Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vic Olney, Patriot, Veteran and Booster of the 'Fighting Irish,' Dies in Manhattan

Oh all the comrades e'er I had,
they're sorry for my going away,
And all the sweethearts e'er I had ,
they wish me one more day to stay,
But since it falls unto my lot that
I should go and you should not,
I'll gently rise and softly call,
goodnight and joy be with you all.
-- "The Parting Glass" (a traditional Irish song of farewell)

We at have the sad duty to report the death this week of our friend and colleague Vic Olney. Vic, the proprietor of Tara Hall, had been ill with cancer in recent years, but seemed to recover. God had a different plan for him this go-round.

Right now, we have only a sketchy background for Vic, but not because he was at all mysterious. He was, in our decade-long relationship, always forthright. We had sporadic contact with him through the years, often limited to an occasional good-natured e-mail when we inquired about shipping of a prize for our weekly Irish heritage quiz. Vic sponsored that quiz virtually from its inception in 1997.

Vic, who we guess was about 65 years old, was a veteran of the 69th Infantry, an Army National Guard unit that has fought with distinction in some of this nation's most momentous conflicts. Veterans of the unit often called him "Sarge."

Above, Vic greets visitors to Tara Hall's table at the 69th Regiment Armory on March 17, 2006. Photo by Gerry Regan

He was an activist within the regiment's Veterans Corps for many years, and a bulwark in support of the active battalion. Vic often used Tara Hall's newsletters to keep his customers and friends updated on the perils and duty facing the 69th, in Iraq and elsewhere. A staunch patriot, Vic was far more conservative than us, but we avoided contentious topics, preferring to dwell on our shared passions for the history and heritage of the Irish, and particularly Vic's beloved 69th and the Civil War's Irish Brigade.

Vic, as a volunteer, managed the Officers' Club at the 69th's historic Beaux Art turn-of-the- century armory. As a quintessential New York character, Vic added much color to the tavern's lively ambience. He kept a journal on events surrounding the 69th in the aftermath of 9/11, informed by his bird's-eye view from within the Armory, and shared it episodically with subscribers to Tara Hall's e-mail list. Seeing the documentary quality these entries possessed, and the emotional landscape he artfully described, we asked Vic if we could reproduce them on WGT, and he graciously acceded.

A rough-hewn wit, Vic reviewed the Martin Scorcese film "The Gangs of New York" for his e-mail subscribers, and he allowed us to share it via WGT with thousands of additional readers in the years that have passed. The review is quintessential Vic – blunt, irreverent, well-informed, and humorous.

Vic enthusiastically promoted in many different ways, to many different people, in many different contexts. Tara Hall's home page features endorsements and links to our venture, as well as information about the 69th, while the website says nothing about himself. Ultimately, that speaks volumes about Vic, who we always found self-effacing as well as welcoming. For his years of support and the bon mots he shared with our readers, we are profoundly grateful. With Vic's passing, our venture, and the Irish worldwide, have lost a great friend and booster.

His wife, Barbara, daughters Karen and Donna, granddaughter Josephine, and son-in-law carry on. Vic will be waked Friday in Manhattan at the Gannon Funeral Home, 152 E. 28th Street (between 3rd & Lexington between 2-4 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. For info, call the funeral home at 212-683-1798. The funeral Mass takes place Saturday at St. Stephen's Church, 28th Street, between 3rd & Lexington (across from the funeral home), at 10 a.m. A celebration of Vic's life will follow, at the nearby 69th Regiment Armory, 68 Lexington Ave. It's one party we suspect Vic is quite sorry he won't be able to make. Vic's e-mail addy was, and e-mail to it may reach his family for expressions of condolences.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to 69th Regiment Family Support Group, 68 Lexington Ave., New York, NY 10010 and the American Cancer Society, P.O. Box 22718,
Oklahoma City OK 73123-1718.

Ar dheis De go raibh sé. (May he sit at the right hand of God.)


*Just 'Doing Their Job': The 69th Is Called into Action After 9/11

* Tara Hall (