Or so my great-grandfather Neil Regan used to say. Cornelius “Neil” Regan was born on June 14, 1873 in Fisherville, New Hampshire, the oldest child of John and Mary (Quinn) Regan. He lived much of his life in the Clontarf area, arriving in Tara Township with his parents and siblings in 1879. After years on the farm, he moved into Clontarf in 1921 where he lived for over twenty years before moving to Minneapolis in the early 1940s to live with his son John – my grandpa. There he would stay until he passed away in 1951.
My mom remembers a dapper grandfather, dressed in a three-piece-suit every day and smelling of Listerine (she said he used to put it on the nose-pads of his glasses each morning – she has no idea why!) Grandpa Neil read books to my mom and thought he had a genius on his hands when she read them back to him. This was before she even started kindergarten – she wasn’t actually reading the books, she just memorized them!
Mom said Neil was very mild-mannered. The only time he would show any kind of frustration would be when he left his hat on a chair and her younger brother Johnny would toddle over, grab the hat, and pull the lining out of it. That seemed to frazzle Neil.
Neil was a quietly devout man. His nephew Gerald Regan recalls seeing Neil, kneeling next to a chair on the back porch saying the rosary. He did this every morning.
Gerald also remembers how when my grandpa John would ask for money when he was young, Neil would get up and walk away. Neil would pull out his wallet, inspecting the money carefully, and give some to John. Gerald always though this a bit odd, but Neil was a very deliberate man, so he didn’t think too much about it. Only later did Gerald realize that Neil was not being circumspect at all, but rather the cataracts on his eyes made it impossible for him to see the bills in his wallet unless he went to the window.
Shortly after Neil moved to Minneapolis he had the cataracts removed at the University of Minnesota. My grandma remembered how Neil exclaimed, “It’s a miracle! I can see!” Apparently all those early morning rosaries paid off!
When I see the flags decorating the porches in my neighborhood today, I will smile to myself and think of my great-grandfather Neil. Happy Flag Day everyone and Happy Birthday Neil!