Every St. Patrick’s Day since 1952, an Irish ambassador or even the prime minister has traveled to the U.S. to hand-deliver to the American president a cluster of Irish shamrocks to celebrate the day.
School of Medicine Dean Peter F. Buckley, M.D., and his wife, Leonie, both Irish-born, present Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (center) with a traditional Irish crest on St. Patrick’s Day.
School of Medicine Dean Peter F. Buckley, M.D., and his wife, Leonie, both Irish-born, brought their own spin on the tradition to Richmond and to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“We thought it would be nice to give the governor something that’s Irish in the same kind of tradition,” says Leonie Buckley. “My sister and mother were coming to visit from Ireland so we asked them to bring a plaque with the McAuliffe name and crest. We also presented him with handmade Irish candy.”
The Buckleys were familiar with Gov. McAuliffe’s interest in his Irish heritage after they met at a VCU basketball game and discussed how he traces his ancestry to County Cork, the same county that Dean Buckley’s father hails from.
The Buckleys’ St. Patrick’s Day visit was arranged by Matt Conrad and Karah Gunther from the Office of Government Relations for VCU and the VCU Health System. “We really appreciate how Matt and Karah joined in with the spirit of the day and facilitated this celebratory opportunity,” Dean Buckley says.
Gov. McAuliffe appreciated the gift, sharing with the Buckleys the meaning of the crest and what each color represented. “He talked with us about Ireland and his family,” Leonie says. “His family came over from Ireland many generations back.”
Dean Buckley grew up in Dublin, and Leonie in Limerick, Ireland. At 30, they came to the U.S. on green cards and became citizens five years later. “We’re very proud and happy to be Americans,” Leonie says. “We love this country and wouldn’t want to leave, but we’re also proud of our Irish heritage.”
And particularly on St. Patrick’s Day, they enjoy sharing it with others. “St. Patrick’s Day is thought of as a day to establish friendship,” Leonie says. “We would like to do something at the state Capitol every year, no matter who is the governor.”
By Polly Roberts