An Irish Weekend and Remembrance

As Bucky Sebastian reminded me many times about this past weekend, “Everyone’s Irish.” St. Patricks Day comes in the middle of Lent because an Irishman could not go for forty days without a drink.

At least that’s one theory.

So I got out my best Irish hat and tried out his thesis with a dark lager and two helpings of shepherd’s pie. There was even a vegan option.  Here’s the outcome.

Ed Callahan Remembered

Which reminds us of the great Irishman who believed in his deepest being, the potential for credit unions. This is Jim Blaine’s, March 17, 2016 portrait of Ed.

“Always suspected that the problem with Ed Callahan was that as a youth he was beaten too often by Nuns in parochial school or, perhaps, not beaten enough. Well, whatever, either way the Nuns left their mark – an indomitable spirit!

Ed Callahan was Irish – brash, pugnacious, loud, hard drinking, fun loving – alive! But why be redundant? I said he was Irish!

For over a quarter of a century, we all watched and observed as Ed Callahan created shock waves in the credit union world. No one was neutral about Ed Callahan. His friends were fiercely loyal, his enemies equally committed. Ed inspired many and angered quite a few. Ed had style; he had presence. With Ed, you weren’t allowed to make contact without becoming involved, excited, immersed, engaged.

At Marquette, Ed must have played football in the same way he played life – without a helmet. You had no doubt that Ed Callahan always played for keeps. He had no intentions of losing, that was not one of the options. Ed was very straight-forward; your choices were always clear. The mission was defined; and, there was only one direct path to the goal. That path was either with you, around you, over you, under you, or through you; you could step aside or get on board. It was your choice; but your choice never changed the mission, nor the path, nor the goal.

Some said that Ed was a visionary…

… they were wrong. Ed Callahan was a revolutionary. Visionaries talk about change, revolutionaries take you there. Ed led from the front – a leader of conviction, rather than convenience; principles above posture – courageous. Revolutionaries, by definition, create problems; overturn apple carts; rebuke the status quo. That happened at NCUA. Appointed by President Reagan, Ed arrived at NCUA in the midst of turmoil. Ed defined the mission; he reformed and remolded the Agency. He taught a regulatory agency how to stop working to prevent the last crisis. He explained that a coach never executes a play and that on Monday morning it’s never hard to see what went wrong – but it is rarely relevant. Teacher, coach, lessons in life; hopefully well learned, hopefully still remembered.

But let me celebrate the essence of the man – that indomitable spirit – one last time, for those who never had the opportunity; for those who still have doubts; for those who never fully understood. One of Ed’s harshest critics, noted with much wryness, that even in death Ed “couldn’t get it right”. Why, I asked? “Because Callahan died on March 18th instead of on the 17th, his beloved St. Patrick’s Day.” You know this type of critic – cynical, smug, self-assured without much basis, not really worth the effort, but…

Just for the record, I would simply like to point out one final time that – first and foremost – Ed Callahan was a fully-fledged, fully-flagrant Irishman – body and soul! And, no self-respecting Irishman would ever celebrate the end of St. Patrick’s Day until the last bell at the pub had rung. That would have meant that Ed Callahan’s “last call” would have come sometime after 4:00 am – on the morning of the 18th. Style, presence, courage – true to the last! A shamrock of joyful vigor and purpose!  

And one last thought… in the final analysis you can say many things about a great man’s life… some men are admired, some are respected, some are envied, some are feared… and countless other adjectives and accolades. But, in the final analysis, the most important thing you can say about a great man is… he will be missed. ” 

And, Ed Callahan will be missed…  


2 Replies to “An Irish Weekend and Remembrance”

  1. I did get to have dinner AND drinks with Ed Callahan in the late 90’s when I was working for Tom Sargent at First Tech CU. Tom considered Ed to be his mentor, and in that one evening I could see why. Tom WAS born on March 17th so it explains the connection.

    This past week-end there was a memorial for Tom, who died suddenly on November 26, 2021. I was unable to attend but saw pictures and heard wonderful stories. Tom was a mentor to me. When I worked for him there was no “I wonder if we can…..?” But rather “How might we…..?” Nothing was impossible.

    He taught me to question everything. That if someone said “We’ve always done it that way….” I was time to challenge it.

    It’s so true that visionaries talk about a bright future but revolutionaries create it. That’s why I’m proud to be part of the CU De Novo Collective that is going to launch the Revolution CUSO. Working together, using the sixth cooperative principle; cooperation among cooperatives, to start new credit unions and save at risk credit unions from merger.

    We are fighting for the future of credit unions, even though we won’t be around to see it.

    I’m sure Ed and Tom would approve.

  2. From Mary Beth Doyle who was Ed’s administrative assistant at NCUA–and Irish.

    When I opened my email this morning, I had no idea what a treasure would await me.

    I just finished reading “An Irish Weekend and Remembrance.” What a balm for the soul! Ed would have loved your picture (as I did).

    And Jim Blaine’s portrait of Ed was just beautiful. It captured him! I had never seen it and it just touched my heart. I loved remembering so many not only St Patrick ‘s Day’s with Ed, but many, many wonderful moments…now treasured memories.

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