive moments and instructed Grandpa George to go to the pub. Grandpa George did as told and took his seat at the bar.
Now Sammy and Joey were in the same room together. The title of the great fighter on the line, the words were starting to be exchanged. Grandpa leaped to his feet and rushed to Joey imploring Joey not to fight, but all Joey said was ‘not tonight dad, this is Sammy!’ Grandpa took a step back and knew that Joey was okay. And then the fight was on.
Sammy took the first swipe, but that was all from Sammy. Joey punched Sammy so hard that it sent him sailing into the next day. Sammy never got up to swing again. The fight was over with the throwing of two punches. Joey was victorious! And the story of the fight grew and my father, Joey O’Meara became known as the best fighter in Yonkers.
Years later after my dad’s death his baby sister Marianne was in a night club on a date. A man who looked familiar to Marianne walked up to her table and started conversing with her date. Her date introduced them “Sammy this is Marianne, Marianne this is Sammy.” My aunt Marianne became frightened she knew it was Sammy who her big brother had knocked out many years ago. Sammy too was startled and inquired ‘Are you related to Joe O’Meara?’ Softly Marianne answered, ‘Joey is my brother.’ Sammy immediately replied, “Joey O’Meara was the greatest fighter, and I am sorry that he died!’
Today I could not tell you what happened to Sammy. But Joey O’Meara stories are still being told throughout the generations of the O’Meara family. My wishes are that my daughter will pass it down to her children and so on.
I will post many more stories of my family and I hope you all will enjoy!