George Corrigan never met a person who didn’t fascinate him. The delivery guy. The plumber. The barista. He wanted to know their names and their life stories, which came tumbling out when he flashed his megawatt smile and asked his earnest questions.
His love of humanity flowed from his love of God, culminating each day at noon Mass. “Going to Mass every day was a binding element for the many parts of him,” said his daughter, Kelly Corrigan, who called him Greenie.
You could count on Greenie to sing his heart out – whether or not he knew the words. He delighted in serving as a eucharistic minister. And the sign of peace set his heart aflutter. “I think that can be a worldview,” Kelly said.
That worldview now feels antiquated, dating way back to the pre-COVID days, when hugs and handshakes could be given freely and six feet, readily shattered.
Social distancing would have been unfathomable to Greenie, a Villanova, Pennsylvania, native who worked as an ad man and a high-school lacrosse coach.
Every kid on the team was “a great guy” or “one of the all-time greats,” his son George said in an interview. “[Greenie] would give every person he met his best. If someone wanted to talk with him for an hour, he’d give them one hour. Because people knew that he cared on such a real level and he was always rooting for you – this was the magic he brought to every one of his relationships.”
It was evident on Feb. 28, 2015, when more than 700 people showed up at Greenie’s funeral Mass at the Villanova University main chapel. At 84, he had died after a battle with bladder cancer.
Now the philosophy that brought Greenie so many friends is encapsulated in a children’s book and ready for any graduate.
Kelly, a well-established and best-selling memoir writer, decided to switch gears and pay tribute to her dad in a different format. The result: “Hello World!” a bright picture book published last month by Penguin Random House’s new imprint Flamingo Books.
Writing for children provided a creative challenge for the 53-year-old California mom of two. She tested out an early draft by reading it to her friend’s classroom of 5-year-olds. They gobbled up the zany parts and inspired Kelly to “be weirder.”
“I was leaving a lot on the table,” she said. “It gave me permission to be more myself.”
Kelly added to the alliteration with quirky new bits, like an old lady who reveals: “I dreamt I was playing the banjo on a balance beam made of bacon.”
This revelation, and many others, spring forth because the protagonist makes like Greenie and asks questions.
“There’s more to everyone than you think,” Kelly writes. “So how will you know? You’ll ask.”
She provides conversation-starters: “What do you know? And how do you know it?” “What do you want? And why do you want it?”
It’s a twist on “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!,” Dr. Seuss’ perennial graduation gift. Greenie’s version is “Oh, the People You’ll Know!”
Those connections are what make life meaningful, Kelly said. It’s an approach that is inherently Catholic, honoring the dignity and worth of each person, and is also urgently needed, enabling us to overcome the sharp societal divisions that mark our times.
“Greenie had a deep trust that the world was fundamentally a good place, and I think that trust was continually reinforced by going to daily Mass,” Kelly said. “If you do something every day that’s orienting you toward the greater good and toward humility, you can’t help but feel a certain security in the world and a certain optimism.”
Christina Capecchi is a writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota.
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