Finnegan Family

Music, Camaraderie, Memories: Finnegan’s on the Green

Chair of the Board of Trustees, Jim Finnegan P ’16, ’18 shares a story about a popular Irish pub that opened in Hatboro, Pennsylvania in 1974. Think old-world eating establishment with the music of the Clancy Brothers playing in the background. It had a laid-back speakeasy vibe with a casual, bright, and cheerful atmosphere where guests spontaneously erupted into song, champagne was served, and a gentle haze of smoke billowed out of the windows. It was a place one could always find camaraderie, love, and joy. It was the garage of Jim’s parents, Larry and Jerry Finnegan!

Jim’s earliest memories of his parents’ “pub” began with him as a 10-year-old. With so many cousins and distant relatives, there was always a birthday, a First Communion, or someone visiting from Ireland. Each occasion was a time for family to come together. After being built by his father, Uncle Jack, and Uncle Bub over a series of Sundays, its inaugural party even included an official ribbon cutting. The parties weren’t for rowdy high schoolers; they were for the aunts and uncles!

“While we all had close friends our age growing up,” he recalls, “the focus was always family.”

This pub, these parties, and the many traditions Jim recalls from his youth are what built a foundation of family and connection for him and his five brothers and sisters. They had role models for forming relationships with one another. Lessons born in tradition from three generations have been passed down to their own kids, and the strength of family has persisted.

To Jim’s sons, Bill ’16 and Seamus ’18, holidays mean standing shoulder-to-shoulder with cousins, aunts, uncles, and great aunts and uncles in a loud and vibrant house. They can’t recall these gatherings without immediately focusing on their grandparents.

“PopPop could take charge of a room,” recalls Bill. Just one word from the patriarch of the family could silence 50 or more people. Says Seamus, “PopPop is the one who helped instill the importance of family… He is also the one who snuck seafood to the family dog.”    

Energetic and fun, their MomMom is the life of the party. “She always has treats for the grandkids,” says Bill, “handing out candies from her pockets.” With 16 first grandchildren from her six kids, one can picture MomMom’s overflowing pockets and excitement at every family gathering.

From the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, everyone present feels the warmth and connection of family through rituals that have withstood generations. The year they turn 16, cousins prepare themselves for a solo performance that must be sung a capella prior to officially joining the cousins’ annual gift exchange. A Finnegan Family Gathering is filled with simple pleasures and momentous rites of passage, each deserving of celebration. Every occasion is filled with memories, including one of the most recent. At their PopPop’s funeral last June, Seamus and Bill sat among their loved ones and listened to aunts and uncles share stories of the lasting impact their PopPop would leave on their lives.

Listening to these stories, Bill and Seamus fondly reflect on their dad’s siblings. Aunt Jeanie, a caring soul and close confidante to their mom, Lynne. Uncle Bill – Bill’s namesake – perceptive and smart with a shared love of basketball. Uncle Griff, a great communicator with the power of persuasion. Aunt Tricia, the “baby” of the family who would sometimes get “kicked” to the “teenage table” with her nieces and nephews during holidays. Perhaps not-so-secretly, she had the most fun when this happened! And their Uncle Larry: Laurence P. Finnegan, III, the eldest.

“My Uncle Larry was the nicest person you could ever meet,” shares Seamus. “Always with the biggest smile, he wanted to connect and learn about you.”

Seamus recalls him walking around the party taking pictures, serving as the family’s unofficial historian, and saying “hello” to every single person. Much to the chagrin of his younger brother, Jim, this would eventually lead to the long process of saying “goodbye” at the end of the evening to every single person, as well!

A genuinely caring and giving person, Larry is described as an old soul who played the saxophone and could immediately captivate an audience with his deep, melodic voice. It was a voice fitting for even the Pope himself (Larry had an opportunity to perform with the Philadelphia Papal Choir during Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia in 2015, one of the greatest honors of his life).

“As the older son in my family,” says Bill, “I could relate to the special relationship I saw with my dad and Uncle Larry. It had a really big influence on me; they were very good role models. I try to base my relationship with my own brother around that.” Warm and inclusive, there was magic in conversation with Uncle Larry; he made you feel like the most important person in the room.

Last fall, when the Finnegans unexpectedly lost Uncle Larry to cancer just six months after the death of Pop Pop, a cloud of sorrow could have easily silenced the symphony of their respective legacies. Determined to flip their loss and grief into something positive, the Finnegans turned their sights to exploring ways to honor both Laurence P. Finnegan, Jr. and Laurence P. Finnegan, III.

Even before the passing of his father and brother, Jim and his family were eager to support the initiatives of the Our Moment to Lead Campaign since the Board unanimously approved to begin fundraising efforts in July 2019. When he and Lynne were ready to commit to a campaign gift in the winter of 2020, they began brainstorming with Head of School Mark A. Devey to best align their interests with the campaign priorities and see how they might combine an accompanying naming opportunity to honor the memory of Jim’s father and brother.  Reflecting on Larry’s funeral service together, they realized music may be the key.

“A major theme that emerged throughout the service was the love of music Larry and their entire family shared,” says Devey.  

“Being that music has a special place within the core of my family, Mark’s desire to have the music program expanded inside of Kehs Hall, converting Robbie’s into practice rooms and an ensemble choral area, was fitting. What really caught my attention, however, was his vision to have live music spilling out the back of Kehs into the campus green from a new open outdoor patio,” explains Jim. “I am thrilled that my family can contribute to this initiative,” he adds, “It is a wonderful opportunity to dedicate a venue that speaks to my family’s enjoyment for music, and simultaneously, will provide valuable performing experience for future Perkiomen students.”  

With the construction of this outdoor music venue, students and faculty can emulate Larry while sharing fellowship and music, woven seamlessly together. Picture a backdrop of an amphitheater with tables, chairs to lounge in, and an easily transformable performance space facing the student center, all overlooking an open green quad. This distinctive, laid-back, speakeasy vibe with a casual, bright, and cheerful atmosphere will be a place of camaraderie, love, and joy. Welcome to Finnegan’s on the Green.

“It’s really about joy and bringing people together,” says Devey.

Finnegan’s on the Green will be a physical representation of the spirit, love, and endless passion for people and music demonstrated by the two patriarchs of the Finnegan Family. With Phase I underway and a new student center on the near horizon, the Finnegans and other donors are creating an inspired hardscape and landscape at Perkiomen School that will create opportunities, and promote endless possibilities for future students and their families.