Remembering Kevin McGinty

Kevin McGinty was one of those people whose generosity of spirit cut through the callousness of a world drenched in cynicism.

He could be cynical, like all of us, but I only heard it in the form of his jokes, or anecdotes, or a few words of encouragement.

As I heard of his death today, I wanted to offer an anecdote of him that I remember daily.

[Listen to a special program in tribute to Kevin]

Kevin was a native of County Mayo, Ireland, and an icon of Northeast Ohio’s Irish community.

He made up half of the Sounds of Britain & Ireland program on Cleveland’s NPR station WCPN, and it was when he came in to the studio to record that program when I’d see him most often.

He’d ask how I’m doing and joke that I needed to include more Irish news in the newscast.  I’ll try, I’ll try, I’d say.

One day he asked me how I was doing, and if I remember right I had told him about attending a German-language Mass at an older church on Cleveland’s west side.

He asked if I was Catholic.

I’m pretty sure he knew I was, just as my red hair reveals the Irish branch of my family tree.  His question seemed liked he was setting up a joke, so I tossed it back.

“Yes, very,” I said. “Are you?”

“Yes, yes,” he said.

“But are you so Catholic that you have a rosary on you right now?” I said, pulling one from my pocket.

“Like this one?” He smiled, pulling out a small pouch with his rosary in it.

“Oh, my,” I said.”But do you have some of these?” I pulled my necklace from beneath my shirt, showing a collection of medals I wear every day.

Without missing a beat, Kevin McGinty pulled out another pouch filled with Our Lady of Knock medals!

And he gave me one.

I’ve worn it ever since.

I’ve written a lot about grief in recent weeks, and about how the emotion can overpower us.

I heard Kevin died in his sleep, at peace, and I do pray that’s the case.  I’m thankful to have experienced his kindness on even an occasional basis. Those memories are fueling more a feeling of wishing Kevin a ‘glorious send-off’ in the Irish tradition, instead of a deep sadness.

And if ever I get to Knock, I’ll hope that Kevin will say a prayer with me.

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