The County of Cavan, all of Ireland, the USA, and the whole wide world lost a gem on March 6th when Simon O'Hanlon died in Dublin, at age 43.
With his Trinity educated finesse, unbounded creativity, and caustic comments on everything, Simon made a lasting impression on everyone who met him. He was a unrelenting ambassador for Ireland, outspoken and reeking in talent, yet always ready to listen and to learn. From the moment he arrived in New York over 20 years ago, Simon stood out. He did not fit the mold of a typical country lad from Cavan - he was instead part of a new breed of bright young Irishmen, well educated and eager to excel.
And excel he did. Once Simon stepped into the Irish Tourist Board, it was never the same again. He started on the front desk, a cultured and spiffly dressed representative from Ireland, greeting everyone who came through the door. It didn't take long for his talents to be recognised, and soon Simon was promoted to the Public Relations Department. Coming from a newspaper background, good PR and communications were second nature to Simon. He would spend the rest of his short life communicating the merits of Ireland as a tourism destination to North Americans via the media.
Over the years, Simon worked with the top names in TV, radio, newspapers, magazines and film production. He was comfortable among the best minds of the media, and they were not only charmed by Simon but they had confidence in him. Simon never fudged, waffled, or pretended he researched, verified, and delivered. He took time to learn the technicalities of his craft, he sought out the latest computer innovations, and he gently nudged Irish tourism promotion in creative new directions.
Most of all, Simon was a good friend and colleague. He had friends of all ages, connections, and persuasions. To many of us, Simon was our brother, son, uncle, adviser, mentor, or confidant. He was always there to help and encourage, as well as to joke, to jest, and to josh. He was equally comfortable dining on escargot at a posh French restaurant in New York, or sipping a pint in the backroom of a Dublin pub.
You always knew where you stood with Simon. Not everyone would always agree with him, but at least they knew what was on his mind. "Smart mouth," he was often called by one woman who always loved and appreciated him. An other friend simply called him a "star". Most of all, Simon was Simon strikingly honest, genuinely caring, unbearably clever, and full of fun. Simon O'Hanlon was one of a kind.