Colonel John O’Grady Part 5: The Parents



  John Martin O’Grady and Fraces V. O’Grady were the parents of Colonel O’Grady. They were both born at the turn of the 20th century and were married for over 55 years.  They dreamed of a large family but were only able to have one child.  They placed all their future hopes and dreams with  their son, Jack.  They believed in America and all the promises it held.  They felt it was important to give back to a country that had provided them with so much.  So they enrolled their son in Military School, to teach him the importance of family and country.

  John Martin O’Grady immigrated, on a crowded boat, from  Limerick, Ireland with his large family when he was only 8 years old.  He eventually had to drop out of school to help support his family. He worked hard and became a self reliant and self educated man.   Those years of having to work hard in factories at a young age made him aware of a deeply flawed system for American workers.



It was the early 1900’s and John Martin saw so much unnecessary suffering among his fellow workers, dangerous and hazardous working conditions;  unsafe environments,, long hours, low pay and the exploitation of children. He realized the problem was prevalent throughout factories, sweat houses, warehouses, offices and stores.


He decided something needed to be done so he took action.  He felt workers needed someone to assist them, represent them against greedy companies.  He pounded the pavement, starting a grassroots effort to unionize his fellow workers. After years of constant struggle he was able to succeed.  He made it his mission to assure that workers were provided a safe and secure place to work and their labor be fairly compensated.  It was a tough battle as “Union Busting” was common practice during that era. He continued on despite the many obstacles he faced daily. 


Threats, intimidation and  harassment  occurred regularly against anyone daring to attempt any form of unionization.  John Martin O’Grady was fearless and tenacious and after countless battles eventually prevailed.  Many years later he would go on to  be President of a major Workers Rights Union.  His son, Colonel John O’Grady inherited that same courage and determination.



Frances V. O’Grady epitomized compassion and concern for others, she was the quintessential caregiver.  She took care of all her families needs in a grand manner and precise detail.  With Frances (Mema) as we called her, there was no lack of nurturing for all.  She even took in others; when her brother could no longer care for his kids after his wife passed away, she took both his children, Noreen and Girard into her home and raised them.  She also cared for her younger sister Dorothy until the day she  passed away.


 John and Frances’s boy Jack was the light of their life and the day he went missing they were truly crushed and devastated. They stood vigil for years for their son, attempting to uncover information on what happened to him. They organized and rallied on his behalf. They never gave up hope and worked tirelessly to seek answers.

They also provided great comfort and support to their seven grandchildren.


 Every summer the O’Grady children would  fly out to stay with them at their home, in East Moriches, on Long Island New York.


After O’Grady went missing, his family was in disarray; stress, resentments, anxiety and frustrations filled the home.  On the contrary, the summers at their grandparents were filled with carefree abandon.  They were surrounded by love and felt safe and  secure. They enjoyed abundant days and peaceful nights.  Those summers created cherished childhood memories from the  bright, lazy days spent at their home in “East Moriches.


  The children formed deeper bonds with their grandparents.  They also connected to much of the extended family, especially their cousins, The Hudsons’,  The Hudson Family consisted of  Aunt Noreen’s 7 children, all the same ages as the 7 O’Grady children. They would  spend days with them  at that summer house which created a deep and unique connection.


John Martin O’Grady died in August of 1985, before his death he felt defeated in his journey to find his son. He once  stated, “They tell me he was lost to war, but I saw him here just yesterday – a brown-haired, happy lad on his way to play. Just yesterday . . .” After a long battle with cancer Frances O’Grady lapsed into a coma on April 10, 1987, exactly 20 years after her only child went missing. Three days later she died. Sadly, they both passed heartbroken without ever knowing the fate of their son.


There wish was if he was alive, that he be brought home safe and sound, if he was dead, that his remains be returned for a proper burial and memorial service, so deserving of a man that laid down his life for his country.


The O’Grady Family still struggles to fulfill our grandparents last wish.  We must never rest until he is home~



© This material is the copyright Tara O’Grady and cannot be duplicated in any fashion without the express permission of the Author. All rights reserved 


About coloneljohnogrady

Colonel John F. O'Grady a United States Naval Academy graduate, and aeronautical engineer and fighter pilot for the U.S. Air Force was shot down over Vietnam on April 10, 1967. Though he ejected from his crippled aircraft he was listed as Missing In Action. John O'Grady earned the Silver Star, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, Two Bronze Medals and the Purple Heart. Read this heroes fascinating story and about the impact on his wife and seven children.
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