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Everybody’s Port: March 15, 2013

“On St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish.” So said John J. O’Neil III to me yesterday. Why was he talking to me? Well, to begin at the beginning, not too long ago I read in the Port Washington News (where else?) that John J. the Third, had been honored at a fancy dinner by the John Michael Marino Lodge 1389 Order of the Sons of Italy in America (SOIA). It seems that he had been a two-term president of that civic-minded, charitable organization. Presently, O’Neil is president of the Sons of Italy Foundation and is active with the national organization. That got me thinking. With all due respect, how does a man whose family roots are in Ireland get so involved with a group whose members’ family roots are in Italy? “When he has a wife whose maiden name is Principe,” said O’Neil without missing a beat.

Although his background is in graphics design, illustration and advertising, O’Neil’s real passion is going to the dogs – that is, painting dogs, which he does expertly and on commission. Using acrylics, O’Neil he is equally adept at painting less lively subjects. His painting of a Nantucket waterfront is so warm and colorful it can bring on a sudden urge to hop on the next plane for Nantucket. “When I paint, I turn off the world,” says O’Neil.

Is there a Leprechaun in Port Washington? I think so. And you can find him sometimes at one of my favorite watering holes, Sullivan’s Quay. When he’s there, he’s tending bar or dispensing warm words of welcome to returnees and newcomers alike. His speech is a dead giveaway. No doubt about it; he’s from the old sod. “I’m from Kells, County of Heath,” he admits, “but I grew up in Middleton, County Cork. That’s the home of the Irish whiskey distilleries.” He says his name is Victor Cunneen. (Doesn’t sound like the name of a leprechaun.) “I came to America in 1986,” said he.” Why? “I wanted to see the place and play their music,” he replied. Aha, I got him, I thought, so I asked him about the instrument he used. (Don’t leprechauns play harps?) “A guitar,” he said, “and I sing.” Cunneen said he got the idea in 1983 while on business in Cairo. “The band was playing Irish songs, so I got out my guitar and joined in. It was a most interesting engagement.” Since then, when he’s not doing his thing at Sullivan’s Quay, Cunneen morphs into an Irish balladeer. He and his guitar have appeared together in 42 states of the Union and Canada. In the weeks including, before, and after St. Patrick’s Day, Cunneen says, “I’m shut out all weeks. I’ll be entertaining at the Irish-Americans in Government luncheon and later I’ll be off to Myrtle Beach for an engagement.” He’s been living this double life for 20 years. When does he plan to stop? “The only time I’ll stop is when I’m 12 feet down and somebody is standing on my grave,” Cunneen replied. (I still think he’s a leprechaun.)

Everybody’s Port Question of the Week: What was the world’s shortest St. Patrick’s Day parade? Be the first to email me the correct answer at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and win a prize.

Howard Blankman is a Public Relations Society of America Fellow, longest current member of the Dramatists Guild of America, former CEO of The Blankman Group and Nassau County Planning Commission Chairman.

News

Gould A. ‘Stretch’ Ryder III, accomplished sailor, pilot, businessman, civic leader, and steward of the beautiful waterfront of Port Washington, passed away Oct. 24 at The Amsterdam at Harborside Hospice Center in Port Washington.

Stretch, as he was known to all, was well known as part of the crew on Ted Turner’s “Courageous” when it won the America’s Cup in 1977. Turner stayed in touch and visited Stretch last week.

Stretch’s life was marked by numerous personal contributions and accomplishments.

Parents concerned about classroom sizes spoke up at the Port Washington Board of Education meeting, as the board passed an approval of the larger sizes.

Parents spoke of class sizes at the district’s elementary being in the mid 20s, an amount they felt compromised the quality of their children’s education.

“The board of education changed our children’s education for the worse,” said one mother of larger average class sizes the board had approved last year. The comment drew clapping from the audience.


Sports

The Port Washington Soccer Club has presented Schreiber High School graduate and captain of the Port Washington Blue Knights, Cameron Boroumand, with the annual $1,000 Joe Cohen Scholarship.

The award, which has been presented annually for over 10 years, was established by the Port Washington Soccer Club to honor Joseph Cohen, a gifted athlete who attended college on a soccer scholarship. He went on to achieve outstanding success, first academically, and then in his professional life.  He gave his time fully and with great heart to innumerable charitable endeavors.

The tough and talented Port Washington volleyball team defeated Hicksville at an away game this past Friday in all three sets.

With strong returning players who also play on club teams year round, the Port Washington team plays with a certain level of chemistry. Megan Murphy and Kelly Nardone led the way with 12 assists and Mia Walker had six kills.


Calendar

Schreiber Symphony Orchestra - November 6

Port Summer Show - November 6

Residents For A More Beautiful Port Washington Meeting - November 7


Columns

1959: The Year The Music Stopped Playing
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com

The Eccentric Heiress Of ‘Empty Mansions’
Written by Mike Barry, MFBarry@optonline.net

Yellow Margarine And A Pitch For The Ages
Written by Michael A. Miller, mmillercolumn@gmail.com