Legendary Irish restaurateur Jimmy Neary, owner of the iconic Neary’s restaurant in New York City who welcomed presidents, governors, cardinals and VIPs to his famous pub, has died at the age of 91.
“We want to thank you all for being a part of his life. Dad loved you all and he cherished being with you for the past 55+ years,” the family wrote in a statement posted on the door of Neary’s Saturday night according to the New York Post.
"You were all a critical part of his family and enriched his life in countless ways. As he always said ‘I love my life!’"
His eponymous ‘Neary’s’ pub and restaurant opened in Manhattan on St. Patrick’s Day in 1967, and from day one held the luck of the Irish.
Neary, who was known for his effusive smile and charming personality, was soon center stage for the celebrities and powerful politicos that dropped by his East Side watering hole.
He came to the restaurant almost every day to greet regulars and first-time visitors who wanted to feast on the famous lamb chops.
One corner of the restaurant was reserved for host Kathie Lee Gifford, across the room was Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s table.
The late New York Gov. Hugh Carey used his restaurant as his second political office. Almost all recent New York Mayors, including Giuliani, Koch, Dinkins, Bloomberg, made Neary’s a regular stopping place.
Others patrons included Peter King, George Pataki, Ted Kennedy, Bill Clinton and Tip O’Neill.
The restaurant, just a block away from the Archdiocesan offices, became the favored dining place of the city’s Catholic leaders, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
Actresses and authors -- a who’s who from Maureen O’Hara, Mary Higgins Clark, Tom Wolfe, Gay Talese, E.L. Doctorow and others – were regular patrons.
Popular former New York congressman Joe Crowley remembered Neary as a “New York City institution.”
“He was the ultimate successful immigrant story, he was a self-made man who sat with presidents, mayors, bishops congressmen and governors,” he said.
Neary’s daughter, Una, said her father never worked a day in his life.
“What he did is what he loved, and he just loved people. It was all about people for him,” she told the Post. “He would say he didn’t care if the restaurant ever made a penny, he just wanted to be around people.”
“My father had this unique ability to connect with anyone of any age about any topic. He was a great storyteller and people were just drawn to him, he was like a magnet. He was extraordinary,” she added.
Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, a regular at Neary’s, remembered his first visit.
“Jimmy stunned me because he knew the whole nightly TV schedule for Newsmax and told me he watched the network all the time,” Ruddy said.
Ruddy noted he had a recent dinner with former Mayor Giuliani at the restaurant.
“Few restaurants can say that they had such an impact on a great city, and it was the result of Jimmy Neary’s remarkable personality,” Ruddy said.
Neary greeted every visitor, celebrity, politician or not.
“It’s lovely, this life,” Neary told The Post in a 2013 interview about running his restaurant.
In 1954 Neary immigrated from Ireland and went on to serve in the U.S. Army. After his service, he worked as a waiter before opening his pub on East 57th Street in 1967.
“Everybody’s smiling. They might be a sourpuss when they come in, but they won’t be when we get done talking to them.”
“People just wanted to be around my father. He just has this energy, this love that touches people in a way that they never forget it,” Una said.
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