In Memory

John Hagarty

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10/23/08 11:53 AM #1    

Michael Ryan

John Hegarty passed on May 16, 1990 as a result of a construction accident.

10/23/08 11:57 AM #2    

Michael Ryan

19th 'Hegarty' brings clan back together
Man's death unities families.
The Orange County Register
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Members of a certain largely Irish-Catholic clan of longtime Orange Countians were wishing each other "Happy Hegarty!" this weekend. I got a "Happy Hegarty" on Friday morning from Annie Frazier, whom I knew at San Diego State as Annie Curley. She and her best friend from Mater Dei, Kathy Hegarty, were on the Daily Aztec with me, Weintraub, Wisckol, et al.

By Saturday night, this "Happy Hegarty" thing was in full swing, and I was standing in front of a bandstand on one of the huge lawns at the Brothers of St. Patrick enclave in Midway City and The Fenians were launching their first set with Steve Earle's rockin' "The Galway Girl."

But this story really begins May 16, 1990, when Kathy's cousin, John Hegarty, fell off the roof of a house he was building and was killed. He was doing a saw cut on a piece of plywood sheeting and slipped on the accumulated sawdust. It was only a one-story house, but the way he struck a scaffold on the way down caused such internal bleeding he couldn't be saved.

John Hegarty, Tustin High Class of 1978, left behind his wife, Trish, and their two daughters, Katelyn, 5, and Lauryn, 3.

Annie, her husband (and Mater Dei High School sweetheart) Tom, and a few other close friends and family stepped in.

This kind of speaks to the way that, in my mind anyway, it's always been hard to get a grip on where the Curley family ends and the Hegarty family begins, and vice-versa. Like, for years, I always thought Terry Casey, The Fenians' lead singer, was a Hegarty. But he's a Curley. I think. Point is, it doesn't matter. As an outsider, I see this love between the families and I feel blessed just to be in its presence.

Anyway, three months after John Hegarty's death, some of the Curley-Frazier-Hegartys put on a fundraiser golf-tournament at Willowick and a party afterward at someone's house.

"It was a crazy, crazy weekend," recalls Patrick Hegarty, John's younger brother. "All these young people confronting mortality for the first time."

Annie recalls it for another reason: "I think that first year, there was a golf cart that left Willowick in the middle of the round and went to a liquor store." I can see that. How do you confront mortality without a bottle of Bushmills?

The event raised several thousand dollars. They decided to do it the next year. And the next. The party outgrew the house and moved to the Brothers of St. Patrick compound. It became a two-day event known as "The Hegarty." (The Friday golf tourney, however, has never outgrown Willowick. I don't know if they're still making golf-cart liquor runs, but perhaps the tale being told Saturday of witnessing two bad-ass squirrels standing down a hawk trying to eat them on the 7th hole Friday illuminates.)

The Saturday-night party always begins with an outdoor Mass said by a priest they import from one of the O.C. parishes. This year's was Father Mike McKiernan, rector of the yet-to-be-built cathedral. Annie often has to scramble for a priest. I've advised her to sign one to a multiyear contract with an automatic rollover clause.

The reason they need an outside priest is because while the Brothers of St. Patrick are a religious order, they are not fathers, and can't say Mass. In fact, the Brothers' main role in The Hegarty, as far as I can tell, is to declare when the party is over, which is accomplished around 10 p.m. when old Brother Matthew will emerge from his quarters in his full-length black cassock with the broad kelly-green fascia of his order tied around his waist, wave his cane, and tell The Fenians to shut it down, the party's over. Always a highlight.

Over the years, The Hegarty raised enough money to pay for a substantial portion of the girl's college educations. Katelyn graduated from St. Mary's in Moraga and, after grad school, is now an occupational therapist. Lauryn is a poli-sci major at Cal.

A few years ago, John's widow, Trish, remarried. At that point, she told organizers her daughters now had enough money to get them started in life. But the event had become so rich in tradition, nobody wanted to stop. So now the money raised by the 80 or so golfers and the 200 or so partygoers is given to another charity, often a low-profile one that's come to the clan's.

"It's truly amazing," Trish – now Trish Delagardelle – told me as we stood in the food line Saturday night. "After 19 years, I think people would be disappointed if we didn't gather."

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