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Pop – 1927/2010

(Eulogy delivered for my Father on April 5th, 2010 at Saint Mary’s of Mount Carmel Church, Dunmore PA)

Whenever Pop gave a speech my mother used to get worried that he’d go on too long. We’re Irish after all. The most apt thing the Irish have ever been called….and we’ve been called plenty….is “word hungry”. I like that.

 I’m word hungry. So was Pop.

 But do not fear. My Mom always gave my father the ‘wrap it up’ sign when he got long winded, and I’ve got a perfect view of her from here. However, I can’t see the bishop very well from my location, so if somebody could alert me if he’s giving me the signal, I’d be grateful.

 We’ve all been places where one person starts to yawn and it starts a chain reaction. Tears are like that too, so let’s dry them now, for my sake at least. Pop is at peace, and that’s surely something worth smiling over.

 Laughter would be even better. You want some?

 I’ll tell you things you may not know.

 His belting out endless versions of “Oh What a Beautiful Morning” to wake us up each day for school, a moment that made us forever grateful that he chose journalism as a career.

 His staggering ability to get lost every year on our vacation trips, even though every year we went to the same place. Got so bad we actually started recognizing the places that told us we were lost.

 “Dad, isn’t that the same restaurant we stopped in last year to ask directions and the guy said we were ‘way off’”?

 He once dropped us off in front of the FBI building and went to find a place to park. While we enjoyed a chance meeting with Ted Kennedy and his wife, Pop ended up in Virginia. There’s getting lost, and then there’s finding yourself in the wrong state. How the man ever found the stories he covered is a mystery.

 He charmed everyone. From the thief in Camden New Jersey who gave him perfect directions back to the expressway (yes, lost again) before stealing my mother’s necklace, to the big wigs at Disney World, who were so charmed by one of his columns that they gave him what I like to think was their first “fast pass”. He’d flash this thing at every ride and to the front we’d go, like royalty.

 No waiting, as was the case when he drifted off in the wee hours of Tuesday morning. Into the arms of his beloved parents, and his brothers, and met by the slobber of the world’s most beautifully ugly dog…Candy. That breeze you feel right now is powered by her tail wagging.

 And of course, Pop’s best friend. Joe Smith is there, anxious to pass along the answer to the perplexing question asked at many of their council meetings.

 Yes, there is vermouth in heaven.

And best of all for a couple of Irishmen who could pinch nickels with the best of them…it’s on the house.

 Old school. That’s what he was. Found something that worked and he stuck with it. He never changed for change’s sake. Worked the same hairstyle for 82 years. Over the last few days Brylcreem stock has plummeted. The same Royal manual typewriter that sounded like sleet hitting the roof of a tin shed. Electric typewriters frustrated him, and computers made him speak in tongues. He never quite grasped the “save file” concept, and “lost” as many columns as he “wrote” on the computer. But he adored deadlines. Once told me they were his favorite part of the business, so I half expected he was doing it on purpose just to have a bit of fun with the editors.

 But the ultimate old school?

 His first kiss? My mom. His last kiss? My mom. Every kiss in between? My mom. For over 60 years he was a teenager in love. Theirs was a love story increasingly rare in a world grown cynical. Today, career changes and divorces are as common as rising gas prices. But my father loved every day as a newsman…..a love only surpassed by who was waiting for him when he got home.

 And always…without a paper. The man worked at a newspaper and came home and bought one everyday. So, if the Lynott’s are here, know that you got an even bigger bargain than you know. Those nickels and dimes and quarters would have added up. If you’d like to reimburse him, a check made out to the National Alzheimer’s Association would certainly suffice.

 He found large stories in small, quiet places, and he was always on the side of the angels. From his genuine love of a special needs kid named Bobby Walsh to his willingness to inform his readers of the horrors of war as seen through the eyes of a scared Jessup kid in Viet Nam…at a time when such frankness wasn’t always welcomed….or even tolerated. Pop’s moral courage was exceeded only by his inherent decency.

 And for every good deed he did publicly through his writings, there were 100 that nobody knew about. Even this week my family got calls and letters from people we never knew, thanking us for things Pop did for them that we never knew about. We surely took him for granted. To us, he was just “Dad”….the guy who’d let us sit on his lap and “drive” the car up the driveway.

 I am one of 6. Flannery and Loftus blood. An interesting combination to say the least. At times, we can try the patience of a roomful of stoned saints. We put the “function” in “dysfunction”. Our vices require a calculator to keep track of. Yet Pop never once gave up on any of us. He’s given us so much more than we’ve ever given him. Instead of this reflecting badly on us, I prefer to think it illuminates his own grace. Gets us off the hook too. Useful, that.

 Pat, Maureen, Erin, Timmy, Beeny…and Mom. It’s been a rough road. We’ve bent, sometimes at right angles to each other, but we’ve never broken. I love you all.

 My father never accepted injustice. In his quiet way he railed against it his entire life. Alzheimer’s Disease is the ultimate injustice, and he raged against that too for 5 long years. He never gave up. He never gave in. He simply ran out of time.  So now it’s up to us to shake our fist at this dreaded disease. The way he did. Sometimes, quite literally. It would have awed you too.

 There is no stigma attached to Alzheimer’s Disease. There is no shame. Me and my family want it front and center. It took away Pop away from us. It has become our enemy. Our fight has not ended with my Dad’s passing. It merely continues. We ask for your help.

 A final thought. The night Pop died we all gathered at my Mother’s. We stayed with her. It was still dark when we went to bed, but just barely. I heard the birds chirping. Certainly not the first time I’d stumbled to bed to that soundtrack, but this one time I knew exactly who they were singing for.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Timothy Flannery
    April 8, 2010 at 7:15 pm

    Pop would be proud of these words, and probably embarrassed at the attention drawn to him. I certainly don’t feel embarrassed. Knowing the wonderful gift for touching people’s hearts is alive and well in my brother Tom’s writtings is a comfort to me. Pop will forever be watching us and be in our hearts and memories. We love you Dad and heaven now has one of the best writers since the Evangelists in it’s company!

  2. Alyssa Flannery
    April 9, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I remember this from the funeral.

  3. john martin
    April 14, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    although i moved away from scranton and “home” in 1982, i will always remember the writings of joseph x. flannery. during my early years as well as later years when i would read his columns on visits home, the columns were my first target upon opening the times. joe had a way of always hitting the story just right. he always had the scoop and was always on the money.
    to the extent one can, i enjoyed the eulogy and will always remember a great man by the name of Joseph X. Flannery.

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