Everyone's Irish on St. Patrick's Day, but I really am.
Sheila here. All my life, my mother Patricia and my grandmother Margaret Warren celebrated the fact that our ancestors came from Ireland to America, and we're proud of our Irish heritage.
My Great-Great Grandfather Bernard Downey hails from County Tyrone, and after spending time working in Aberdeen Scotland, he emigrated to America. He landed in Urbana, Ohio, where he found work on railroad cars. He also served the Union Army in the Civil War as a blacksmith, then was honorably discharged after falling from a horse. Barney, as he was known, met his wife Margaret Lyons in Urbana, where she gave birth to my Great Grandfather Andrew Downey.
My Great Grandmother Catherine Radigan (also spelled Radicaen) was just a child when she left her mother in County Sligo, to travel to America with her aunt. She and her sister lived in Danbury, Connecticut before joining relatives in Columbus, Ohio. Andrew Downey knew her relatives and met Catherine when he was working in Columbus for a moving company. They were married at Sacred Heart Church, and my grandmother Margaret spent her entire life in Ohio's capital city. It's where my mother and I were born.
Catherine would never tell her age, and she talked of seeing spirits. She was very superstitious, and would dress in her best clothes to watch television. She thought the people inside the box could also see her!
I hope someday to go to Ireland to see the land of my ancestors. On this holiday, I can't help thinking of their courage in leaving their families and the hard life there behind to find a better life in America. I am grateful to them for giving their children and descendants a life of freedom and promise, and today I will toast them as I celebrate St. Patrick's Day with my own Irish children.