Heart of a Volunteer, Queen of Irish Hospitality
R.I.P. Christine McCarthy 2/14/69 – 2/28/22
By Maureen Conway Reich
Many in the Cleveland Irish Community knew Christine McCarthy. It wasn’t hard to find her at one of her favorite pubs: Sully’s, Gormley’s, PJ McIntyres, or at an Irish Festival.
The party never seemed to get started until Christine arrived. She had an exuberant spirit, enormous smile, and infectious laugh. Her love for all things Irish connected her to so many in our tight-knit community. She was always one to say, “I’ve got two tickets for (name the event), wanna go?” Why would anyone say no to hanging out with the most fun person in the room!
I met Christine as volunteers at Cleveland Irish Cultural Festival. The Temple Bar area of the festival was gaining popularity, and I needed to clone myself to get the job done. Christine was there, always asking what else could be done, and how could she help. I didn’t just clone myself but found someone who gave 100% of her time and devotion to making the festival fun and memorable for attendees and musicians alike. She seemed to have an endless supply of energy!
Christine took care of our visiting musicians like no other. I’ve heard from many that Cleveland is their favorite place to visit, and much of that was due to the incredible hospitality that Christine McCarthy provided. She was a true ambassador of our Irish Community, and of Cleveland.
It was common to see Christine running with a tray of snacks for hungry musical guests or bringing cold beverages to thirsty performers. I don’t think they knew that she often paid out of her pocket for those thirst quenchers!
Birthday cakes, home-cooked dinners, guided tours, shuttles, and booze cruises are just some of the ways she took care of her musical friends that visited our town. Irish musicians always felt welcome, knowing their own personal Queen of Hospitality was there to mind them.
Christine was a major part of the more recent Whale Irish Festival and gave of her time to the Ohio Celtic Festival as well. I’m sorry that she never made it to the Milwaukee Festival, although she might’ve loved that one so much that we would have lost her to it!
We traveled to Ireland together in 2019 and talked endlessly about our common heritage. My parents emigrated from Mayo, and Christine’s mother emigrated from Cork, carrying Christine, who would be born in the U.S. a few months later. She loved that trip and couldn’t wait to go back.
I know that her spirit is there now, but also with us. We’ll feel her presence whenever we listen to our favorite Irish bands and take that first sip of a pint of Guinness. She loved volunteering, the Cleveland Indians, concord grapes, Irish music, and Guinness. Mostly she loved her friends. She brought out the best in people.
May we all celebrate her life by living each day to the fullest, making new friends, and generously giving of our time to sustain our Irish heritage and culture. Christine left the party too soon and we will miss her. Somewhere in heaven there is a grand hooley that just got going when she arrived. I’m sure she brought some cake and a smile.