Born on March 17, 1947 in Glen Cove, New York
Departed January 21, 2023 in Melbourne, Florida
Garrett “Gary” Olds Kirwin, age 75, of Newport, RI and Melbourne Beach, FL, passed away on Saturday, January 21, 2023 after a brief illness. Gary is survived by his wife Susan (Shea) Kirwin, his five children and their spouses; James T. Kirwin (Genia), Lizbeth Kirwin Kirby (Kevin), Ryan J. Kirwin (Kelli), Garrett O. Kirwin Jr. (Sarah), Connor J. Kirwin (Kristen), and Dorothy (Podolak) Kirwin, his first wife and mother of his children. He has eleven grandchildren: Libby, Patrick, Katie, Amory, Maeve, Elise, Lila, Kendra, Garrett, Benjamin and Thomas.
Also surviving are his sister Elizabeth Kirwin of Newport, brothers Peter Kirwin (Jean) of Portsmouth, Christopher Kirwin (Cynthia) of Newport, Terrence Kirwin (Katherine) of Newport, and Stephen Kirwin (Barbara) of Portsmouth, his sister-in-law Mary Ellen Kirwin of Middletown and dozens of nieces, nephews, second and third cousins whom he loved dearly.
Gary was predeceased by his brother Joseph “Jay” Page Kirwin and his sister Patricia “Patty” Ann Kirwin Folliard.
In 2010 Gary married his high school sweetheart Susan Shea Kirwin in Key West, and they relocated to Melbourne Beach. Gary and Susan loved to travel. Together they enjoyed seeing the United States, traveling abroad, and cruising. The highlight of their travels was heading north to see family and friends. They especially enjoyed working in their Florida home on projects large and small, singing their special Birthday Grams and being Best Friends ‘til the end of Time.
Gary was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1947, the son of Joseph Francis and Marcelline Patricia Olds Kirwin. Gary graduated from De La Salle Academy in 1965. After attending Fairfield University, he returned to Newport and began his career as a plumber. He worked for the Macpherson Plumbing company until he went out on his own and started his plumbing business. He loved to teach, and often hired high school kids and put them to work in the trade. He and his first wife Dorothy, bought and renovated many large homes in Newport, often moving from one to the other. Gary had a great eye for building and design. Later in life he went into business with his son. In 2009 Gary obtained his Master Plumber Contractor’s license in Florida and was congratulated for being the oldest person ever to take the test and pass the first time!
A true family man, Gary was one of eight children and had five of his own. Gary treasured the family’s large and frequent gatherings. He organized epic Thanksgivings, Christmases with enormous trees, 4th of July parties with the Kirwin Olympics, and hundreds of other get-togethers at the family home. He was tremendously engaging and entertaining.
Gary loved to play golf. In his youth he was a caddie at Newport Country Club and had the honor of caddying for John F. Kennedy, first as a Senator and again as President.
As a Newporter, Gary had a love for the ocean. He loved to swim, he loved Gooseberry Beach, and taught all his kids to sail. In his thirties he was an active participant in the weekly Shields series on Narragansett Bay. He was extremely proud of finishing second in the annual regatta ten years in a row. The other boat in the fleet was proud of him as well.
Gary had a life-long passion for the game of Rugby and the Newport Rugby Club. He was one of the club’s original players when it was founded in 1980. He enjoyed playing, touring with the club, and supporting the team every Saturday at Fort Adams. He never missed a game that a brother or son played in. His favorite day of the year was the annual intra-club Young Boy / Old Boy game. Even in his sixties he would feign shock when he wasn’t selected first in the player’s draft before the game. He was tremendously proud when the Newport Rugby Pitch was named after his closest friend and brother, Jay.
His kids will remember him most fondly for the hundreds of adventures they had with their Dad; short swims or boat trips to Gooseberry Island, longer boat rides to Uncle Chris’ house on Prudence Island, camping or woodcutting in Tiverton or skiing and hiking in New Hampshire. His trips were always filled with excitement, follies, hilarity and even a hint of danger. Gary was a kind and generous man, who always flashed a big smile when he greeted you. And oh, those blue eyes! He was loud and gregarious, and never spoke ill of anyone. If he didn’t have something nice to say, he said little at all.
He was a proud member of the Dennis E. Collins Div. 1 Ancient Order of Hibernians and embodied the spirit of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity. He is already missed.
