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SHINE ON

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Gary, right, with Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal.

Gary MacEoin, 1909-2003

The communal garden in front of Gary MacEoin's house shines in summer's radiance: purple eggplants dangle from their stems, yellow cherry tomatoes dot the vines like Christmas bulbs, a ripe pumpkin squats in the dirt, ready to pick.

Inside, the house and time stand still: Gary's black vinyl armchair sits empty, a Scrabble box remains in the bedroom, an inkpen rests on a table. And of course, there are books. And books and books and books, many of them his work, and all filed by topic - religion, theology, Ireland, Latin America - stacked on the shelves.

A black cloth covers the the wooden front door.

Peacemaker, human rights activists, author, journalist, professor, and Current contributor Gary MacEoin died July 9 of cardiac arrest in a rehabilitation center in Leesburg, Virginia. He was in Virginia visiting his family when he fell and later suffered a stroke.

It's easy to concentrate on Gary's accomplishments, because they are so vast: An authority on the Vatican and Latin America, he spoke 12 languages; wrote, edited, or translated more than 50 books; taught at Fordham and Columbia Universities; and freelanced for Time, the National Catholic Reporter, the Irish Independent, the Washington Post, The New York Times.

But Gary's legacy extends beyond a long resumé. Those who knew him loved him for his compassion, unpretentiousness, and humor. He sported a gentle Irish lilt and a high-pitched laugh that came easily. He co-founded the U.S. Sanctuary Movement, through which some churches protected refugees and asylum seekers illegally entering the United States. He knew the ins and outs of Mexico, Cuba, and Latin America

At the end of this story is a list of links to the articles that Gary MacEoin wrote for the San Antonio Current

like he knew his home of County Sligo, Ireland. He lived through many wars and despised them all - but particularly the war in Iraq - and last spring, he attended the anti-war march at Milam Park. I remember seeing him, sitting on the park bench in the sun, dark glasses on to protect his eyes, listening to the speeches.

Gary lived a long time - 94 years - and one could attribute his longevity to his Irish heritage, his regular, but never excessive, tipple of scotch and water, and a vibrant, yet orderly lifestyle.

"He lived a very disciplined life," said his friend and neighbor De Sanchez Galvan. "With lots of room for spontaneity."

Unless he was traveling to another far-flung longitude or latitude, he slept until 8 a.m., then took a shower, ate a simple breakfast of oatmeal, a protein drink, milk, and coffee. Then he worked about five hours, researching and writing articles for such newspapers and magazines as the National Catholic Reporter and the San Antonio Current. At 1 p.m., he ate lunch, usually good French bread, ham, and cheese, cherry tomatoes, and milk. In his later years, he took an afternoon nap, and then worked until 7 in the evening. Every Saturday night, he hosted an open house, and friends from the neighborhood, visitors from foreign countries, and complete strangers dropped in to chat about politics or hear Gary tell his amazing yarns. The television, relegated to a dark corner of the living room, was never on, although classical music - Tchaikovsky or Strauss - played quietly in the background.

 
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Gary, middle, on horseback with his brothers in Ireland.
The guests were different, but Gary was always the same: seated in his green vinyl armchair with matching ottoman (later swapped for a more comfortable black vinyl recliner) and in his hand a tumbler of J&B and water. "Why do they hate us?" he asked his visitors one evening shortly after the war began. An hour later, we were still figuring it out.

When I visited Gary earlier this spring, he spoke of his older brother Liam, who died last year. Liam's death, Gary said, had prompted him to reconsider his own mortality. But as his neighbor De noted, "If you asked Gary, 'Have you been to China?' he always answered, 'Not yet.' He was always looking forward to what was coming."

At 94, Gary still wandered the world. He sent me an e-mail in late March saying he would be traveling to Spain, Ireland, and Virginia, then back home. We would get together upon his return, on a Saturday night, and he would tell me all that he had done and learned on his travels. And then he was gone.

