John "Jack" Irwin, the son of Irish immigrants who was a driving force in numerous Irish-American organizations, had worked as an Irish affairs adviser in the Pataki administration and routinely visited the land of his parents, died Sunday of complications from Alzheimer's disease at Calvary Hospice in the Bronx.
He was 84.
Irwin was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, said his daughter-in-law, Grace Irwin, of East Rockaway. His Irish roots played a large role in his life. He explained why in a 2007 interview in the Irish Voice, a weekly Irish-American newspaper based in New York City.
He said his mother had come from a "little place called Moyvanne . . . in County Kerry and my father is from Athea in County Limerick," Irwin said. "In fact, if you go to Athea you will see a bar called Irwins. Both my parents come from large families; my mother was one of 15 and my father one of 14." He said his parents met in New York City, and married in Brooklyn.
Asked why he was so involved in Irish-American affairs and organizations, Irwin, who had held numerous positions in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, including serving as national director, replied: "It comes down to my parents. I grew up in Sunnyside, Queens, and everyone around me was Irish. With all of the family members who came here we would do everything with them. We would go up to the Bronx to see our aunts and uncles, where we would be treated to the sounds of the flute or violin. "
Since 1959, Irwin had lived in East Rockaway with his wife of 61 years, Mary Ann. He attended high school in Queens, Grace Irwin said.
Irwin served in the Army during the Korean War, was stationed in Alaska, then honorably discharged in 1953, his daughter-in-law said. He worked at Merrill Lynch for 38 years, where he became a vice president before retiring in 1992. He took a position as Gov. George Pataki's Irish affairs director, a post he held for 11 years, Grace Irwin said.
She said her father-in-law loved to sing Irish songs and make speeches. "That was one of the jokes in the family. He could get up and speak and sing at any point; you never knew when." He was also a child actor, appearing in a Broadway production of "Life with Father," he told an interviewer.
Grace Irwin said her father-in-law was also "very caring person," citing his work with physically challenged youths' sporting activities, among other endeavors, and was attentive to his many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Besides the local and national positions with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Irwin was vice chairman of the Irish American Heritage Museum in Nassau; director of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center and vice chairman of the National Assembly of Irish American Republicans. He wasan officer with the New York Guard Irish Brigade; and worked on numerous committees addressing Irish affairs. He also was 2007 grand marshal at the Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Day Parade.
In addition to his daughter-in-law and wife, Irwin is survived by sons Brian Irwin of East Rockaway and Jeff Irwin of Oceanside; daughters Donna Cullinan and Jacqueline Murphy, both of East Rockaway; brothers Kevin Irwin of Levittown and Donald Irwin of Florida; a sister, Barbara O'Donnell of Croton-on-Hudson; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.
Visitation is Tuesday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Donza Funeral Home in East Rockaway. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. at Saint Raymond Roman Catholic Church in East Rockaway. Irwin's remains will be interred at Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.