It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. -J.A. Heneghan
John Anthony was born on November 27, 1929. It was one month after the stock market had crashed, and the Great Depression was now spreading with anger. He was the son of Irish immigrants who had fled a famine that swallowed their farmland whole. Along with his three younger sisters, John was raised in a coal-heated bungalow in the Bronx on the East River.
As a youth the streets of the Bronx chewed blisters into his heels, as they always will to the wild and penniless. Hunger was a childhood companion of John’s that visited every house in his Irish shanty town. And so in the ballads and folk songs of Ireland, John found the familiar, and he carried them in a whistle that kept him company his whole life.
John attended Cardinal Hayes High School where his love of music led him to the band. Outside school, he hung with a crowd of guys who drove around the Bronx as though they had someplace to be. They spoke of girls and better days, and they laughed loud and free like they could have been in the movies. After graduation, John became engaged to Catherine Mitchell, but then the country went to war and called John to follow. He was drafted into the US Army, and was the first among his draftees to rise to sergeant upon his mastering of communication equipment.
John returned from the army a man, full of quiet and grit. He settled back in the Bronx and married Catherine on April 11, 1953.
They would become parents to one daughter and five sons. Shortly after his wedding, John became a proud member of the FDNY. He had dreamt of being a fireman since he was small boy with a head full of heroes.
Over the course of his FDNY career, John was promoted to Lieutenant, Captain, and Battalion Chief. His fondest memories of firefighting were of those eternal nights when the Bronx was burning, and he fought it alongside men so brave they hardly seemed real. John never forgot those men; he never stopped telling their stories to his children; he never lost the brotherhood he forged in moments thick with smoke and uncertain fate.
John became a pioneer of physical exercise in the 1960s. As a fireman, he jogged along the East River to breathe the black out of his lungs. He built a home gym with nothing more than metal plates, and he patched up a used boat to row in the reservoirs of New York.
After his six children were grown, John moved to Point Lookout with his wife, Catherine. For nearly twenty years he enjoyed his sleepy beach community where he spent time with his thirty-nine grandchildren. He was eventually slowed by double cancer, and was laid to rest in 2006.
The spirit of John Anthony Heneghan is the now centerpiece of this tavern...
J.A. Heneghan's Tavern is a Restaurant for All Seasons. The food at Heneghan’s is not typical pub grub. Yes, there are Buffalo wings and a burger on the menu, but the dishes are well-prepared American standards, all with interesting accompaniments. -Joan Starkey, The New York Times