Category: Archive

Remembering a ‘glittering light’

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

“A glittering light burned out at the Irish Repertory Theatre on Sunday last at 3 p.m. Just as our matinee was beginning Frank made his quiet exit.
“From our early modest beginnings, to his very last days, he was our friend, the source of our inspiration, the generous one. As actor, author, and benefactor, he forged his mighty imprint on our hearts and souls. We will never forget him.
“It is indeed he saddest of times. He was the funniest and best of men,” said the company’s producing director, Ciaran O’Reilly.
McCourt’s often searing brand of humor was also remembered by author Peter Quinn.
“Frank McCourt was the funniest sad man I ever met. Or maybe he was the saddest funny man I ever met. His mother, the redoubtable Angela, once said of him, ‘Frank is only happy when he’s miserable,’ ” Quinn said.
“I didn’t spend a lot of sad moments with Frank. Those I did are hard to distinguish from the funny/happy ones, because no matter how sad they were, Frank always found some comic thread to grab hold of and spin into a hilarious yarn.
Sad or not, Frank had you laughing, and laughter is the final redemption of all human misery.
“I never met a more generous person than Frank McCourt, except maybe for his younger brother Malachy, who has always been as funny as Frank, if not as sad. The other two brothers, Mike and Alphie, are each characters in their own right. How it is that men of such tremendous generosity and inexhaustible funniness came out of punishing deprivation and rank squalor is both a mystery and a testament to the resilience of the human soul.
“Frank didn’t wait for his biographer. He lived and wrote with passion, and crafted his life into art, and the story he wrote touched, and continues to touch, the entire world. Along with great sorrow at his passing, there is great gratitude for his life. He was a wonderful friend. May perpetual light shine upon him,” said Quinn.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York also had fond memories of McCourt: “A year or two ago, Frank McCourt and I were speaking at Adrian Flannelly’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party and radio show when Frank said, ‘New York is such a lovely city. I was born here, and I’d like to die here too – in about 30 years.’ Sadly, we lost Frank today, far too soon.
“Frank arrived in New York from Limerick with nothing and, like so many Irish immigrants before him, worked to build a better life here.
“He shared his gift for teaching with thousands of New York City public school children, and when he retired, he shared his gift for storytelling with the world. Frank’s love for his students was matched only by the respect he had for his fellow teachers, and his success as a writer reflects the incredible talent that is found at the front of public school classrooms throughout the City.
“Of all the great New York writers, few have captured the hearts of readers – and the heart of the city – as well as Frank,” Bloomberg said.
New York City Comptroller William Thompson also released a statement.
“Frank opened his heart to people around the world by sharing his personal experiences through wonderfully crafted memoirs.
I am certain that Frank’s amazing life will continue to live on through his novels, and by those who remember him,” he said.
In Ireland, the minister for arts, Martin Cullen, said that as a teacher, Frank McCourt had instilled and encouraged a love of literature and creative writing in his students.
“As a writer himself, he was a master storyteller. He overcame adversity and misfortune at a young age to find his place in the world and in that process inspired many, many people, students, friends and readers alike,” said Cullen.
The Irish ambadsor to the U.S., Michael Collins also paid tribute.
Said Collins: I first met Frank in New York some twenty five years ago and was privileged to have remained in contact with him through the years since then. Most recently, I was very honored and proud to introduce him in February at a literary event in Colombia, Maryland, which was thronged with enthusiastic devotees of Frank’s work, at which he spoke about his book ‘Teacher Man’ and his life as a teacher in New York.
“Frank was a gifted and gentle man whose appeal went way beyond the many people in the United States and Ireland who particularly appreciated his writings, his wit and the wonderful character that he was.
“Indeed, I remember a particular occasion shortly after the publication of Angela’s Ashes when I was living in Saudi Arabia and the local women’s Book Club wanted additional insights into the book! We got in touch with Frank and he very generously obliged. The fact that the book appealed to diverse groups and nationalities, whether in Riyadh or New York, is a real testament to the universality of Frank’s extraordinary literary talent. He enjoyed enormous and well-deserved success and he will be missed by all who knew and loved him.”
Some took the passing of McCourt in a very personal way, not least a group of fifteen women who dubbed themselves “Friends of Frank.”
They are scattered all over the U.S. and stay in touch with each other by email and it was by email that they sent this message to the Echo.
“We are some very sad ladies tonight. We were Frank McCourt’s fan club. We called ourselves Friends of Frank. Some of us were ever so lucky to have met himself in person.
“As a group though we met online because we read ‘Angela’s Ashes.’ We have been friends ever since. We have read his books and his brother, Malachy’s. We are also pretty good prayer warriors. Unfortunately, we didn’t do so good this week for our Frankie. God bless him.”

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