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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Richard Joseph Flanagan - Part 1

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about my grandpa, Richard Joseph Flanagan.  In trying to figure out the best way to write about him, I've decided to write a bit of a bio that includes my own memories of him.  My own memories include things that were told to me by him and my mother, his daughter.  I have other historical paperwork to look through in the future but I thought that I'd write down what I know before delving into newspaper articles and other documents that may or may not have as much personal meaning.

The other point that I'd like to make is that I'm writing something based on my perspective and experience that tries to demonstrate his character and to honor him.  This means that my choice is not to paint only the rosy picture of which some would prefer.  Our lives are filled with imperfections and flaws.  It is from missteps and decisions along the way that make us who we are.  Our character is built from what we learn from each experience and carry with us during our lives.  These experiences can lead to wisdom for those who pay attention.

Richard Joseph Flanagan was born on October 29, 1912, in Napa, California, to John "Jack" Francis Flanagan and Mary "Minnie" Elizabeth McLaughlin.  Richard would refer to his birth year as the year the Titanic sank.  His living grandparents at the time were Kate Flanagan (Catherine Mary O'Brien) of Napa, CA; and Thomas Michael McLaughlin and Ellen Maxwell, of Napa, CA.  His grandfather, Patrick Flanagan, had passed away in 1896.  Pat never did meet any of his grandchildren.

Richard, who was nicknamed "Dick", was the fourth child of Jack and Minnie.  His older siblings were Ellen, Kay, and Robert.  His younger sibling was John Maxwell Flanagan.  It appears highly likely that Dick's namesake was his Uncle, Richard "Dick" Austin Flanagan, Sr, of Napa, CA.  In my own research, I have discovered that there are many important Richard Flanagan's in my own line, each with their own story and a family line that connects them.  Uncle Dick's (Richard Austin Flanagan, Sr.) namesake is almost undoubtedly Fr. Richard Flanagan who is interned in the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Termonfechin, Louth, Ireland.

Dick's younger years found him attending St. John the Baptist Catholic School followed by Napa High School.  While Dick was left-handed, he was forced by the nuns to write with his right hand.  He still played sports and did most everything else left-handed.  He told me that he spent 5 years at high school.  In his first senior year, he did not pass a math class that was required for graduation.  The reason for him basically repeating his senior year of high school was two fold.

First and foremost, it should be noted that he was a bit of a math wiz.  He certainly could pass the tests with flying colors.  The teacher did not pass him because he did not apply himself in turning in the homework and other assignments that were required to pass the class.  While he knew the answers and could pass the test, he did not pass the class.

The second part of repeating his senior year of high school was his involvement in sports.  Dick was on the basketball and baseball teams.   He was a great basketball player.  It never really occurred to me just how much he enjoyed the sport until he passed away.  At his rosary, the vigil before his funeral, a very tall gentleman and his wife showed up to offer their condolences.  He carried with him a photograph of the high school basketball team that he and Dick had played on together.  It amazed me that after all of those years, a high school classmate and teammate came to honor Dick at his rosary.  That experience really took me aback and has stuck with me all of these years.  
When it came to baseball, it was his passion.  I'm not sure that I can stress that enough.  The position that he played was catcher.  If I remember correctly, his all time favorite player was Bill Dickey who played catcher for the Yankees.

Richard Joseph Flanagan

As a teen, it must have been obvious to everyone that Dick wanted to play baseball.  He actually received a scholarship to play baseball at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, but turned it down so that he could play minor league baseball touring around California just after high school.  It is interesting to note that he never did take the scholarship offer or attend college.  I often wonder what his parents and siblings thought of that.  His mother had been a school teacher before she married and had children.   His siblings all attended college with Kay graduating from Cal (University of California, Berkeley).  His oldest sister, Ellen, graduated from Heald Business College.  This would have been the late 1920s early 1930s.  Both if his brothers also attended college.

Formal education aside, was that the only place Dick learned how to make his way in life?  Maybe his siblings did take the easier path.  I know from own experience that having a college education has made my life better, easier in some cases, and given me a broader perspective on life in general.  Imagine finding this on your own through life experience.  I suppose that is how people used to do it and some still do.  Success may be right around the corner but sometimes you might have to "wait awhile".

To be continued.........................

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