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Long-lost relatives from Ireland reconnect in East Meadow

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A chance encounter in an East Meadow community Facebook group reconnected members of a family from Offaly, Ireland, who had been out of contact for decades.

Danny Price, 35, who emigrated from Offaly 11 years ago, published a post in the East Meadow neighborhood group explaining that he was from Ireland and planned to open a bar called the Noon Inn on East Meadow Avenue.

Kathy Marsolais, 54, of East Meadow, messaged him to ask where he came from in Ireland. When Price told her, she responded that her grandfather Davy McDonald had moved from Offaly to Jamaica, Queens, in 1926 and became a bus driver in Manhattan.

Price, it turned out, grew up hearing similar stories about his great-uncle — Davy McDonald. The two exchanged photos of McDonald, who died in 1966, connected the dots and realized that they were cousins.

They immediately started piecing together their family history, and Marsolais revealed another surprise to Price: Davy Sr.’s son Mike McDonald grew up in Merrick, just a few blocks from where Price’s wife, Kelly, spent her childhood. 

“It’s hard to believe they were so close to us for so long,” Price told the Herald as he greeted customers at the Noon Inn on Oct. 30, its opening night.

A week later, Price sat with Mike McDonald, Marsolais and her mother, Betty McDonald, at the bar and shared stories about their family’s life in Offaly — “Pronounced ‘awfully,’” McDonald said, “as in, I’m awfully glad to see you.”

McDonald, 70, recalled when his brother, Davy McDonald Jr. — Marsolais’s father — visited Ireland as a teenager while the British army was occupying it in the 1950s. One night, Davy Jr. stayed out past a curfew set by the army. Rather than face punishment, he and a friend found a few large rocks and built a hiding place, where they stayed until morning.

Marsolais recounted how her grandfather Davy Sr. relied on his family’s donkey, named Jonathan, when riding in and out of Offaly’s bog to harvest peat — fuel Irish families still use today to heat their homes.

“If you fell in the bog, you weren’t coming back,” she said. “But Jonathan knew the way.” And so “Jonathan knows the way” became a running joke in their family.

“I really wish my dad was here to meet him,” Marsolais said of Price. Davy Jr. died in 2018.

Nobody could pinpoint exactly when the family lost touch, but Price said, “Back then, all it took was someone to move and change their address, and then they’re lost forever.”

“I’m still in awe that we found each other — I just can’t believe it,” McDonald said.

Asked whether they shared any hobbies, Price raised an eyebrow and pointed to his glass, filled with Guinness, and his relatives erupted in laughter.

“It’s weird how much Danny and my uncle are alike,” Marsolais said.

“The more time we spend together,” Price added, “the more we find we have in common.”

McDonald, who was born in the U.S. in 1950, was 16 when Davy Sr. died. Two years later he joined the U.S. Navy. He fought in the Tet Offensive in Vietnam, and was active until 1971. When he came home, he took on a number of odd jobs before becoming a school bus driver. Now he drives part-time for Birch Elementary School in Merrick.

Price’s father and grandfather, Joe Price Jr. and Sr., still live in Offaly. Price moved to Manhattan in 2009, at age 24, and his sister, Mary Willis, followed him three years later. Price started bartending at Jameson’s in Manhattan, where he met Kelly Flood, of Merrick.

They married and moved to Fairfax County, Virginia, where Kelly taught and Danny opened his first bar, Exiles, in Washington, D.C. They had a son, Fin, who’s now 5 and goes to Parkway Elementary School in East Meadow.

In 2017, the couple moved to Merrick, Kelly started teaching in the Locust Valley School District and Danny took a job bartending at the Perfect Pint in Manhattan. A year later, they moved to East Meadow, and Danny started planning to open the Noon Inn. 

The coronavirus pandemic delayed his plans — and, as it happened, his reconnection with his family. But, Price said, they made contact just in time to spend the holidays together.