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Mrs Kathleen Godfrey (R.I.P.) – New York and late of Drumbee

September 2, 2013

The death has taken place in Queens, New York of Kathleen Godfrey, nee McGeeney, Drumbee, Crossmaglen.

Born on 24 March 1909, Kathleen celebrated her 104th birthday earlier this year.   She was born in the townland of Drumbee, one of nine children born to Paddy and Mary McGeeney (nee Morris from Creevekeeran) -seven girls and two boys: Mary, Margaret, John, twins Barney and Annie, Rose, Kathleen, Alice and Bridgie.  Mary died in 1912 at the birth of her ninth child, Bridgie.

A death at thirty-five of such a young wife and mother was just devastating and in 1912 a man would not be as domesticated as many are today.  Then Annie died – I believe from burns she received from falling into the open fire.  Friends and neighbours rallied round and the children were split up between relatives.  For some reason Barney was the only one to be kept at home.  Kathleen went to a family called Luckie in Drummuckavall.  She went to school in Clonalig.

As the years rolled on and the children grew up into teenagers there was only one way for young people to find employment and for most of them that meant emigration.

It was the girls who took this route; the two boys stayed in this country.  All the girls went to England but a few years later four of them, Mary, Margaret, Kathleen and Alice went to New York and Rose and Bridgie stayed in England.

Kathleen had spent over eighty years in New York.  She married a County Mayo man, Martin Godfrey, in 1938 in downtown New York City. Maid of honour was her oldest sister, Mary.  The wedding reception, with all the McGeeney ladies and families, was at her sister’s (Rose and John Hughes) residence in nearby New Jersey.

At the time, Martin was a road paver in New York and active in Union organizing.  In the process, he was acquainted with a number of famous American Union personalities, including Walter Reuther, first president of the AFL-CIO.

During WW II he was a member of the Bronx NY Selective Service Board and has been so honoured at the World War II Memorial in Washington, DC.  He also was involved in wartime construction projects.  After the war, he worked in private security and retired in 1968.  He passed away in 1971. Martin was a popular player of Irish music with an accordion he first purchased in 1927 shortly after arriving in the US from County Mayo.

Kathleen has two children, Margaret (Peggy) Godfrey Zell of Easton, Connecticut and Martin Godfrey, JR of Canyon Lake, Texas.

Peggy, a product of the NY Catholic education system, was employed as a programmer in the  early days of the computer revolution.  She watched technology go from the IBM Cards with massive sorting machines to the personal computers in a pocket.  She married Dr Allan Zell in 1968.  They have two children, Dr Richard Zell and Annmarie Zell Lewis.  Peggy is business manager at Dr Allen Zell’s Dentistry practice in Yonkers, NY.  All live in the New York/ New England area.

Son, Martin, graduated from Manhattan College and entered the US Air Force.

Captain Godfrey was a navigator for six years during the Vietnam conflict.  His primary career was a Special Agent with FBI in several locations and retired in 1995.  Martin married Patricia Miller Godfrey in 1965 and they have three married children, Stephen, Lisa Kim and Bryan, and six grandchildren in Texas and California.

Kathleen visited Ireland many, many times over those eighty odd years and was always at her happiest when she was back again in her old home in Drumbee.  One of her many trips a few years ago coincided with the Centenary celebration of Clonalig School, which she attended so many years before.

When she celebrated her one hundredth birthday four years ago, the McGeeney, Finnegan and Reel families went to the United Stated for her birthday party.  Kathleen was still enjoying very good health and was busy cooking and fussing over all of her visitors.

Right up to the very end Kathleen was fit to be up and around every day.  She had regular contact with all of her grandchildren, nieces and nephews, all of whom loved her greatly.  Whenever any of the McGeeney family visited the States, one of their important stops was to visit Aunt Kathleen.  Last year Sean McGeeney visited his Great-aunt and had many photographs of them posted on Facebook.  Just a few months ago Kieran McGeeney visited her; initially she could not be found but after making a few inquiries, he was told that she would be back shortly – that she was having her nails manicured!

Kathleen just simply slept away on Sunday 4 August 2013.  A number of her family members from Ireland attended her funeral in St John Vianney Church in Flushing, New York and her burial afterwards in St Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx.

Kathleen will be missed so much by us all.  She was the last link to that generation of the McGeeney family, but I am pleased to say that the Irish American connection is as strong as ever – not only with Kathleen’s family but with all of the McGeeney sisters’ families who visit Ireland on a regular basis.  May God bless her sweet soul and may she rest in peace.

Kathleen’s Month’s Mind Mass will be celebrated in St Patrick’s Church, Crossmaglen on Saturday 7 September at 6.30 pm.

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