Kathy and Jerry Irish
The pair met in the ’60s when a rowdy bar scene prompted the Navy seaman to help out the owner’s daughter
Photograph by Michael Polito
Katherine Irish says she met her husband Jerry in a “wacky way.” In the 1960s, her father owned a bar in Garrison, and one night she was having trouble convincing people to head home. “I tried to close up, but nobody would leave. Jerry stepped in and gave me a hand — but I didn’t even know his name,” she remembers.
Katherine, now 77, didn’t see the anonymous young man again for a year; a Navy seaman, he shipped out just two weeks later. She returned to Columbia University, where she studied dental hygiene; the pair was properly introduced during the summer of 1961, and quickly began dating. “Actually, if you want to know, our first date...” Katherine begins; “oh, it was terrible,” Jerry interjects with a laugh. At the appointed time, both came down with fevers and canceled their assignation. Wondering if the other might be faking illness in order to get out of the date, they each went to the doctor. “The door opened across the hall, and he was sitting there with a thermometer in his mouth waving at me,” says Katherine. They scheduled a second first date at the movies and a pizza parlor. More dates followed, which included dancing, dinners, and swimming. Jerry proposed after only one month. “I thought he was joking and laughed at him,” says Katherine. “But I guess it wasn’t that funny, because I said yes.”
The Irishes tied the knot on July 14, 1962 — despite the fact that Jerry’s father had a heart attack in the middle of the ceremony. “I didn’t think we’d get through it, but the doctor came to the church and brought him home,” Jerry recalls. Assured that Dad was well-taken care of, the newlyweds embarked on a honeymoon to Lake George; the next year, they bought the house next door to Jerry’s parents in Garrison.
Jerry worked in construction, drove a school bus, and eventually became custodian at a local school — a job he held for 25 years; Katherine worked part-time in dental offices. Both Jerry and Katherine look back on the time spent raising their kids with great fondness. “We were always entertaining; we had Super Bowl parties, went to clam bakes. I coached Little League, and I must have taught every kid on the block how to swim in my pool,” says Jerry. In 1983, the couple visited the island of St. Martin; the next year, they purchased a timeshare there, which they use every year.
The secret to their successful union, they say, is not to argue over small things. “We both have a tendency to clam up or walk away,” says Katherine. “I would just go to bed — it was easier,” Jerry says. Katherine stresses the importance of depending on each other. “When things were rough going, we just got through it together. That was it.”