A Profile of Agnes Foley O'Neill

by Barbara Kerr Carrozzi

On a cold, wintry Saturday, December 15, 1923, in the quiet village of Irvington, in the family home on Main Street (the house, no longer standing, sat across from today’s Chase Bank), Mary McGovern Foley (“Tiny”) and Edward Jerome Foley (“Tuck”), with great joy and excitement, welcomed into their heart and home their first child, a baby girl whom they named Agnes. Four years later a son, John (Jack), joined and completed the happy family.
    Agnes was part of the fourth generation of the family on her maternal side to call Irvington home, preceded by her great-grandparents Michael Kiernan and Margaret Duff Kiernan (residents dating back to the mid-1850s when the village was known as Dearman), grandparents Mary Kiernan McGovern and Michael McGovern, and her parents.

Four generations of the Kiernan family: back, from left, Mary Kiernan McGovern, Margaret Duff Kiernan, Mary McGovern Foley; foreground, Agnes Foley O'Neill.

Resulting from the marriages of Margaret Duff’s five sisters as well as those of the Kiernan’s five daughters and one son, new families with the names Tewey, Broderick, Leahy, Irwin, Foley, and Ferris (to name a few) began to populate the village. Descend-ents of many of these families still call Irvington home.
    Agnes’s father, Tuck, as he was known from his early days in Irvington, was a sergeant in the Ir-vington Police Department; her mother, a homemaker and telephone operator for the New York Central Railroad located across from Grand Central Station.

A little known fact about Tiny and Tuck was their great love of dancing, especially the waltz. Recipients of many awards, they were affectionately known as the “waltzing champions” and, as the story passed down through the family tells it, their passion for the dance was so intense, they once walked to Yonkers to enter a competition—which, by the way, they won!

Tuck Foley holding Agnes, circa 1924.

Agnes enjoyed a loving, carefree and innocent childhood with her family and many friends who lived on and off Main Street. She fondly recalled those halcyon days of roller-skating down Main Street and “jumping the curbs” with her good friends Dotsie Petri and Eleanor Gallagher. She attended kindergarten through 12th grade at the Main Street School, graduating as part of the class of 1941. Accepted into the State Teachers College at New Paltz, but unable to attend for financial reasons, Agnes enrolled in secretarial school and completed one semester before financial constraints once again interrupted her education. Undeterred, strong, and confident, she set out to find a job. Her first place of employment was at McCreary’s Department Store in New York City. Successful in that endeavor, after some time she began to seek other positions that would challenge her abilities and skills, as well as provide an increase in salary. Anaconda Wire and Cable Company at 25 Broadway in Manhattan proved to be that venue and she remained happily employed there until her marriage years later.
    The same year Agnes was born, the young couple Bridget Kelleher O’Neill and Adam O’Neill departed Fermoy, Ireland, filled with hopes and dreams of a new and better life in America, the land of opportunity. During the voyage, their ship was iverted to London, England, and it was there that the