By Marilyn Madigan
Back in 1969, when I began my involvement with the West Side Irish American Club, I never anticipated that in November 2023 there would be an event recognizing my service as the National President of the largest Irish Women’s Organization.
On November 11, the two Divisions of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians in Cleveland: Div. 5/10 Our Lady of the Rosary and Div. 11 Deirfiúr of Charity will be hosting a National Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians event at the West Side Irish American Club.
There are many individuals that have helped me on this journey. The first to recognize are my parents Jack and Catherine Finn Madigan. They gave me so many opportunities in my life that centered around family, faith, heritage, education and service to others. I thank my maternal ancestors that left their homeland in Mayo and the West of Ireland during An Gorta Mor and my paternal grandparents from Tipperary and Clare who left Ireland in the early part of the 20th Century for giving me the gift of being born in the United States and the privilege to have my birth registered in the Foreign Birth Book and being an Irish Citizen.
Let’s get back to the beginning of my journey, being involved with Irish activities in 1969. My mother saw my disappointment when as an 8th grader at St. Patrick’s West Park, I was not chosen for the Drill Team. The following Sunday, she had me at the West Side Irish American Club, along with my cousins, to join the I.A. Drill Team.
I need to thank Josephine Hunt for not picking me for the St. Patrick’s Drill Team, because if that did not happen, none of this might have happened. At the I.A., I met many individuals that have played a role in my life in the Irish community, from the leader of the Drill Team, Mary McClusky, to many of the Officers and Board Members of the W.S.I.A., including Terry Joyce, Steve Mulloy, Dan Chambers, Gerry Lavelle, Helen Malloy, John O’Brien and Celia Gallagher, to name a few. As a teenager, they were role models of service to the Irish Community for me.
When I started my nursing education at St. John’s College, one of the first nursing students I met was Marian O’Donnell, another IA Drill Team Member, and a close friend to this day. As a young nurse working in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, I met Deneen O’Reilly, who also went to St. Pat’s. She recruited me for an Irish organization, called the Hibernians.
I joined, but it was difficult to stay active while working a variety of shifts. I became active when my friend Marian married Kevin Reynolds. The Reynolds family was very active in the Hibernians and my active involvement took off.
At this time, I was also playing Camogie for the Emerald Camogie Team, where more friendships developed. The team started to play soccer locally and the Emerald Camogie Team became the Emeralds Soccer Team. I am so happy that Camogie is again active in the Cleveland area, thanks to St. Pat’s-St. Jarlath’s GAA players, coaches and supporters.
During this period, I left the Emerald Soccer Team. My mother again saw how unhappy I was on Sundays not playing. She encouraged me to reach out to our neighbor, Mary Ann VandeVelde, to see if I could join her team.
Mary Ann is a great friend and together we have been soccer teammates on many teams, starting with Concordia. Being on the Concordia soccer team, I was impressed how the Germans embraced their heritage. One of my teammates, Audrey Lyzcek, is of Polish ancestry. In conversation she challenged me to again be more active in my Irish community, even though I was playing for the Germans, Because of her comments, I started to take on leadership roles in the Hibernians.
I have to share why I would never let my membership in the WSIA expire. In 1984, I lost my best friend, my mother. I received a sympathy card from the IA, thanks to Celia Gallagher, who recognized my name in the death notice. I was so moved by her actions that I vowed that I would always be a member of the Club.
I have also had the opportunity to serve as a board member and on various committees throughout the years. People that come into your life make life worth living. We do not always know how our actions touch others. I hope that my actions touch others like Celia Gallagher’s touched me.
The Irish community in Cleveland is fantastic; demonstrated by the commitment and dedication of all that have served on the United Irish Societies. I have served as a Delegate and a Deputy Director. I was extremely touched when Deneen O’Reilly she served as Executive Director, and ask me to work with Rip Reilly, with Parade publicity.
Rip and Bill Chambers were great mentors to me on the United Irish Societies. I loved hearing the stories of the Parade from Bill Chambers when I drove him to the meetings. I would have loved to have recorded his memories.
Although my professional career was nursing, I am a student of history, in particular, Irish and American history. I have to thank Kathie Linton, who strongly encouraged me to seek an office on the national board of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians; I told her that I would seek the office of Irish Historian.
I was so privileged to be elected and serve in that office in a very historic time. My term included the 150th Anniversary of the American Civil War and the Centennial of the Easter Rising. During that period, I highlighted the Irish Role in the Civil War and the Women of 1916.
I was privileged to speak about these remarkable women at events in Ohio, New York, Missouri, Maryland and Michigan. During my term, I also started a project for the Centennial of the Nuns of the Battlefield Monument to include a Wayside Marker to share the important story of the monument.
Serving on the national board, I have met so many individuals from coast to coast that make a difference in their communities. I have also had the privilege to travel with the Freedom for All Ireland of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians.
We do make a difference in the lives of others. The Hibernians are my second family, with Sisters and Brothers across this country. All my Hibernian family is important to me.
I do need to acknowledge some that always seem to have my back and support me always: Pat Lavelle, Maire Leffel, the Reynolds family, Ray McGann, my sisters and brothers in Cleveland, and those I have served with on the National Board. I am proud to be the 4th Ohioan to serve as National President and the 2nd Clevelander.
One hundred years ago, Adelia Christy served and was a dynamic early leader. I hope she is looking from heaven and is happy of how the second Clevelander is leading the order that she loved.
Find this column and others from the September 2023 issue here!