Irish Night

Row On for Brendan

A concert, a tribute to Brendan Foley, and a fundraiser for the rowing team he loved.

March 3, 2017, 7:30 pm
Antonian Hall, Carlow University

 

Brendan's Story

Brendan Foley

Brendan Foley

Brendan was born on May 25, 1981, and spent his first three weeks in neonatal intensive care due to complications at birth. Brendan was not the healthiest baby and made many visits to leading pediatric lung specialists, first at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and then throughout the rest of his life at Children's Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Brendan overcame his lifelong chronic asthma by earnestly involving himself in bicycling, soccer, basketball and rowing. He grew to 6 feet, 3 inches in height and weighed a very lean 140 pounds. He looked very out of place alongside the infants and small children in the intensive care unit at Children's where he spent his last two weeks in a coma following a serious accident.

Brendan did very well in school. His scores were extremely high on all the standardized tests, and when he put his mind to it, he achieved high grades. A poem laid in Brendan's casket by one of his teachers was signed "A+ as always." Brendan had artistic abilities as well. He was chosen for a writer's workshop, won prizes for his drawings, and people are still finding some of the hundreds of Origami figures he would make on the spot from any scrap of paper that was handy. Brendan played clarinet in both the Word of God grade school band and in the Central Catholic marching band. He easily learned a wealth of Irish tunes from his father, and he had a wonderful touch on the tin whistle. His mother and aunt taught him step-dancing and his performances were enjoyed by fellow dancers and audiences alike.

Brendan was fairly well traveled. He had been to the four corners of the United States—from Boston to Seattle to San Diego and Orlando. Brendan also visited Ireland, England and Mexico. In the summer of 1996 his family made a European rail trip where he visited Frankfurt. Amsterdam, Delft, Brussels, Paris, and Bern. The picture on his funeral card was taken at an outdoor restaurant in Brussels and his expression is one of pained tolerance for his Dad as a waiter was asked to take a family picture.

Brendan seemed to have a gift for getting to know people and making friends. He showed a genuine interest in everyone he met. His love of life and goofy sense of humor endeared him to many folks of all ages. His caring personality reflected the strong love among his family and friends. In a nutshell, Brendan was a great kid whose life made a difference in this world.

Tragically, at 15-and-a-half years of age, Brendan was taken from his family and friends on December 8, 1996. The exact details of his bicycle accident will never be known. Brendan was cycling home from the local video store with two Disney movies in his backpack. His parents had asked him to baby-sit his little sister Emma that night, and as usual he was thinking of how he could make the evening special for her. That afternoon a snow shower started as he was on his way home. Brendan made a deadly error in judgment that, coupled with a speeding truck, resulted in his being very harshly struck on Ardmore Boulevard at Braddock Road. Strangely, he had taken a route that he had promised his parents he would never use. No one will ever know what was on his mind as he attempted to cross Ardmore Boulevard.

Many hundreds of people poured out their concern to the family. During each of his four viewings at the funeral home people spent over two hours waiting in line in order to talk to family members and say a few prayers at his casket. The funeral mass at St. Anselm's Church had more than 800 people in attendance with 14 priests concelebrating and Brendan's crew from Central Catholic acting as pallbearers. During a sunny break on a dismal rainy day, a huge crowd assembled at Brendan's graveside where, amidst prayers and laments on the Highland pipes, he was laid to rest.

Over the years many people have showed an interest in helping to keep Brendan's memory alive. Wonderful cards, letters, poems and music have been written, generous donations made to scholarship funds, plaques installed, and awards established. And this concert, a celebration that's been kept alive for 20 years with the kind and unstinting help of his extended family and many friends, old and new.

Brendan—student, athlete, altar boy, musician, step-dancer, and a friend to many.

© Row On, Inc.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Row On, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.