As I write this post, I am extremely saddened by the recent, sudden, and unexpected death of my Uncle Richie. Today I received a phone call from my father who delivered the unfortunate news. Uncle Richie was my father’s brother. Richie was the second oldest of 5, my father being the oldest. Listening to my father’s voice today completely broke my heart. It hurts me to lose my uncle, especially so unexpectedly, but I can’t imagine what it is like to lose a brother, and a brother whom you are very close to at that. Over my travels of the last year and a half or so, I have never wished I was at home in New York with my family nearly as much as I do at this moment, especially to be with Poppa Coyne.
Nonetheless, I have spoken with my family today, I’ve said my prayers, and I am most certainly with everyone there in spirit. After just talking with my sister, Beth, Uncle Richie’s goddaughter, she said that a few people are at the house now (things calmed down after the crowd) and they’ve had a few Jameson’s to remember Uncle Richie. How perfectly Irish us Coyne’s are. That being said, I wish this post to be a joyous one in which we don’t grieve, but celebrate the wonderful life of my Uncle and recount what a great man he was. Therefore, as I sit here and sip a bit of whiskey, I would like to tell you a little bit about Uncle Richie.
-3 of the 4 brothers, Uncle Richie, Uncle Kevin, and my dad, Poppa Coyne last year at Christmas
Ok, first things first. Uncle Richie knew everybody. Plain and simple. He knew everybody. I mean my dad, Uncle Kevin, and Uncle Michael know a lot of people. But Uncle Richie knew EVERYBODY. Like if Facebook had been invented about 20 years ago, he would have BY FAR the most friends. Uncle Richie was the friendly neighborhood bartender for a long time. People loved him. I actually followed in his footsteps and did a bit of bartending myself before I took off for Ireland. When I bartended, Uncle Richie’s days behind the stick were well behind him, but not only would he come visit for dinner with friends, but plenty of his other friends would come in because they heard that “Richie Coyne’s nephew was bartending here.” At which point people (plenty I didn’t know), before ordering a drink, would say to me “Hey, you’re a Coyne right?” Followed by plenty of stories about Uncle Richie and how they go way back. He was a popular guy!
Uncle Richie was also the kind of guy who loved to help people out. I guess this is a basic case of networking, but the fact that he knew everybody meant that when someone needed something, he knew who to call or who had what. You needed tickets? He was your guy. You needed to get rid of tickets? He was your guy. Gotta get rid of a piece of furniture, or a TV or a car? Ask Uncle Richie if he knows anyone who needs one. Uncle Richie cared about people. If nothing else, he genuinely cared about people and loved to help others. Including helping out my parents with Christmas parties by playing Santa Clause for all the kids!!
Although Uncle Richie never married or had kids, he had us. He had Uncle Michael’s 2 kids, Michael and Helene, us 5 Coyne kids, and then my Uncle Kevin’s 3 girls, Rosie, Katherine, and JoAnn. It was like we were his kids. Never forgetting about any of our birthdays, always getting us something at Christmas, or dropping something by that picked up or somebody gave him because he thought that we might like it. He was very thoughtful like that. What’s more, I know he loved to talk about us. And I know this because when I would see his friends some of them would ask, so are you the nephew that’s in the military (Yes, I used to have a shaved head and actually looked like a military guy!) and when I said “No” they’d say “Oh, so you’re the basketball player.” His friends knew all about us because he talked about us a lot.
-Uncle Richie and some of his nieces
I did a post a couple months ago about my time in New York over Christmas (HERE IS THE POST) and in that post I talked a little bit about my Aunt Pat. How funny she is and everything. Well, Aunt Pat’s drink is an Old Fashioned. Every time there was a family party, without fail, she would say “Hey Richie can you make me my drink?” It didn’t matter where the party was, who was serving the drinks, it was Uncle Richie who made Aunt Pat’s drink. A couple years ago I asked Uncle Richie how he made Aunt Pat’s drink in case I ever had to make it. He explained it to me and this past Christmas I tried giving it a shot. “Seymore this is too strong honey,” Aunt Pat said to me. DAMN IT! I thought I made it just like Uncle Richie made it! Well now the responsibility of making Aunt Pat’s drink has completely fallen to me so I better start practicing and hopefully I can make Uncle Richie proud!
Two other things that Uncle Richie loved were golf and cigars. The last few years he spent working at Patriot Hills the local town golf course for us. Another reason why he knew everybody. He always helped to organize the skins games, the outings, etc. as well as get in his fair share of rounds out there on the course. Not a bad gig! And I went up there about 2 years ago to play with my friend James, who was registered with the golf course. I wasn’t (I didn’t play much golf then, not that I do now, but whatever). It was pretty expensive for people who weren’t registered, but when I said that my Uncle Richie worked there, it was like I said the magic word. “Oh Richie is your uncle? That’s no problem then.” Boom. Uncle Richie helping me without even meaning to. Just by being my uncle. And as for the cigars, here is a photo from Thanksgiving a few years ago where some of the boys were ready to light up some cigars together after dinner.
-Uncle Kevin, my brother, myself, Poppa Coyne, and Uncle Richie (rocking his New York Jets gear)
Speaking of Jets gear. Uncle Richie was a big Jets fan just like the rest of us. Us Coyne’s are big Jets and Yankees fans. And I’m pretty sure 9 times out of 10 when I saw Uncle Richie he was proudly wearing something either Jets or Yankees. He was a real fan!
So all that being said, and it doesn’t begin to even come close to encapsulating what an awesome person Uncle Richie was. I will truly truly miss him. Moreover, I know how much my dad, Uncle Kevin, Uncle Michael, and Aunt Marybeth are going to miss him. The 5 of them are legitimately close, much like me with my brother and 3 sisters. They all love each other so much and care incredibly for each other. I am so lucky to have been born into this family and am beyond proud to say that I am a Coyne, that I am Matty Coyne’s son, and that I am Richie Coyne’s nephew.
I ask all of you this week to keep my family in your prayers. Pray for my Uncle Richie. Pray for his siblings – my dad, Kevin, Michael, and Marybeth. Pray for all his friends. And most importantly, if you had the privilege of knowing Uncle Richie, don’t grieve, but rejoice in his memory. Thank you!
R.I.P. Uncle Richie. I love you.