PATERSON, NJ- When the Titantic left its final port of call, Cobh, Ireland, on April 11, 1912, one passenger who had made plans to be on the ill-fated journey was unable to make the passage due to a ticketing snafu.
Had Bess Kennedy been among the 123 passengers that did get on, she likely would have been with most of the others that got on that day, attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean as a third class passenger, nearly 75 percent of whom perished when the ship that was thought unsinkable ended in cold grave at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
On Friday, Kennedy’s great granddaughter, Kathleen Long, stood proudly on the steps of Paterson City Hall, as the Irish flag was raised and Mayor Andre Sayegh offered a litany of reminders about the contributions one of the first major immigrant groups made on building the city.
Long, who serves as Sayegh’s Chief-of Staff, speaks fondly of her Irish heritage, and shared that in addition to studying in Ireland’s second largest city as part of the US-Ireland Alliance, she is married to a man who was raised in Downpatrick, a small town in Northern Ireland that is said to be the burial place of St. Patrick, the patron saint who is said to have brought Christianity to the island in the 5th century.
In 1832, Sayegh, who keeps a souvenir piece of the Blarney Stone on his desk, offered, half of Paterson’s population was made up of Irish immigrants, and the area around Mill Street and Oliver Street was known as Dublin, populated by workers that kept the mills in the area operating.
While the Irish community may not be as prominent as it once was, its remnants were on full display as the flag was raised with proud Irish Americans such as former Mayor Pat Kramer; Freeholder Terry Duffy; Kyle Hughes, President of FMBA Local 2; and Paterson Police Captain Patrick Murray looking on with Long.
Also joining the crowd was Alana Onorato, who from 1995 until earlier this year was the voice on the other end of the line when residents would call the Office of the Mayor in Paterson. Recognized as the Irish Person of the Year, Onorato recounted for TAPinto Paterson that her father, Vincent Kearney, owned the once popular Kearney’s bar on Ellison Street, a gathering place, and with a hotel attached residence, for decades worth of Irish men that had moved to the city in search of work.
Armed with statistics from a recent poll that showed 67% of Americans plan on celebrating St. Patrick’s Day Council President Martiza Davilla, declared that on this day, and in the coming days until the holiday is officially marked on Sunday, she too, like the rest of Paterson, is truly Irish.