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Kevin McGinty, longtime Irish radio host, lived to share a story and a smile

September 19, 2018

Kevin McGinty, longtime Irish radio host, lived to share a story and a smile

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Kevin McGinty always had a mischievous twinkle in his eye, as if he was up to something.

Something good.

The longtime co-host of the “Sounds of Britain and Ireland” on WCPN FM/90.3 every Sunday evening was forever scheming ways to deliver a compliment, share a story (sometimes true) or tell a joke. His Irish wit was carried on a brogue born in Castlebar, County Mayo.

It was the audible embodiment of a smile.

McGinty, 78, died Saturday unexpectedly in his home in Euclid.

He was born in Ireland and immigrated to Cleveland when he was 17, first to live with his older sister, Monica, in Boston, and then following her to Cleveland when she got a job here. Another sister, Catharine, joined them. Six other siblings and his mother and father stayed in Ireland.

He married Kathleen Hastings in 1967 and they had five children together. She died in 2001. He kept her clothes in the bedroom closet until the day he died.

McGinty made his living as an interior painter, but his passion was mounting plays by Irish playwrights as founder, director and performer of the Cleveland Irish Players stage troupe. 

They did shows in the East Side Irish American club and venues in other cities, including in County Mayo, Ireland, where he was born.

He was founding treasurer of the Irish American Archives Society and a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association. He was devout in his Irish faith, his home parish being Our Lady of the Lake (formerly Holy Cross) in Euclid. He often attended Mass in the inner city ministry, “Little Brothers & Sisters of the Eucharist” with his friend, the Rev. Jim O’Donnell.

McGinty’s sister Catharine, known as Kitty, moved back to Castlebar in recent years after living in Cleveland and in Florida. She remembered her brother fondly this week.

“He was a lovely fella,” she said. “He loved his kids and his wife. He  never bothered after she died with any women. He devoted himself to his children.”

He loved a good conversation and a hearty laugh.

“He never took a drink, but he loved to go into the pubs and he loved to sit around and enjoy the craic, as we call it, and carrying on. And the drunker they got, the more he loved it.” He’d come back with a bar tab, she said, “And I’d say ‘Kevin, why are you doing that, you’re spending all this money and all you’re getting back was a damn Coke!’”

His eldest son, Kevin, a contractor, remembers a father who gave his children room to develop.

“I had a tremendous sense of not wanting to disappoint him, and he did that so naturally,” his son said. “He put tremendous faith in you, and he expected you to live up to it.”

They lived up to it.

“He used to call us up and we’d joke about which one of us he’d brag about today,” said his daughter, Dr. Megan McGinty, an Army psychologist. “He would call and tell me all about how great my sister Jean is and how smart Kevin is.”

Gerry Quinn, who hosts another Irish radio show Sunday mornings on WHK AM/1420, said of McGinty: “They only made one of him. He was a wonderful person. I’m happy to say Kevin and I were friends for 50 years.”

Close friend Dennis Dooley had enjoyed lunch with McGinty days before he died, when they went on one of their regular visits to a nursing home to see a friend, Peggy Campbell. “He had a lovely sense of humor,” Dooley said.

This week, at his wake in Chamber’s Funeral Home in Cleveland (2-4 and 6-9 p.m. Thursday) and after his funeral service (11 a.m. Friday at St. Colman in Cleveland), the tears will flow and the laughs will come easily as the greatest McGinty moments (mostly true) are remembered and retold.

Like when he paid respects at a shiva in a home of a Jewish friend who had died, made a beeline to a man who looked lonely, and had him roaring with a resurrection joke within minutes.

“All eyes were on us,” said his son, Kevin. “That was him.”

Or when he went to a book signing by comedian and activist Dick Gregory.

“He told me that when he got to the table where Gregory was,” said Dooley, “he said, ‘I read your book and have followed your career and growing up in Ireland, and as an immigrant, I felt a lot of connection with your experiences.’ He said Gregory got up and hugged him and said, ‘My brother!’ And that just touched him so much.”

Or maybe it will be the glib response he gave in an interview about being grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2013. Pope Francis had been chosen that week, and McGinty had that in mind when asked when he found out he’d lead the parade.

“I was coming home, and I saw the smoke coming out of my chimney at the house, and then I knew,” he said.

McGinty is survived by his children, Kevin, 50, of Chesterland; Jean Humphrey, 48, of Chardon; Christine Susnik, 46, of Willoughby Hills; Dr. Megan McGinty, 43, of Watertown, New York, and Patrick, 41, of Lakewood.

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