Category: Archive

Editorial Mr. Donegal

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Some people are born to be noticed. Willie Joe Cunningham was one of nine kids. He was born in Ireland at a time when lots of families had nine kids, often more. But from his earliest years, Willie Joe stood out. He was, for one thing, incredibly restless. He had an uncanny knack of cropping up in the middle of the action. The Germans nearly bombed him into an early eternity in Coventry. The RUC arrested him in Belfast on suspicion that he was an IRA man. He wasn’t, but he probably didn’t give the RUC much reason to think he was anything else.

Willie Joe was not a man to back down when roused. In later years, as an Irish immigrant in New York, Willie Joe took boldly to the task of creating a new life for himself and his wife, Ellen. It was quite a life. There were times when there appeared to be more than one Willie Joe about the place. That he had energy to burn was an understatement.

And of course, you had to mind yourself with him from time to time. The Echo once ran an immigration story on Page One. The accompanying illustration was a green card with Willie Joe’s picture on it. He was on the phone in a flash, reminding the paper, forcefully, that he was an American citizen and proud of it. Pride was at the heart of Willie Joe’s life story — pride in his county, his native land and his adopted country, pride in his heritage, his wife and work. And, at the end, pride in the fact that on a planet of six billion souls, Willie Joe Cunningham had stood out, had been noticed.

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