Commentary: The Dawn Returns and Remembering Jack

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Thanks, Jack!

In my more than three decades of being the pastor of St. Patrick Church on the south side of Youngstown, March 17 has been a very special day for our parish.

Our parish was named after the good saint from the Emerald Isle. Actually, when the parish was founded back in 1911, the brand-new Market Street Bridge became a major connector from the downtown to the South Side.

New neighborhoods exploded with housing. Some of the streets in the parish neighborhood had Irish names.

Jack grew up on the South Side. For much of my tenure at the parish, he was head usher and he was the perfect greeter to families, friends and first-time visitors.

I remember on several occasions that I would meet someone who would share, “I was at your church recently. Wow, your little Irish leprechaun usher was so welcoming and helpful. It made me want to join your church!” Yep, that was Jack!

For years, part of my St. Patrick’s Day routine included a stop with Jack at the Golden Dawn restaurant on the North Side near Wick Park. The stop usually included some breaking into song and a toast with a boilermaker (a throwback glass of refreshment from Youngstown’s steelmaking heritage and history).

The other day, after a nice walk at Wick Park, I decided to stop at the recently re-opened “Dawn” to pay my respects to the Naples family, who have lasted through five years of trying to re-open.

There were many obstacles and unforeseen circumstances (like the pandemic) that threw many hurdles along their way. As I entered the doors of this hallowed longtime establishment, I immediately realized that this past St. Patrick’s Day was more than a bit somber for me and others as our leprechaun usher, Jack, died this past January. I mentioned Jack to the owners who remembered him well.

I saw a few other regulars who greeted me as I greeted them. Everyone had a smile on his face.
I noticed a young man sitting at the bar. He was nursing a beer and writing a stack, yes, a big stack of postcards.

Interestingly enough, they looked a bit old, almost vintage. I didn’t want to be nosy but I asked what he was doing.

He answered that he was writing the cards to people he has met and dealt with as a poet and dream story writer. I was intrigued.

He went on to tell me that he travels the country and bought the postcards at a museum while in Tucson, Arizona. He next volunteered that when he leaves Youngstown, he is headed for Buffalo, New York.

Continuing the conversation, I told him that I knew of a literary/poetry group here called Lit Youngstown. He immediately acknowledged the group and said its members welcomed him with open arms.

I asked him how he knew about the Golden Dawn. To which he answered that he was passing by and just stopped in. He had no idea that this classic treasure had been closed for the past five years.

Near my new friend (sorry we never exchanged names) was an elderly man who said he was spending most of the day there. He was so happy that we hadn’t lost this part of our history. Sadly, I never got his name either.

The upgrade and new look of The Dawn still captures what it was like back in 1932 when it opened. Walking through the doors, I said hello to some folks outside who obviously enjoyed their visit. Their grateful laughter and welcoming faces were a good omen.

I remember grabbing the door handle and wondering what was on the other side. Opening the inner door, my first gaze made me realize that after five years of being shuttered, the warmth and welcome of this spot was not shuttered.

Later, as I was leaving, I realized that our Valley has a nice long list of such places that have stood the test of time. In fact, if you are reading this post, you probably have a similar place in your mind where the warmth and welcome wraps around you each time you visit.

As I made my way out, I stopped to thank the owners for hanging in there and reopening after five years.

Driving home, I thought of the long-running TV series “Cheers.” The theme song mentions that such places are “where everybody knows your name.”

There are so many new things that greet our lives almost daily. Most of them are good and often encourage us to think of the new ways that benefit our lives. Thankfully, there is a balance with the things that never seem to change. Most of them are good and often encourage us to be grateful for the history and wisdom that we can look back on and say “thank you”.

This might be something to think about the next time you enter the hallowed halls of those places that have marked our past and are still with us as we walk through life.

The list of places that have those hallowed halls are museums, places where we worship, locations that draw us to spend our free and leisure time, sites of learning and exploration. The list is indeed long. The next time you bless the halls of such a place, be sure to thank those who open the doors. Such connections are priceless.

And by the way, thanks, Jack, for being part of it all.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.