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March 17, 2008

 

Irish couple find way to bridge borders

Couple

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
John and Molly McDermott sit on a stone wall, built by John, behind Molly’s father’s house Tuesday in Truxton, where they also reside.

By CHRISTINE LAUBENSTEIN
Staff Reporter
claubenstein@cortlandstandard.net

TRUXTON — When John McDermott visited the United States from Ireland for six weeks at age 12, he constantly asked the daughter of his host family to marry him.
“I swear, he would ask me 45 times a day, over and over again,” Molly McDermott said last week.
She laughed it off at the time, being seven years older than him and too young to marry, but eight years later in August the two were married.
They now live in Truxton with Molly McDermott’s father, Don McCall, and his foster children.
McDermott never stopped thinking about his future wife after his return to Ireland.
“I kept her picture under my pillows for years,” McDermott said. “I still have this picture.”
The couple eventually began a romantic relationship in 2004 when John McDermott again visited her family, five years after his second summer stay at their Truxton home.
Due to the age difference — she being 25 and he being 18 — they kept it pretty “hush-hush,” they said.
For three years they communicated _by phone and Internet, and visited each other about once a year in their respective countries.
In August, McDermott flew to the United States and the couple married in Truxton.
“They save on hundreds and hundreds of calls they made during that time,” McCall said.
Molly McDermott, 28, works as a teacher’s assistant at the Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES’ McEvoy campus and has a second job at Bargain Outlet.
John McDermott, 21, meanwhile, is still awaiting his visa and working papers from the U.S. government. He is anxious to find work as a carpenter, mason or any other trade that involves using his hands.
McCall began hosting Irish children in 1985 through Project Children, an American-Northern Ireland partnership whose goal is to give children from Northern Ireland a break from their homeland’s political strife.
McCall’s home at 3703 Route 13 is full of Irish souvenirs, including Irish crosses, tea sets and paintings.
The family said hosting the children has been a blessing, teaching them much about Northern Ireland and Ireland in general. One child happened to be related to the family.
“I think God had a hand in it,” Don McCall said. “He designed the meeting.”
McCall, who is the Truxton town historian, has a deep curiosity about his Irish roots. He has researched the country’s history, visited it yearly and hosted children from Northern Ireland for six weeks at a time during summers.
“I believe that when people are driven out from their homeland, the tie is there forever,” McCall said.
He took his daughter to Ireland for the first time in 1994, four years before McDermott’s first visit to Truxton.
Her mother had just died of a stroke and he thought it could help her through the difficult time.
“I said, ‘You need to go to Ireland to heal,’” McCall said.
The trip eased the pain, both said. She and her father encountered signs of political tension, including British soldiers holding guns throughout Northern Ireland, but the beauty of the country and generosity of its people moved her.
“You can’t get much nicer people than you get up north,” she said.
His daughter cried the whole way to the airport, not wanting to leave, McCall said.
McDermott feels the same longing for his homeland, family and friends, but said he is happy to finally be with his wife.
The couple have talked about possibly moving to Northern Ireland one day.