Saint Patrick’s Day has a special meaning for our island family in Guam. My great grandfather on my paternal side was a United States Marine named Henry Leddy who was assigned to Guam shortly after the Spanish American War.
He remained on Guam and married a local girl, my great grandmother Maria. Their oldest son John was my grandfather and his son, Herbert was my dad. I have three brothers and a sister.
Now Henry was originally from New Jersey. His parents James and Anna migrated from County Cavan in Southern Ireland as part of the great migration of the Irish to escape the ravages of the potato famine and to seek their fortune in America.
Census records showed that Henry’s families were typical Irish immigrants involved in labor jobs like being porters and working the docks. There were deaths in that family that were common in that era to some very young siblings.
When Henry’s wife on Guam died, he left Guam. He also left his children in the care of his in laws. My grandfather was 13 years old. The story is that Henry’s mother in law did not like him. Some say it was because he was a hard drinker. No one really knows. My grandfather (John) used to speak with some emotion, about how his grandmother would keep his father’s letters to them away from him and his siblings. There was definitely a story there that we never really had the full picture on but I remember my grandfather would speaking with the heart of a 13 year old boy when he spoke of missing his dad.
I found later that through Veteran medical records that Henry Leddy died in a Veterans Hospital because of consumption. In all his medical records, he would always list the named of his deceased wife, Maria and the names of his children. It seemed this absent father loved his family. I always look at these records and read the sadness between the lines.
So I celebrate with my Irish kin everywhere. The emerald blood flows way into the isles of the Pacific Ocean and within the veins of the children of its islands. I am proud of my surname and its legacy. I raise a toast to my great grandfather Henry and to his father James. I also raise a glass to my Grandpas John and my dad who are smiling down from Heaven.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!