Gary loved knowledge and learning, so it is appropriate that he donated his body to George Washington University Medical School. By studying Gary's body, medical students can become better doctors by understanding the landscape of the human interior - and perhaps unlock a few doors to longevity. Yet, Gary's light transcends the physical. While the doctors-in-waiting study the intricate contours of Gary's brain, they cannot grasp the wisdom that he possessed. They can hold his heart in their hands, but they cannot know the peace and love that lay within it. •


There is an old Irish custom - "a month's mind" - where family and friends gather about a month after someone's death to celebrate that person's life. The month's mind for Gary will be observed Sunday, August, 3, when friends worldwide and in his hometowns of San Antonio, Tucson, Washington, D.C., Leesburg, Cork, and San Salvador, will remember his life. A celebration will be held at Gary's home; e-mail De Sanchez Galvan, desanchezg@stic.net for directions and details.

Comments, thoughts, and memories can be sent to DonMacEoin@aol.com. They will eventually be posted on a tribute Web page hosted by the National Catholic Reporter, for which Gary frequently wrote.

In lieu of flowers, donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Legal Services (RAICES), which provides free assistance to asylum seekers and other immigrants from many countries. Checks should be made out to RAICES, 1305 N. Flores, San Antonio, TX 78212. Please note that your donation is on behalf of Gary at the bottom of the check. Donations are tax-deductible.

Checks can also be sent to Day Productions, whose founder, Mark Day is working on a documentary of Gary's life. Send checks to Day Productions, c/o Betsy Cohn, 7209 Willow Ave. Takoma, MD 20912. •


San Antonio Current articles written by, and about, Gary MacEoin.

U.S. Troops Back In El Salvador, This Time 'Fighting Drugs' 10-26-00 `PDF`

U.S. Forces Misjudging Colombia's Problems 11-23-00 `PDF`

Law and Disorder: Dissent is a staple of St.Mary's law school 02-22-01 `PDF`

Losing Democracy To Free Trade 05-03-01 `PDF`

Gross Violator: Why the U.N. booted the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission 05-31-01 `PDF`

Get Off of My Mushroom Cloud: Nuclear energy wallows at Bush-Cheney trough 06-14-01 `PDF`

Fast Track To Hell: If Bush doesn't know Africa is a continent, how can he cut trade deals with foreign countries? 06-28-01 `PDF`

Living Dangerously: The United States' appetite for coffee and cocaine feeds violence in Colombia 07-19-01 `PDF`

This Year's Model: The megacapitalist World Bank commends Cuba for its health care and education. So where was the American media on this "feel-good" story? 10-18-01 `PDF`

Winter Of Discontent: Bush's proposed new tax cut continues to cast him as Robin Hood - in reverse 11-08-01 `PDF`

We Are Number One: The U.S. government isn't stemming the tide of cocaine - or convicts 11-15-01 `PDF`

Ferocious Popes: How the Vatican supported the holocaust 12-27-01 `PDF`

A Matter of Degrees: Spring is coming earlier. In the fall the migratory habits of butterflies and some birds are disrupted. Are these man-made changes or simply a cycle that has occurred in the past? 02-07-02 `PDF`

A Lot In Commune: Though the ties that bind them are rooted in Latin America, a group of activists have made a home on the East Side (By John Brewer) 02-14-02 `PDF`

Voices From the Jungle: Review of The Zapatista Reader 03-14-02 `PDF`

Stop Making Nonsense: A movement is afoot to end the Cuban embargo 05-16-02 `PDF`

Israel's Troubled History: For the past 800 years, the Jews have been in conflict. When will it end? 05-23-02 `PDF`

Divided We Stand: War is neither pragmatically nor ethically justifiable 01-23-03 `PDF`

Safe Passage 03/13/03 `Current Web Site`

Death On The Border: Shooting outside Anunciación House leaves one man dead 03/13/03 `Current Web Site`

WAR As A Myth And Reality: Review of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning 03/27/03 `Current Web Site`


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