Kevin Francis O’Leary

Published 4:46 pm Tuesday, May 23, 2023

On June 8, 1961 Mary Ellen Callahan O’Leary gave birth to her 11th child, Kevin Francis O’Leary. Thus, began a life of adventure.

Kevin Francis O’Leary

Kevin attended Saint Mary’s, Saint Theodore’s, Lakewood School and graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1979.

Kevin developed a strong work ethic on the family farm north of Albert Lea. He worked with his father Robert B. O’Leary, baling hay, walking beans, and later digging graves. The day after graduation, he drove to California with his brother Steve and friend Joan Broder from Ireland. Then he made his way to Alaska for the summer to work with his brother John. At the age of nineteen he started working in the oil fields near Gillette, Wyoming. While there he climbed Devil’s Tower. In the summer of 1983, he traveled with his brother Steve to France to harvest grapes. From there the two of them made their way to the Lofoten Islands off Norway to work in the fishing industry. His next adventure took him to India to the beach town of Goa with his sister Kate and her partner Adrian Clift.

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After returning to the States, Kevin headed to Seattle. His first morning there he met a boat captain from the Lofoten Islands. He hired Kevin straight away and Kevin’s career as a sailor began. He worked in Alaska on crab boats. In Iceland on fishing boats. Finally, he settled in the Northwest Ireland and lived in a 400-year-old cottage in the village of Greencastle where he would spend his next 25 years working in the shipping industry. He developed many close friends during his time in Greencastle and neighboring Moville. Locally, he was well known for his gift of conversation, kindness, and wonderful cooking.

With experience came opportunity, and in 1997 he was a crewman on a replica of John Cabot’s Matthew which sailed from Bristol, England to Newfoundland where he was greeted at port by Queen Elizabeth II. The voyage was filmed for a National Geographic special for PBS. His sailing adventures also took him to ports in Europe, North America, Africa, and South America. He was also part of several Irish research vessels. He predominantly served as the ship’s cook.

When he wasn’t sailing, he always made sure to go see his favorite band the Grateful Dead. He would often meet up with his brother Tim who regularly followed the tour. He was a great juggler, crazy dancer, storyteller, rug maker, and knitter. He was very well read. He biked across New Zealand. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Though he had a big heart and was very generous, he was not afraid to hold a grudge or speak his mind. He could be very rude. Taking him to restaurants could be a challenge as he would often go into the kitchen and berate the cooks and staff and tell them what they were doing wrong.

In 2017 he was returning to Ireland from a sailing trip and got sidetracked at Heathrow Airport. Thus, began his decline, as he reluctantly returned first to Minnesota and eventually California where he was diagnosed with early on-set dementia. Kevin spent his final years in California and finally in Minnesota. While in California he was able to reconnect with his old friend Denis Lord who had adventured with him years before in Brazil. He was also reunited with his siblings Tim, Dan, Mary, and Sheila, although his heart always remained in Ireland where he had left numerous friends.

Kevin was preceded in death by his parents Mary Ellen and Robert O’Leary, sisters Geraldine and Kate, and brothers John and Steve. He is survived by his brothers Patrick (Trudy) of Arizona, Dan (Peggy), Arcata, CA, Tim, Arcata, CA, sisters, Joann (John) O’Leary, St. Anthony, MN, Mary (Donald Oneglia) O’Leary, Arcata, CA, Sheila Donnelly, Samoa, CA, Brother-in-law Adrian (Mary Newman) Clift, sister-in law Judy Ramos, Washington, D.C. and thirty-three nieces and nephews.

He was a wonderful son, brother, uncle, and friend. Special thank you to the wonderful people at Prairie Senior Cottages and Saint Croix Hospice.

A family and friend gathering to celebrate his life will take place at St. Mary’s Hall and Cemetery, rural Geneva, MN on June 8th, 2023, from 3p.m.- 7 p.m. Memorials can be directed towards Prairie Senior Cottages, 1602 W Fountain St, Albert Lea, MN 56007 or the St. Mary’s Cemetery Fund, c/o Donnelly Law Office, 211 2nd St. NW, Austin, MN 55912.