Irish Man of 2001
Terry Cooney is a fourth generation farmer on the Cooney Farm founded 1868 in Mukwa Township. The farmstead lays just beyond the city southwest over several rolling hills. He is a practical man living where his family has lived for over 133 years.
Terry’s father, the late George Cooney, was the son of William & Anna Cooney who married in the fall of 1898 and had ten children including a set of twins. In the “History of Waupaca County” published in 1917, Charles M. Ware wrote, “Mr. & Mrs. Will Cooney are splendid people, hard workers, good managers and they have a large family in whom they take special pride.” Although there was an incident around the turn of the century when one of the sons, Thomas, mistakenly burned down the barn and all other auxiliary buildings after an altercation with a chicken that pecked him. The rest of the family was out picking berries when they saw the smoke. “The house was the only thing that didn’t burn,” explained Terry. “I guess they had roast chicken for supper that night.”
Terry’s grandpa William was born the day Abraham Lincoln was shot, April 2, 1866. Will’s parents were Michael and Margaret (Dempsey) Cooney, both natives of Ireland who came to America in 1847. Terry recalls stories from his grandfather and dad of times when Indians would babysit for the family to help them out “They all got along good with the Menominees,” he explained, “Because they liked the trade.” Terry also remembers stories of Chief Mukwa. He was well liked among both Indians and local settlers. When he died all the neighbors ( many of them Irish) went to the Chief’s burial outside of New London.
In 1999 Terry went to Ireland with sixteen relatives and friends to find the family homestead. In the town of Meelick they found the foundation of the homestead and the cemetery where his Irish ancestors were buried. Two of Terry’s five sisters went along on the trip. They all worked hard on the farm too, Terry reports.
Today Terry mainly cash crops the farm while also working off the farm at the Larson Co-op in Weyauwega. Terry has been a member of the Shamrock Club of New Dublin since it’s beginnings. Terry usually works on the Parade in the line up area, taking admissions in the Irish Fest tent, and has been in Finnegan’s Wake several times. This year he enjoyed his first trip to Milwaukee’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade which was held the week before ours. One thing he says about being named Irishman of the Year is that, “I’m honored to be following Fluf” (Barrington), last year’s Irishman. Terry also follows his own father George, who was named Irishman of the Year in 1996.
“It’s tough living up to the Irishman of the Year,” reports Terry. “I’m getting good advice from Dave Mulroy and Mike Coyle,” he explains with a smirk. His favorite part of the festivities is the Parade. “I like the parade because it’s the culmination of the weeks work.” He also enjoys when all the people get together on St. Patrick’s Day. “It’s nice when it all works out,” he explained. When he was younger, attending Catholic school in New London, Cooney remembers they always got a green shirt to wear to school for St. Patrick’s Day and they had a family meal. He even remembers when the nuns would sing Irish songs at school like “Sweet Molly Malone”.
Terry went to school with another well-known Irish man of the area, Dave “Moose” Mulroy. On “Holligan Day” over corned beef and cabbage at Pup’s Irish Pub, Mulroy said “You never could find a friend in life as good as Terry. I’m fortunate to have such a good friend.” Most people would agree. Dave Tennie, also of New Dublin, backed up Mulroy by adding ” Terry’s one of the nicest guys around. He’s always up-beat and positive,” Tennie explained. “He’s your real typical Irish man.”
Some with him in Ireland explained, “When he walked on the old sod at the Irish farmstead he looked just like one of the locals. He’s about as Irish as you can get” His driving however may not be so good. Dave Tennie reports the worst thing is Terry’s driving. “He drives like he’s in Ireland, he’s always on the wrong side of the road,” Tennie explained. “He got over there in Ireland and he did perfect.”
In Ireland Terry admitted his favorite thing was meeting the people there and seeing how their opinions differ. Jim Clarke, a relative and neighbor, said some very true words of Terry when he said, “He’s a very humble guy, humble and fun-loving.”
Irish Rose of 2001
Joan Conroy’s Irish roots grow deep. The Conroy’s have owned a settlement near Bear Lake since the late 1850’s. It’s still in the family today as the “Bear Lake Campground” Two of Conroy’s children manage the historic campground while Joan enjoys a little bit more time to travel, although she still works many hours there during the season.
Joan’s husband, Patrick Conroy, passed away in 1990. When his family first settled here they camped at the location. Joan’s maiden name was Maloney, which is also Irish. Her grandfather, Arthur Maloney, came from a family of 17 children. “We think he was born en-route.” she explained.
Her home is a sign of her Irish heritage, according to her friend Pat. “Oh it certainly is, her whole house is Irish,” said Pat with a smile. Joan explained, “Yes there’s a lot of green in my home.” Pat responded jokingly, “And she don’t mean money.”
If her home was full of money, chances are Joan wouldn’t be there. She’d probably be in Ireland. She just recently returned from a visit there. Conroy has three brothers and three sisters, all of them had been to Ireland, and Joan was the last one to go. “They all went back to the old sod to visit,” said Conroy who was not disappointed at all from her visit when it finally came. She said she would most definitely return. She described Ireland as a rainy but beautiful place. “They say 40 shades of green, they mean it.” she explained. She was also impressed with the reverence given to the national anthem in Ireland and prayer times during the day.
The corned beef over there she explained however was not as good as Pup’s. Conroy has also been a member of the Shamrock Club of New Dublin since the beginning. “I’ve never met such a nice bunch of people,” she explained as we ate corned beef on Hooligan Day. “It’s like being with family all the time,” she added as she looked around the room.
Being named 2001 Irish Rose is an honor for Conroy. “It’s quite an honor to me,” she explained. “When I found out about it I was touched. Her kids: Colleen, Molly, Bridget and Ryan will all be taking off work as usual for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. They took off Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, she reported. “We all get together for that.”
One time in the 1950’s Conroy participated in the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. She also has been in the New Dublin Parade many times, riding or marching with the local clans.
Her whole family has stayed connected to their Irish roots here in the States. She has a niece that dances with the Trinity Irish Dancers in Milwaukee. “She has a wall of trophies and she’s still only in high school.” She also has nieces and nephews that bring over Irish exchange students every summer from Belfast.
“I’d like to go up and see some of them,” explained Conroy of her next visit to Ireland. The other thing she would like to do when over to the “old sod” again is to just travel, and wander the countryside with no set destination or course of travel. Free-roaming, out-going and always fun, no matter where she ends up—–Joan Conroy is indeed Irish.
The Shamrock Club of New Dublin were proud to have Terry and Joan serve us this year as Irishman and Irish Rose. I know their families are as proud of them as we are. Thank-you and congratulations to both!!
*These stories are excepts taken from an articles written by John Faucher and printed in the New London Press-Star on Friday, March 16, 2001*