Farewell to Frank O’Callaghan

| January 27, 2011
The late Frank O'Callaghan and his wife Tommie, former head of the Thomas Merton Institute, are shown in July 2010 at the home of Christy and Owsley Brown.

The late Frank O'Callaghan and his wife Tommie, former head of the Thomas Merton Institute, are shown in July 2010 at the home of Christy and Owsley Brown.

At noon on Saturday, Jan. 15, the beautiful St. Francis of Rome Church was filled with family and friends to celebrate the life of the late Francis Eugene O’Callaghan III (Frank).

His son, John, standing by his six sisters said, “I was elected to give the eulogy for dad because I was too late to vote.”

Frank’s six daughters are Kathie O’Callaghan (Bruno Walmsley), Nancy O’Carroll (Dermott), Diane Kirven (Pete), Colleen O’Callaghan (Kimithy Vaughan), Kim Kennedy (Todd) and Sarah Gray (John).

“I named my youngest son, Frank, for inheritance purposes,” John said bringing down the house.

“My dad worked hard at home,” John added, “doing the dishes, saving his money, eating everything on his plate, plus leftovers,,  mowing his own grass, working hard at his job, having fun with all of us, taking us everywhere and was loved by everyone who ever met him.”

2nd Lt. Ryan Kennedy and his wife, Amanda, posed with his grandmother Mrs. Howard (Bunny) Kennedy at the military burial of his grandfather Frank O'Callaghan at Gethsemani on Jan. 15. Ryan is stationed at Columbus, Miss., Air Force Base.

2nd Lt. Ryan Kennedy and his wife, Amanda, posed with his grandmother Mrs. Howard (Bunny) Kennedy at the military burial of his grandfather Frank O'Callaghan at Gethsemani on Jan. 15. Ryan is stationed at Columbus, Miss., Air Force Base.

A great wit, John filled the exquisite church with laughter.

Sunlight filtered through the magnificent stained glass windows. The altar was filled with white peonies, roses and Bells of Ireland.

Father Jerry Eifler of St. Francis of Rome Church, assisted by Frank’s charming brother, Father John O’Callaghan S.J., Franciscan priest from Chicago, was in charge of the ceremony accompanied by soaring choir voices and the organ.

Father John was elected to speak, instructed by orders from Frank’s wife.

“I asked Tommie what she wanted me to say and her reply was “˜keep it short.’ ”

He went on to praise his brother for all his hard work after graduating from St. Xavier. He graduated from Stevens Institute of Technology (New Jersey) in 1951, served in the Korean War, worked as managing director of American Air Filter and then became COO of Waco Electronics.

Father John O'Callaghan, S.J. from Chicago spoke in the burial tent in front of the Abbey of Gethsemani.

Father John O'Callaghan, S.J. from Chicago spoke in the burial tent in front of the Abbey of Gethsemani.

“Frank was a diligent businessman, devout Catholic, looking after seven children, 24 grandchildren, one great-grandson and of course – Tommie,” Father John said, to great laughter.

Tommie, his wife of 56 years, ran a catering business and was a great friend of Thomas Merton and CEO of the Thomas Merton Institute. She was a fabulous cook and hostess who gave countless dinners at home and reached out to the poor and displaced.

She looked stunning and cheerfully brave and beautifully dressed at the funeral.

I have never seen such lovely Irish faces as the children and grandchildren of Tommie and Frank, and so graceful and dignified as well.

Frank O'Callaghan's Grandchildren in a picture at Gethsemani Abbey: Matthew, Tucker, Kailie and Thomas Kirven; Colin, Elizabeth, Sarah and Andrew Walmsley; Kim, Jason and Colleen Keeler; Marmie, Nicolas and Michael Vaughan; 2nd Lt. Ryan, Christopher, Ian and Alec Kennedy; Callie, Saba and Devon Gray; Frank, Cooper and Hattie O'Callaghan.

Frank O'Callaghan's Grandchildren in a picture at Gethsemani Abbey: Matthew, Tucker, Kailie and Thomas Kirven; Colin, Elizabeth, Sarah and Andrew Walmsley; Kim, Jason and Colleen Keeler; Marmie, Nicolas and Michael Vaughan; 2nd Lt. Ryan, Christopher, Ian and Alec Kennedy; Callie, Saba and Devon Gray; Frank, Cooper and Hattie O'Callaghan.

At one point, the daughters came in, each carrying a white rose they placed on Frank’s casket, which was hand milled to fit the requirement for burial at Gethsemani.

Several Pearson’s limousines were required to travel to the gravesite in front of the Abbey. Burial there was a rare tribute to Frank and Tommie’s devotion and support.

On hand for the burial were Father Elias, abbott; Father Damien, guestmaster, and Frank’s brother Father Jack who previously had arrived at Norton’s Hospital on Jan. 12 to administer last rites for Frank.

Frank’s grandson, Second 2nd Lt. Ryan Kennedy, assisted by Christopher, Ian and Alec Kennedy, presided at the folding of the American flag; Colin Walmsley was the reader. The flag was presented to Tommie, who in turn gave it to her great-grandson, Frank, who held it with reverence.

I’m so happy to have this picture of Tommie and Frank for you.

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Category: The Social Side

About the Author (Author Profile)

Lucie Blodgett
Always out and about at happenings around town, Lucie Blodgett has been writing a weekly column for The Voice-Tribune for more than two decades.

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  1. Rob Crick says:

    Condolences to Tommie and the family. I worked with Frank for a year or so whilst with AAF South Africa and had the good fortune to meet Frank and Tommie on my trip to Louisville (1986) where they entertained me at their home. I exchanged emails with Frank a few years ago. I`ve never met a nicer man who inspired me to be a better person.To-night (SA time 20h21- 23rd March 2011) whilst searching the internet for some contact detail for Frank hoping to say hi again I came across this page “Farewell to Frank O`Callaghan.” It`s fair to say that whatever sense of humour I may harbour has left for the time being. Tommie, if you remember me G.d bless. Rob Crick – Durban – South Africa.