Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kiss Me, I'm Irish. A tribute to the Walsh men.

Have you seen the show "Who Do You Think You Are?" on NBC?  One of my new favorites!  It is like taking two of my favorite things... history and mysteries and combining them into one fantastic reality show.  I have always been interested in the stories of my relatives, but because of this show, I am now actively researching my family's past.  It has been every bit as interesting as the show itself.

One thing about my family that has never been a mystery is that my mother's side is Irish.  I may have Danish, English, French Canadian, and even a Swedish root or two... but it is the Irish bloodline which has been the loudest... literally, in my own life.   Every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, and many many Easters were spent with my mom's family.. the Walshes.  I grew up hearing stories from my Papa about his parents who each emigrated to the States from Ireland... and he'd usually tell these stories mimicking his mother's Irish brogue.

Trunk from the old country...
yes, that is a stick up.
 The old country was smelly.
There sits in my living room the trunk which held my great grandfather's belongings as he headed out for the new world.  According to family legend, it was lined with posters of Gibson girls... I said we were Irish, I never said we were Saints...

My great grandfather left Ireland and came to America in the early 1900s to seek a better life here in the US.  Here he met my grandmother, Mary Theresa Forbes. (Irish soda bread.) She also had come to America from Ireland at the age of 17. They started their home in San Francisco and many of my family still resides there.

Joseph Michael Walsh Sr.
San Francisco's Finest
Probably the story that I am most proud of boasts of my great grandfather being the youngest police Captain in SF history.  I didn't know Joseph Michael personally, but knowing the other men in the Walsh family, I can reasonably conclude that he was kind and forgiving, gentle but strong, and faithful to a family he cared about deeply.

My papa holding my son.
My Papa, Joseph Michael Jr., was all of those things.  In fact it wasn't until he lay in a hospital bed, his feet nearly hanging over the end, that I was aware of how big of a man he was.  His nature was so gentle, so caring, so not intimidating, that I never noticed how tall he was, or how massive his hands were.  He would envelope his grandchildren with hugs and kisses.  He would croon softly in his "Bing Crosby" way, the Irish lullaby, Tu-rah-loo-rah-loo-rah to the smallest of us, while the rest of the house was exploding in Irish busy-ness.  I loved my Papa.

Michael Joseph Walsh
San Francisco's Finest
My uncle Mike (Michael Joseph) was very much a Walsh in that he too was extremely caring and compassionate.  He was often coerced into singing at family gatherings...we sang A LOT.  Modestly, he would give into the pleads and with a voice like velvet he would sing "Danny Boy" as only a true Irishman can.   Like his grandfather before him, he swore to protect and serve the people of San Francisco.  We lost him two summers ago, much much too soon.  We miss you, Uncle Mike.

So many men to be proud of... So much history.
This is my family.
Kiss me, I'm Irish.

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