April 5, 1941 – August 31, 2021
Columba Joseph Harty passed away on Aug 31 at Victoria General Hospital on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. His death was a result of injuries sustained after a hit and run accident. His family and a close friend were at his bedside. He was 80 years old.
Colm was born on April 5, 1941 at a hospital in Glasgow, Scotland. His young, unwed mother put him up for adoption and a kind Irish doctor working at the hospital decided to take him. He brought the infant back to his native Ireland where he planned to raise the baby boy. Tragically, the doctor died before Colm had turned one year old. At a family meeting it was decided that the baby would be raised by the doctor’s sister, Ellen (nee O’Leary) and her husband Edmond “Sonny” Harty, an older couple who had no children of their own.
Colm spent some of his childhood in Ballyheigue, a coastal village in Co. Kerry where Sonny Harty owned a pub on Main Street. At the age of 12, he was sent to study at Mungret College, just outside of Limerick. An adventurous youth, Colm immediately made a habit of running away from school, often ending up in Dublin exploring the city’s streets. Eventually (presumably once hunger and fatigue set in), he’d call his mother for bus fare and she would send it to him and back to school he went: until the next time. At age 16 and after much bus fare, his parents decided that, if young Colm wasn’t interested in the traditional education offered by the Jesuits, then he should study a proper trade. The family included butchers who ran very successful businesses, and it was hoped that Colm might be suited to that profession. In 1957 he was sent to Liverpool, England to work as a butcher’s apprentice and learn the trade. He spent the next few years on his own in Liverpool, working, training and enjoying young adulthood. Later in life, Colm would reminisce about going to clubs and taking in the many “Merseybeat” acts popular in Liverpool at that time including live shows of the Quarrymen at the Cavern Club (The Quarrymen would go on to somewhat greater renown as the Beatles) Asked why he enjoyed Quarrymen shows Colm quipped, “That’s where all the best lookin’ girls went!”
Though living and working in England, Colm frequently returned to Ireland for holidays and visits with his parents, who by then lived in Dublin. On one such visit in the summer of 1964 he decided to check out a dance at Clerys Ballroom atop the Clerys Department store on O’Connell Street. There he met a young American schoolteacher from Watertown, Massachusetts. Miss Judith Anne Manning, herself on vacation, was immediately charmed by the dark-haired young man with the light blue eyes and razor-sharp wit. There was an immediate connection. After the dance, the couple walked along the River Liffey, talking. They promised to write each other.
By that point in the early 1960s, Colm had already decided to emigrate Canada. His application was accepted and he was invited to Halifax, Nova Scotia to work as a butcher. He moved to Halifax in the autumn of 1964 and shortly thereafter joined Judy in Watertown, MA to tell her parents that they had decided to marry. On February 20, 1965, Colm and Judy were wed at St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown. Colm found employment in Boston at the iconic Filene’s Department Store while Judy taught at the Prince Elementary School. By early 1966 the couple had returned to Ireland where they spent the next couple of years. During this time, the first of their three children, a daughter, was born.
Still dreaming of life in Canada, the small family found its way to Hamilton, Ontario in the spring of 1968 where Judy had been offered a teaching position and Colm found work as a butcher for a Dominion supermarket. Always wanting to further his education—but on his time and on his terms— Colm enrolled at the University of Toronto part-time, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Literature while working nights. After completing an additional year of Teachers College, Colm embarked on a rewarding 30 year career as a teacher for the then named Hamilton Separate Schools. He worked with at risk children and students with special needs and was one of the first educators in Ontario charged with integrating special needs children into the general student population. He and Judy continued to build an active, vibrant life in Hamilton with the addition of two sons, teaching careers, local politics and scores of cherished friends and close colleagues.
After retiring from teaching, Colm and Judy were ready for their next adventure. They took a road trip across Canada from Ontario to Vancouver Island and ended up in Qualicum Beach. They were charmed by the little town and its friendly inhabitants and took up residence there in 2002.
Colm loved to travel and along with Judy visited many countries including Kenya, Egypt and China. He spent time in Cuba and walked the Camino Trail in Spain three times. He also had a passion for books and literature and read constantly, often two or three books concurrently. An ardent fan of James Joyce, he hosted an annual “Bloomsday” party every June 16 (the date on which Joyce’s novel “Ulysses” takes place). The celebration, held at the Harty home, was comprised of readings from Colm’s well-worn copy of the novel, accompanied by appropriate Irish libations. The Harty household, wherever they were living, was often the scene of neighborhood gatherings, parties on Christmas and St Patrick’s Day, as well as assorted other celebrations.
Colm had a keen interest in politics and worked for decades canvassing and campaigning for his favourite candidates. Indeed mere days before his sudden death, he was putting up signs and knocking on doors reminding people to vote in the upcoming Canadian federal election. From 2006-2009 he ran the Constituency office for MLA Scott Fraser, in the riding that was then called Alberni- Qualicum. He was a natural when it came to helping citizens with their issues, and was a lifelong proponent of workers’ rights, social justice and school funding.
Colm is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Judith Anne Harty of Qualicum Beach, B.C., their daughter Ellen of Brooklyn, NY, her husband Peter Pavia, and their daughter Teresa Pavia; son Aidan Harty of New York City and his wife Shino (Sato) and their daughter EmmaSuzu Harty; son Edmond Harty and grandchildren Eamon and Aerin, and their mother Danielle Petruccelli of Ancaster, Ontario. Also his dear cousin Michael O’Leary of Snipefield, Co. Kerry and many more cousins, nieces and nephews. He was dearly loved, and will be missed by his family, his many friends and all hail-fellows-well-met the world over.
For those wishing to honour Colm’s memory with a charitable donation in his name, he supported the following organizations:
North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre, https://www.niwra.org Knowledge Network, https://knowledge.ca
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