Today’s blog is a very different one and one I never wanted to write. I want to thank my amazing sisters who were the co-authors and the most amazing care team for my father’s final days.
For those of you who don’t know us, we are Pat Leonard’s five daughters – Andrea, Donna, Margaret, Roseann and Tricia. For those of you who knew him well, you know that he was so proud of us and bragged about us over and over and over again.
Well today is our opportunity to brag about him and let you know how proud we are of him. Being a dad is so important because it not only affects your own children but their children and many generations to come. We’ve learned a lot from our dad that we will carry on and here are our top five lessons.
First, Never forget where you came from….
Patrick Leonard was born on New Years Eve of 1947 to Margaret and Andrew Leonard of Townsend Street in Belfast, Northern Ireland or as Pat proudly proclaimed as the WEE 6. He was the youngest of 9 kids, (Tony, Marie, Andy, John, Colette, Billy, Arthur, and his twin, Josephine)
Pat was 21, when he met the love of his life, Patsy Blaney. On their first date, they went to the Roy Orbison Concert and that’s when Patsy knew he was a keeper. The key to Patsy’s heart is love, food and money and Pat figured that out quickly, always sending chocolate and flowers for special occasions. Pat was her true love and provided the love and stability that she longed for her entire life. They were married on Boxing Day 1970. Pat saved the money to pay for everything, the wedding, my moms dress, and off they went to their honeymoon in Dublin.
Patsy’s sisters (Marie and Eileen) came to America to live and Pat longed for a better opportunity and convinced Patsy to initiate the process of immigrating to the United States.
On July 19, 1973 Pat, Patsy and their Irish twins (Andrea and Donna) immigrated to the United States with two suitcases and $42 in their pockets and settled in a little town known as Upper Darby to be close to Patsy’s sisters.
Pat loved America right away and got focused on getting a job and making a home for his family. He was in search of the true American dream.
The second lesson we learned was to work hard….
My dad was a hard worker and often held multiple jobs to provide for his family – he dug graves, tended bar and worked in Acme Markets’ Warehouse for over 30 years. He never missed a day of work no matter what. He gave up everything for us – nice stuff, new cars – (santa was a teamster wasn’t exactly luxury). Even though we didn’t have the nicest or newest things, we wanted for nothing. We vacationed every summer at the shore and my Dad made sure he saved enough money to buy each of us 7 new outfits for the trip. He worked hard to put us through 12 years of catholic school and college and help mold us into the women that we are today. He taught us the value of a dollar and that if you work hard, you can accomplish anything.
Hard work was never demanded but always expected – in fact, when I was about 11, he came home and proudly announced that I was the newest bus girl at Cawley’s. He was thrilled and needless to say I was shocked, I wasn’t looking for employment or interested in getting a job but according to Pat, it was about time that I started earning my keep around here and start climbing the corporate ladder at Cawley’s restaurant just like my sisters before me.
The third lesson we learned was when you work hard, you can play harder…
Like a true Irish man, Pat worked hard but played harder. Pat and Patsy forged friendships with many local Irish couples and headed out on Saturday nights. As the song goes, Pat was quick with a joke or to light up a smoke but theres no place that he’d rather be.
Pat was an avid Philly sports fan – he loved the Phillies, Eagles, and he was very involved with the first Celtic Supporters Club at Paddy Rooney’s.
My dad loved a cold beer, a shot of blackberry brandy on ice, good company and good songs on the radio. If he was at home, he was always singing a song. Anything from old irish music, Billy Joel, Kenny Rodgers, Frank Sinatra and even the latest tunes like Ariana Grande which always amused his grandkids. How did it go….. Oh yeah…. I got one less problem without you??!! The banter with the grandkids didn’t stop there, he loved teasing them and chasing them around with his false teeth. He also loved his summers at the shore. He rode his bike from Wildwood to Avalon, from Wildwood to Cape May and even to Sea Isle. But unlike your typical cyclist he was easily recognizable. He rocked a girls mountain bike with a homemade basket on the front which was held on with zip ties, he wore a hanes white undershirt and listened to the best of music on an old 80s walkman cruising down the street as at his own pace.
Fourth, we learned that it’s better to give than to receive….
Pat was a giver and a lucky gambler. He loved to bet on the horses and if he won money (which was usually the case), he shared the wealth with the whole family. This is common practice for us girls and Tim and Ed are always wondering why we expect them to split their gambling wins with us.
It didn’t stop with his family, Pat was generous with his friends and the Irish community as a whole, always making donations and being there for people in need. One night, my dad came home from Cawley’s with a young lad from Ireland looking to rest his head for the night. Suitcase in tow, my dad introduced his new friend and told us that he would be sleeping over. But when you raise strong, independent women you are outnumbered and Margaret had other plans for his new friend. She told him to get lost and Pat replied, “well, you heard what she said. I guess you have to leave.”
The final and most important lesson of all is that family is everything.
Our lives changed forever on January 6 when you suffered a stroke. You fought hard to recover but God had other plans. We knew at that point that the best thing for you, would be to come home, surrounded by your family for your final days. These last few weeks have been hard but we’ve been together and we know that you wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. As others learned of your passing, we received countless messages from near and far expressing condolences, sharing stories and praising your name. There was a recurring theme that Pat Leonard was a legend.
A legend is someone who leaves behind an unforgettable impression on others, they touch lives, they’re remembered, and they are treasured. Dad, you have embodied all of this. Every immigrant dreams of a better life for the next generation. My dad would tell us that family is everything. He would always say, look around the room, these are the best friends that you will ever have. We may not be rich or have any worldly possessions but we have the greatest family of all which makes us richer than anyone.
To his grandkids, Haley, Patrick, Christopher, Charlie, TJ, Lily, Sophia, Sydney, Jimmy, John, Emma, Carly, Michael, Gracie and Ciara – you are the next generation, it’s now up to you to continue his legacy.
To his friends and family, continue to share his stories and toast to a life well lived.
To mommy, your love was once in a lifetime and together with us his memory will continue live on.
And to you Daddy, thank you for all of the sacrifice’s you made, the beautiful family you and Mommy created, the values you instilled in us and the legacy you leave behind. we are honored to be your 5 daughters. We love you! As my dad always said, As sure as my name is Pat Leonard “We are the people”