UNION, NJ — On Friday, Jan. 27, the Cryan Association held its 57th annual social at the Galloping Hill Inn in Union.
The event raises money each year, which supports the association during the Irish season, as well as helping those in need throughout the year.
This year’s honorees included Arthur Hynes, the recently retired owner of Hynes Jewelers who was recognized for his continued contributions to the Union County community and beyond, and Patti Beirne, a longtime member of the Cryan, McGovern and Giblin associations — all Irish heritage associations — recognized for her many years of volunteer and charity work in the community.
Mary Krech received the association’s Spirit Award, which was created after the passing of John Cryan, founder of the association. The award honors someone who, according to Cryan, embodies his father’s tradition of giving back.
Cryan spoke to Union Leader about the legacy that his father started years ago when he first came to this country.
“My father, John Cryan, started it 57 years ago,” Cryan said of the association. “He was an immigrant from Ireland who settled in the Vailsburg section of Newark and began the association as a way of helping new folks get started here in America.”
According to Cryan, the association feels strongly about keeping the Irish heritage alive through supporting Irish culture and events such as the Union County Saint Patrick’s day Parade and other parades and celebrations throughout the state.
But the main focus, according to Cryan, is helping those in need.
“These days, more than the Irish causes, is we help people in need, and as my dad wanted it, always anonymously,” Cryan said. “There was a lot of need this holiday season and throughout the year we hear of people who need an extra hand. We focus primarily on Union and Essex counties, but there are no real boundaries to people in need.”
The social is the association’s primary fundraiser of the year, according to Cryan.
“We are not a large charity, and our officers, President Ed Hanselmann and Treasurer Barbara Hanselmann, have always served on a volunteer basis. Our honorees this year have contributed so much to their communities.”
Cryan praised this year’s honorees.
“Art Hynes, recently retired proprietor of Hynes Jewelers in Cranford and a Union resident, has been at the forefront of Irish culture for decades,” said Cryan. “A true gentleman, Art is a native of Ireland and truly represents the success of the Irish immigrant. Patti Beirne, retired from a career in the insurance field, has been an officer in the Newark St. Patrick’s Day parade for many years and a longtime member of our association, as well as the Giblin and McGovern Associations. Organize any event, and Patti is there, with a smile and commitment second to none.”
Cryan went on to praise the recipient of the Spirit Award.
“For years we only had two honorees, but when my dad passed ten years ago, we added a Spirit Award for someone who reflected his commitment to others,” Cryan said. “We usually announced it at the social, but we decided to publicly announce Mary Krech this year, in a break with our tradition. Mary, a retired Union County employee, organized countless events and efforts to help those less fortunate, and folks who ran into a bit of bad luck. Her work, and most importantly, her heart, reflect why we created the award and we are excited she accepted.”
Ed Hanselmann, president of the Cryan Association, praised this year’s honorees.
“Patti Beirne has been involved in any number of organizations,” Hanselmann told the Union Leader. “She is always a worker, not just a member. You only have to ask her once and she does it. She does a lot a in a very quiet way.”
Hanselmann also lauded Hynes.
“Everybody who’s ever visited his shop picks up an affection for art,” Hanselmann said. “He’s the most affable, friendly person. Everyone who knows him, loves him. He’s just a genuinely nice guy who, whenever he’s he’s called on for something, they get it. He’s just that kind of guy.”
Hynes told the Union Leader that organizations like the Cryan Association create a cohesive community through its charitable endeavors.
“The Irish-American population of this area are not one cohesive unit,” Hynes said. “We live in different towns and vote for different parties. Many of us belong to various organizations like the Cryan Association, Nugent and Knights of Columbus. What brings us together is when someone is in need and then the network of associations jump into action and we run a benefit to help that person or family. My business, Hynes Jewelers, would always be contacted to see what I could contribute to the affair. A donated gift and usually an appearance at the affair would happen.”
According to Hynes, the events serve many purposes, including helping those in need, while at the same time, bringing the Irish-American community together.
“We share food and some libations and catch up with what’s going on in our lives,” Hynes said. “It’s good for the body and the soul and they say it helps with our mental outlook. Joe Cryan and the Cryan Association has always been a key player in these benefits and the overall care of our community.”
Hynes, who has known Cryan for more than three decades, said that he was humbled by the honor.
“I have known Joe Cryan and his good work for over 30 years,” he said. “When I was asked if I would accept being honored by the Cryan Association, I was thrilled and humbled. I look forward to another great time at their social and also to working with them on future projects to help those less well-off or those in need.”
Beirne told the Union Leader that she has been a longtime member of the Cryan Association.
“I’ve been a longstanding member of the John Cryan Association dating back to their start in Vailsburg, Newark,” Beirne said. “They have been supportive of me as well as I to them. They care about people, which makes them strong. I’ve had many good times in days gone by helping them with benefits for others, as well as decorating for their annual dance at Sacred Heart in Vailsburg and Newark. Time moves on and the association continues to remain strong, with Ed Hanselmann as president of the Cryan Association.”
Beirne said that she was thrilled when she learned she would be an honoree.
“When I received a phone call from treasurer Barbara Hanselmann, I was totally surprised and delighted,” she said. “At the same time, when it really hit me, I felt honored and humbled. As I reflected back on prior honorees, I feel I’m in such a special group.”
According to Beirne, she plans to offer her continued support to the association, as well as to Cryan’s senatorial campaign.
“I am also looking forward to working on the Joe Cryan Campaign bid for NJ State Senate,” Beirne said.
Beirne said that this year, she has been selected to serve as chief of staff to Gwen Glazier, deputy grand marshal of the 2017 West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“Naturally, I will march in the 2017 Union County St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the John Cryan Association,” she said.
Krech, a retired county employee, said she was shocked when she learned that she’d be honored.
“When Mr. Cryan called me and told me, I was shocked, and I asked him if he was sure he hadn’t made a mistake,” Krech told the Union Leader. “Joe said that he knows of the many things that I did that people don’t know about.”
Krech has been volunteering at several different charitable groups and organizations for many years, including the annual Union County Toy, Clothing and Food Drive; St. Clare’s, a home for children suffering from AIDS; St. Joseph’s homeless shelter, and Autism Speaks.
But despite all the work that she does for those in need, Krech doesn’t think she deserves any special accolades.
“I always think we’re expected to do things in life,” Krech said. “It’s not anything you should get accolades for. My parents were very giving, and they taught us all about sharing and giving.”
According to Krech, she and Cryan are similar. “Joe’s father and my mother were from Ireland,” she said. “There are many similarities between Joe’s father and my mother. They worked so hard and pulled themselves up, so there’s sort of a parallel. We are so fortunate to have these parents.”
Krech said that Cryan has been supportive of all her endeavors.
“Joe always helped us with volunteer projects over the years, and when we needed help, he was there,” she said.
Krech added that she is humbled by the award, saying, “I still feel a little uncomfortable. I look at what others are doing and say, ‘wow, look what they are doing.’ I just hope that my family and Joe’s family are proud of us. They left this legacy.”
Cryan said that he is grateful to those who run the association.
“I have the privilege of being the standard bearer, but Ed and Barbara and other volunteers run the association,” he said. “They have been doing it for years, and I owe them a debt of gratitude for their
time they give. It’s an honor to carry the association forward — 57 years in a row is nice tradition — hopefully, with the help and assistance of everyone, for many more years to come.”