Jim Leahey, Irish Person of the Year


The Saint Patrick’s Day parade always falls on UH game day.

“I always had a game, was always on a weekend. I always had a game, couldn’t do it,” said 2019 Irish Person of the Year, Jim Leahey. “Bill Comerford, he’s the heart and soul of Saint Patrick. I owed him because he kept asking me and asking me. So finally this year I said yah, ok I’m your man.”

I was told you would do it but you’re going to bring Toni.

“Yes I am. Yes I am because by many different means she has become Irish too, and her children are part Irish, right,” said Leahey.

“I’m very proud of him because he’s half Irish but he’s Irish to da max, down to his toes. And I think he’s never been to Ireland although we’ve been trying to talk him into it. But I think by some kind of long distance thing he’s kissed that Blarney Stone a lot of times,” said Jim’s wife, Toni Leahey.

Jim’s father was Irish, from Tacoma, Washington. He came to Hawaii with the Navy and met Jim’s mom.

“He was really an Irishman, he had a lot of pride in being Irish. And I think the Irish, because you’re Irish you are imbued with wonder. You’re imbued with how does this work. What does this do and also with a justice, you seek justice in everything.”

I asked about what some other Irish people say are so-called Irish traits.

Irish are friendly, to which Leahey replied “Irish are friendly”

Irish have the gift of gab, to which Leahey replied “I would think so. I would think so …. Ah yes, yes. Because we courted for five years and it was all gift of gab. It was all ‘my god you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. I woke up this morning and I said to myself I get to see her again today. I get to take her home.’ You know your father never liked me but that’s okay, that’s okay.” 

Toni and Jim Leahey have been spending a lot more time together now since his retirement from calling UH sports.

When asked if he missed his work, he replied, “yes I do. If you ask me do you enjoy your retirement, no. See when you had the job I had every day, every week. You had to deliver because there was another game in a different sport with different people.”

It’s clear, the voice of UH sports thrived on the hard work, research, fast pace, pressure, the excitement of the game.

“You go through all of that and you’re never allowed to really, during the season, never allowed to really relax and take it easy and sit on your porch and be interviewed,” said Leahey.

He thinks of going back to teaching but until then he’s spending every day with his wife of 53 years. She says he remembers because it’s the same as the number of Super Bowls.

Do they always have something to talk about?

“Oh yes, sure. Sure. We’re going to talk about this interview later in the day. And then we’re going to say, well you know we’re going to be in that Mercedes Benz. Probably a convertible. Probably going to wave to the people. How you going to wave? How you going to, be like the queen like that. Or be like me with the shaka and the stuff. So yah we’ll have that discussion. It’ll be good. It’ll be good.”

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