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Lawrence John McCaffrey
Age 94 – Born August 10, 1925; Died May 15, 2020 - Evanston, IL

Lawrence was Professor Emeritus of History from Loyola University Chicago, and and 2017 inductee into the Irish-American Hall of Fame.

Born a South Sider (Blue Island, Illinois), Larry and his younger sister, Patricia, were raised in Riverdale and Dolton by their immigrant parents, John and Alma (nee Kelly). John immigrated to the US in 1912 and worked many years for the IC Railroad.  Larry graduated from Leo High School (1943), and in 2013 was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.  

Served in the U. S. Coast Guard during World War II as a Signalman on a vessel patrolling the  waters off Newfoundland.  The vessel’s home port was in Brooklyn, which mostly explains why (to his father’s great chagrin) he became a Brooklyn Dodgers’ fan.  His service in the Coast Guard allowed him to take advantage of the GI Bill and become his family’s first college graduate.  It was during his undergraduate days at St. Ambrose College that he met, and then married, Joan Elizabeth McCaffrey (nee McNamara), in 1949.

The path to his PhD started at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa for his B.A.; then, to Indiana University for his M.A.; and finally, to the University of Iowa for his PhD.

In his teaching career, he called Michigan State University, St. Catherine’s (Minnesota), University of Iowa, University of Illinois-Champaign, Marquette University, University of Maine, and, finally, Loyola University Chicago as his academic “homes”.  His teaching career also took him to Ireland, Montreal, Detroit, and, Burlington, Vermont for visiting fellowships and teaching positions.  He earned honorary Doctorate degrees from St. Ambrose College (Humanities, 1982) and, the National University of Ireland (Literature, 1987).  

A highly respected, beloved, engaging and supportive teacher throughout his entire career; especially remembered fondly by those who attended his Loyola University Chicago history classes.  He proudly noted that his Western Civilization classes were half about Western Europe, and half about the Irish.  He retired as Professor Emeritus from Loyola in 1991, after 21 years of service.

He authored 5 well-known monographs on the Irish and the Irish-American experience, including the ground-breaking The Irish Diaspora in America (1976), as well as co-authoring or editing 5 other significant works.  The Irish Diaspora in America became the standard text for university work soon after its publication.  He also wrote more than 30 scholarly articles, hundreds of book reviews, and, guided many aspiring historians on the path to their own academic success.  Along with close friends and colleagues, Gilbert Cahill (SUNY-Cortland), and, Emmet Larkin (University of Chicago), he co-founded the American Committee for Irish Studies (later, the American Conference on Irish Studies) which became the pre-eminent organization for the study of scholarly investigation into the Irish experience.

He appeared on numerous television and radio shows, most notably NPR, the Milt Rosenberg Show, and, Radio Eireann.  He was the only American historian to be part of the Thames TV series, The Troubles (1981);  was the historical consultant for the PBS series, The Irish in America: Long Voyage Home (1991); and, was a technical advisor for The Road to Perdition, starring Tom Hanks (2002).  In 2017, he was inducted into the Irish-American Hall of Fame in Chicago at the Irish-American Heritage Center, sharing the stage with fellow inductee, Bill Murray.

A jovial, conversational fellow who enjoyed walking his West Highland White Terriers around  Evanston neighborhoods and stopping to talk to new friends that he hadn’t yet met.  In his Milwaukee days while at Marquette University, he even bred, raised, and, showed Irish Terriers.  

An avid watcher of classic movies.  A big fan of Bing Crosby, Mel Torme, Frank Sinatra, and the Big Band era.  Also loved Irish folk music, especially The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem.  Once hosted a party while teaching at University of Illinois – Champaign in honor of the Clancy Brothers, and had a young journalism student, Roger Ebert, crash the party.

A big fan of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Indiana Hoosiers, and, the Iowa Hawkeyes.

Loved a good conversation, especially when accompanied by a good beer or a strong cocktail. Spent the last 50 years of his life living in Evanston, Illinois with his wife Joan, who preceded him into eternal life in 2018.  

Firmly believed that his 7 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren were the brightest and most amazing descendants a person could have.  Proud father of Kevin, Sheila, and, Patricia.

Obituary: Donnellan Family Funeral Services
Lawrence McCaffrey, age 94, of Evanston, IL. Beloved husband of the late Joan McCaffrey nee McNamara. Loving father of Kevin (Jean Luft) McCaffrey, Sheila McCaffrey (Fernando Trigoso), and Patricia McCaffrey. Proud grandfather of Sean (Lisa Venne) McCaffrey, Emily McCaffrey (Kieran Casey), and Brian (Christine Witnik) McCaffrey; Alejandra, Monica, and Sean Trigoso; and Kathleen (Jordan) Volbrecht. Cherished great grandfather of Martin and Robert McCaffrey; Owen and Charles Casey; and Kaiden Volbrecht, Mikayla McCaffrey, and Sophia Volbrecht. Dear brother of the late Patricia (Jack) Dwyer.

Interment will be private at Calvary Cemetery, Evanston, IL.

A Mass celebrating his life will be scheduled for a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to:

Irish American Heritage Center
4626 North Knox Avenue
Chicago, IL 60630

Info: www.donnellanfuneral.com or (847) 675-1990
To plant a beautiful memorial tree in memory of Lawrence John McCaffrey, please visit our Tribute Store.

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