Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the Irish Consulate General’s November 2018 newsletter as part of its ongoing Diaspora Heritage Series. The Atlanta-based consulate highly prizes engaging with all members of its diverse diaspora community, as Consul General Shane Stephens noted in a Dec. 5 Consular Conversation with Global Atlanta.
Bill Duffy, the subject of this article, is president of the Irish Chamber of Atlanta and CEO of The Aspire Group, a sports marketing and management company based in Atlanta. To submit your story, contact Kevin Conboy.
My family roots in Ireland run deep and I am proud of my dual citizenship, American and Irish. My grandmother, Brigid Sweeney, was a first-generation immigrant, and my most recent relative to be abroad.
Brigid was born in 1903, to Patrick Sweeney and Annie Roarty. Both of Brigid’s parents hailed from the small village of Meencorwick in County Donegal. Around the age of 23, she emigrated to New York and passed through Ellis Island on her own. Shortly after her arrival, she met Anthony Greene, who was born in Bayonne, N.J., but was raised by his parents Patrick and Sarah on Cruit Island, Donegal.
Brigid and Anthony were married in 1927 and settled in Brooklyn with their children Anthony and my mother, Anne. My Grandfather (Popa) worked as a laborer in New York City including working on the Brooklyn Battery and Lincoln Tunnels. Bridget (Nana, formerly Brigid) worked as a dietician in Brooklyn hospitals.
My father, Bill, can also trace his entire lineage back to Ireland. Each of my father’s grandparents emigrated to the United States from Ireland in the late 19th century and took residence in and around New York City. Frank Brannigan, my paternal great grandfather, was born in County Monaghan and arrived in the United States in 1890, at age 22. He married Anna Gaynor, an immigrant from Donegal, in 1895 and later had three children.
Frank spent decades working as a night watchman at the New York docks. His daughter Anna, an operator for AT&T, married Thomas Duffy, a milkman, and had my father William in 1921. Frank Brannigan’s son, Frank Jr,. grew to be a decorated lieutenant with the Fire Department of New York. My father, a World War II navigator of B-26’s who completed 67 missions in the European theater while earning two Purple Hearts, and my mom, met in Brooklyn and were married for 55 years before Mom passed away in 2003. They had five children and nine grandchildren.
My Dad turned 97 on October 16 of this year. I am the proud husband of Cathy (37 years of adventure) and daughters Erin (husband Tim) and Caitlin. I have been blessed with a career in sports that has lasted 30 years, and which leads me to conclude, like the saying goes, that if you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.