Longford Leader Obituaries: Michael Mahon was a true gentleman in every sense of the word

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Longford Leader Obituaries: Michael Mahon was  a true gentleman in every sense of the word

Michael Francis Mahon, our beloved father, grandfather, brother, and friend slipped away quietly on July 29, surrounded by his family in a room brimming with love. The cause was complications from cancer.

Michael arrived in the United States in the summer of 1954, having left his native Ireland in search of better employment and educational opportunities.

The day after his arrival in New York, he began work making crates at a chalkboard factory in Hackensack, New Jersey.

There, he was taken under the wing of his first American friend, Cliff, who also happened to be his first African American friend.

Throughout the years, Michael often recalled the kindness and generosity Cliff demonstrated towards him as a new immigrant in an unfamiliar place.

Michael quickly adapted to his new home country, and soon began crossing the George Washington Bridge into New York City every day to work in the currency department at the Chase Manhattan Bank.

As soon as he was established, he was joined by his beloved future wife, Josephine 'Jodie' Mooney, of Sligo, Ireland.

Having been advised that he was likely to receive a draft notice fairly quickly, Michael preempted the mandatory obligation to serve by choosing to enlist in the United States Air Force.

After completing his basic training in San Antonio in 1956, Michael and Jodie were married at Randolph Air Force Base in Chapel number two.

They set up house, and were swept into the Irish American community in San Antonio.

They entertained at home often, hosting dinner parties and gatherings for an eclectic group of San Antonio natives, Irish ex-pats, and religious scholars from St Mary’s University.

Michael had a distinguished 30-year career in the Air Force, including a tour of duty in Vietnam serving in General William Westmoreland’s maps office in Saigon.

His numerous assignments supported the Air Force’s tactical reconnaissance mission both in the United States and abroad in Zweibrucken, Germany and RAF Alconbury, England.

Our family moved more than 10 times during his career, and we were always grateful for the opportunity it afforded us to meet diverse people, immerse ourselves in different cultures, and live in the footsteps of world history.

As children, we eagerly awaited his return from his many single tours of duty to exotic locales, as he always made sure to bring home some small treasures for us.

Following his retirement with distinction from Bergstrom AFB in 1986, Michael continued to live in Austin, Texas and work at the United States Post Office until his official retirement in 2003.

This timing, sorrowfully, coincided with his beloved Jodie’s rare ampullary cancer diagnosis.

Our father was by our mother’s side providing valiant care and tender companionship throughout her five-year battle with the disease.

When she died in 2009, he was left with a broken heart. He chose to honour Jodie’s memory by immersing himself in the devoted care of their youngest daughter, Fiona, who has Down Syndrome, and helping with the care of numerous grandchildren.

Michael was born at home on December 27,1933 to Sarah and Garda Andrew Mahon in Dowra, County Leitrim, Ireland.

The third of nine children born in a house with no electricity and no running water, Michael spent most of his formative years in Dromore West, but developed a special affinity for Longford during summers spent visiting family.

Michael was an avid reader and excellent student, in spite of having to remain at home often to care for his younger siblings when his mother was ill.

As a teenager, he counted himself lucky to have the opportunity to attend a local technical school, where he excelled in the trade of carpentry, launching a lifelong passion for finely crafted furniture.

Michael’s keen appreciation for all things beautiful spanned across the realms of furniture, art, architecture, nature, textiles, and lovely objects of virtually any type.

These enthusiasms, and his vast, encyclopedic knowledge of art, antiques, and history are among the many gifts his children were grateful to receive from him.

Michael was naturally inquisitive and self-taught in many areas. He demonstrated remarkable acuity in virtually every task he undertook, whether it was electrical, plumbing, construction, gardening, or painting.

He approached every job with the ardour of perfectionism, always employing the adages of “use the right tool” and “measure twice, cut once”.

Until the very end of his life, he continually worked on home improvements and reinventing his garden to cultivate beautiful plantings that would better flourish in the Texas heat.

His presence in his much-admired yard was so familiar it led one of his neighbours to observe that when he saw Michael working in the garden, he knew “everything was right with the world”.

Our father taught us many things. But the most important and lasting lessons he conferred upon us were those regarding humanity.

He taught us to value kindness, charity, and a good education.

He taught us about hard work, compassion, equality, acceptance, honesty, adversity, integrity, and citizenship.

He and our mother cherished their Irish roots, but always demonstrated a great love for the United States and the freedoms and possibilities it offers. They were both always ready to have a cup of tea, a biscuit, and a good chat. Dad, you were a classic gentleman and a wondrously gentleman. We will miss you.

Michael is survived by his children Maeve, Andrea, Deirdre, Michelle, Philip, Aileen, and Fiona and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

He is also survived by his brother, Andrew who lives in Longford, and his sisters, Betty, Nellie, and Peggy, all of whom reside in Ireland.

We would like to thank the doctors, nurses, and therapists on the fourth floor of Seton Medical Centre in Austin, Texas for the kind and compassionate care they provided to Michael during his stay there.

Our thanks, also, to the many who prayed for Michael during his illness. If you wish to honor Michael’s memory, please consider a donation to cancer research or your favourite charity.