Irvington Legacies – A Tribute: Mary Jane D’Arrigo and Bob Connick

by The Irvington Historical Society

The Irvington Historical Society and our entire Irvington Community celebrate the lives of our friends Mary Jane D’Arrigo and Bob Connick.

Mary Jane D’Arrigo

Mary Jane, who was selected by the Irvington Historical Society as a Legacy honoree several years ago, passed away on March 9. She was born in 1926 and grew up on a farm in upstate New York during the Great Depression. They had one car in the family and since her dad used it for work, they walked everywhere—a habit she kept her  entire life. They grew all their  own food, and their house wasn’t insulated. As she stated, “There’s nothing like a farm to teach you about clothing, food and shelter.”

She and her husband moved to Irvington in 1953. She had six kids in seven years, with no family nearby to help out. As youngsters, they played all day in the local woods; she’d call them home for lunch by ringing a bell. Dr. Carney was their dentist, and Dr. Dolan was  their doctor. Since they also only had one car, her kids had to walk everywhere or else find a ride. She herself continued to walk everywhere–to the library, to her bank, and to her insurance company. In both middle and high school, her kids played three sports. Team dinners were held at the end of each season and she organized 13 of them.

 Family was the most important part of her life. The business (“D’Arrigo Brothers”), which was started by her father-in-law, has lasted for four generations and there are currently six D’Arrigos still helping run the company. Two of her children live in Irvington. She had 18 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her legacy as one of Irvington’s most unforgettable people will last for generations.

Her legacy as one of Irvington’s most unforgettable people will last for generations.

Bob Connick

Bob Connick, who passed away March 11 at the age of 95, spent most of his life in Irvington. His great-grandfather arrived in the village in 1849 after having left Ireland because of the potato famine and eventually bought a piece of land in Dublin–later known as East Irvington–for $500 and built a home for $275. The foundation of that home is still in the Connick family.

Bob was born in 1926 and his dad lost everything in the Great Depression. Consequently,  his family lived in a house with no electricity and used an outhouse for a bathroom. They survived by growing their own vegetables, raising chickens, and using a pump for water. In order to make ends meet, his mother shared their home with over 100 babies and young children for short periods of time as foster parents.

Nonetheless, he had fond memories of his childhood growing up in the area he forever called Dublin. His playground was the woods and streams around  his house, and Dublin was a tight-knit community, where neighbors looked out for each other and became life-long friends.

Bob  enlisted in the U.S. Navy halfway through his senior year at Irvington High School and served in the Pacific. After the war, Bob attended New York University, graduating in 1950 with a degree in Marketing and Advertising. After a sales stint for a year in Cleveland, he moved back to New York, married Marion, raised three children (Rob, Beth and Laurie) and worked as a suburban sales representative at the New York Times for 36 years.

Upon retirement, he dived into Irvington history as though his life depended on it. He joined the Irvington Historical Society and embarked upon two decades of researching everything Irvington, ranging from news articles, old maps and historic postcards to long-lost photos, archival records, and age-old village pamphlets. Soon, his collection filled up two bedrooms (as well as his dining room table), and as others learned of his passion, he shared his findings through various means–presentations to the senior citizens and high school kids, articles in the Roost, panels at the library. He enlisted Irvington student P.J. Clarke to help organize and create a website devoted to the history of Irvington, with 25 chapters ranging from the schools and churches to the waterfront and the immigrants. He became involved in Immigration Day and Hudson River Day at the Main Street School, where he gave grade level talks. In addition to being honored with a “Bob Connick Day” by the village, Irvington School District awarded him a plaque designating him as “Mr. History”, and the Irvington Historical Society designated him as one of its Legacies.

As he approached his nineties, he decided that he had two additional projects that needed completing–a booklet based on the development of the Irvington riverfront (which was published shortly before he passed), and a history of Irvington’s Dublin–a part of Irvington which had been largely neglected by “Wolfert’s Roost” (which will be published later this spring).

Bob certainly left his footprints and fingerprints on the village he loved.