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Frank O’Connor: A True Irishman

When we were kids and my Uncle Frank would call the house we always knew when it was him because my mom would snap her fingers to indicate we needed to run and grab her cigs. It was going to be a while. My Uncle Frank had a knack for making a long story longer. Much like my brother Juan.

Tomorrow is the one year deathiversary of my beloved UFO. Uncle Frank O’Connor. My mom’s brother.

For those who aren’t in the know, my mom’s maiden name was O’Connor. And then she married my dad, whose name was also O’Connor. And they may or may not have lived on the same street. From our limited knowledge, they were not related. But it’s not like any of us are running to have any DNA testing done either.

So. Here we are.

UFO has always played a big role in my life. His wife, Aunt Kathy, is also my godmother. After my parents died, they really always made it a point to keep in touch. And by keep in touch I mean, party our shamrocks off together at least twice a year.

When we were kids we would go to Irish Fest in Milwaukee at the end of every summer. It was like better than Christmas. An entire weekend of being ignored by every adult we knew. Having free reign in a foreign city. You know, to celebrate our heritage. It was amazing.

We’d always stay at the fancy Pfister hotel and UFO always planned everything. He was in his element there. Being Irish was very important to him.

But celebrating being Irish was even more important.

When we were kids, his St. Patrick’s Day parties were legendary. If you’ve ever been to one, you’d not soon forget it. Unless you had one too many Irish Coffees with fresh whipping cream.

We celebrated formally together twice a year. We had UFO Christmas. Meaning, my mom’s side. Which started as just an intimate holiday gathering to remember my mom and dad. But it turned into so much more.

In case you’re confused, this is a pic from UFO Christmas.

UFO Christmas was like it’s very own special little Christmas. The kids would find a fun game and ask if we could play it on Christmas. We’d be like, no way, that’s not an appropriate game to play on the Lord’s bday. But it sounds perfect for UFO Christmas.

UFO Christmas was way more about us partying and laughing together. It was all about having a good time. A night to Jingle our Bells without judgement.

Just being together. Laughing. Singing. Dancing. Beating a Rudolph the red-nosed Reindeer piñata til the kids cried.

Our tradition will continue on, but it will never be the same.

As we got older and had kids of our own, we also celebrated every March with UFO cooking exorbitant amounts of corned beef and cabbage. For all of us. For other relatives. For our friends. For anyone. For everyone. It was the best.

These nights always lasted til the wee hours of the morning. There was always plenty of Irish Dancers on hand and plenty of craic. I will cherish the memories forever.

Growing up, our family had a Turkey Bowl every year on Thanksgiving. It was a big deal. One side of the neighborhood vs the other. Depending on who you ask, the Turkey Bowl has been around 54 years. And continues to this day.

Back in the nineties UFO, who was about 6’5″, decided to film it. Pretty sure because he was the only one who could handle that monstrous camcorder.

So for the first time ever there would be documentation of this feats of strength sporting event. We would have this to cherish and rewatch for years to come. Everybody was amazed, elated even.

Well almost everyone.

I was a little more excited about NKOTB being on the Arsenio Hall show. I figured fifty years from now my family would more appreciate this joyous occasion. So I taped over the beloved Turkey Bowl. With the not so beloved Arsenio Hall.

A decision was made that day. One that I still stand by. And, yes, I still have that VHS.

To say this was problematic for my relationship with UFO would be an understatement. I can clearly remember my dad’s reaction. You’re not in trouble, you just have to tell Uncle Frank what you did. Ohhhhh fudge.

So I did. I was real bold back then. We actually laughed our backsides off about it together. Thirty years later.

UFO was a Battalion Chief for the Chicago Fire Department. A job he was very proud of. After 9/11 he jumped in a van with so many others and went to help at ground zero. That was so cool.

UFO was also a man of Carmel. He graduated from Mt. Carmel High School. Class of 1961. He started there a boy and left there a man. Then came back there as an older man to work after retiring from CFD.

UFO was a lot of things. But most importantly, he was hubs to Kathy, dad to Sheila, Maureen + Mike, and Danny + Jen, and grandpa to Grace, Danny, Tommy, Colleen, Matt, Katie, and Maeve. Number one uncle to Johnny, Eileen, Patrick, Timmy, Mike, and Patty. And step-brother to Step.

He died right after this pic was taken. We were celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary to Aunt Kathy. So glad we had this night.

We didn’t get to have a wake or funeral. No proper send off. No good-byes.

So, “my gift is my *blog* babe and this one’s for you.”

Our Last Supper

We all miss him. I really miss that he got a kick out of my blog. He would tell me when he liked one and give me ideas. Most could never be put in print.

Maybe I’ll record the Turkey Bowl this year. RIP UFO

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