Michael Grimes: From Pomeroy to Long Island, a proud Irishman to the end
NESTLED amongst the bright lights and commotion of New York City are two little slices of old Ireland: the famine memorial in Manhattan, and Michael Grimes’s apartment on Long Island.
Although Michael John Grimes left Ireland in 1957 during political upheaval for a better life in the United States, his heart firmly remained in his native sweet Pomeroy, Co Tyrone.
He was the third of 12 children born to John and Jane Grimes and a twin to Teresa, who died at the age of 29 from tuberculosis.
If you stepped into his apartment on Long Island you were instantly whisked back to Ireland.
Filled with pictures, cards, maps, newspapers and trinkets from his land of birth; all priceless to Michael in their own way.
In 1968 Michael married Betty Rowland, a Scottish girl with whom he shared a Celtic heritage and deep religious faith.
They had three sons, Sean, Kevin and Colin, and Sean’s son Daniel would be Micheal's pride and joy.
Michael had grown up on a farm in Gortnagarn, where he found an affinity raising and training horses.
In America his talent was spotted by a renowned horse trainer and he would travel the world as a groom for the United States Equestrian Team.
He returned to Dublin for the Nations Cup competition where the team won the Aga Khan Trophy.
However, the highlight of Michael’s career with horses was surely the 1960 Rome Olympics where he represented his newly adopted country.
In 1962 he began a job with United Parcel Service, where he would work for 28 years until his retirement.
Betty and Michael were true believers in family and faith and visited many of the Marian shrines across the world.
After his beloved wife’s death in 2003, Michael found support in his family and friends at the Irish Centre in Mineola.
A keen GAA fan, it also provided him with a haven to proudly watch his home county win three All-Ireland titles.
Michael was a pioneer all his life and wore his gold pin on his green jacket everywhere he went.
He returned home regularly with his three boys, attending many family occasions.
His sons have a close bond with Ireland and a great connection with their cousins.
In the final months of his life Michael moved in with Sean and his wife Stacey, who lovingly cared for him.
He died aged 95 on January 28 and was laid to rest beside Betty in Holy Rood Cemetery, Westbury.
Ever the traditionalist, Michael had stashed away a shovel of soil from his homeland, which he had got blessed, and one of his last wishes was to have that Irish soil buried along with him.
A proud Irishman to the end.
John Paul Grimes