A ritual and Celebration of Life / reception will be held at the Hibernian Hall at 2 Wellington Square in Newport, RI at 12 noon on Sunday February 12th. Friends and family are welcome and encouraged to attend to share their memories of Gary.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Gary’s honor to the Newport Rugby Football Club, PO Box 217, Newport, RI 02840.
Angela Barbara Mandia
from Atlantic Highlands NJ/Newport RI wrote on February 5, 2023:
To Gary’s family and friends, my deepest condolences. I know that his absence will be acutely felt. My first memories of Gary were in the 80’s when I was a new waitress at Christie’s and Gary would come rescue us from whatever plumbing nightmare was occurring. He didn’t know me then, but I remember his laugh and his smiling eyes. I didn’t yet know that we had a common person in our history, Sue (then Fitch), who was my English teacher in high school. She helped me get into Salve Regina. Fast forward 30 years and Gary and Sue found each other again, and I was brought into the Kirwin fold by way of Sue, who introduced me to one of the most loving, warm, funny and welcoming families I have ever met. I also had the pleasure of having some of the Kirwin Grandkids on my school bus in Portsmouth when I was a driver for First Student. So many common threads. I was blessed to have the opportunity to get to know Gary’s sister Patty and we became good girlfriends. I loved having dinners with Gary and Sue, Patty and Betty…it was never just dinner. It was great conversation, guaranteed laughter, and unconditional love. I will miss the singing birthday greetings from Gary and Sue the most. Gary, you left such an indelible impression upon me, and I will never forget you. You and your family are forever woven into my heart.
Jim and Chris Bryant
from Whiting, Maine and Palm Bay, Florida wrote on February 4, 2023:
So sad to hear this news. We only met Gary in recent years through R.I. friends. What a storyteller! I could listen for hours to how he described some of the amazing houses in Newport. He clearly described how he could be captivated by the potential of some of these "wrecks" and take on the huge task of restoration. I love Newport and visiting there with our friend Judy Byrnes Sue, someday we hope to tour with you there so you can show us some of his works. My husband is a builder and enjoyed visiting with Gary so much...Our condolences to Sue and all of Gary's family... Jim and Chris Bryant
from Bristol, RI wrote on February 1, 2023:
Sue, so sorry to hear of Gary’s passing. After re-connecting with Gary at the HS reunion, you gave him a second lease on life, a do-over and the ultimate “mulligan!” Thanks for all your unending hospitality, airport pickups, (sometimes with his “chauffeur” cap) birthday grams, plumbing help and all the laughs! His obituary was beautiful, esp. the part about Gary, who always said “little” if he couldn’t say anything “nice”. So true and so rare!
My condolences to Dottie, Betty, the kids, grandkids and the extended family.
Michelle (Schork) Gardiner
from Tinton Falls, NJ wrote on January 31, 2023:
My sincere condolences to Mrs. Sue Fitch, her family, and Gary’s family. You are in my thoughts, we love you very much ❤️
from Mount Shasta, California wrote on January 31, 2023:
My family has had the pleasure of knowing Gary through his high school sweetheart, our friend Susan. We first met Gary about 15 years ago when he and Sue came to California for a visit. At the time, Jack, my autistic son, was only 4 years old. Well, Jack and Gary hit it off as if they were best friends through many lifetimes! As a matter of fact, the moment they met, Jack exclaimed, “Gary! My best friend!”
As Jack was taking ballet classes at the time, he insisted on teaching Gary and Susan how to “Relève” which means to raise up to the balls of your feet. Gary and Sue were so tickled by this that it became their toast to each other! Everyday from there on in, they would raise their glasses and say, “Click Click Relève, Hi Jack!”
They later visited us again in Napa when Jack was 10 years old. We all sang and laughed and had a joyful celebration, as was the case in my understanding for most of Gary and Susan’s life together!
The last time we saw Gary was a short time before he passed. Having not traveled in 9 years, it was divine intervention that we had already planned a trip to Disney World, which led us to a short but special visit by Gary’s bedside. When Gary heard Jack’s voice, his eyes popped open and they shared a truly beautiful moment.
We are forever grateful for Gary’s influence, love, graciousness, joy and contagious zest for life! His happiness lives on in our lives, having left an indelible mark on my son, as well as everyone who ever knew him! Thank you Susan for bringing Gary into our lives! Cheers to Gary!!! Click Click, Relève!!!
from Portsmouth, RI wrote on January 30, 2023:
Gary was a true “Newporter” and a proud Irishman. He must have loved being born on St. Patrick’s Day. A gentleman above all, he always made you feel important. With Susan by his side, I was the happy recipient of many a birthday gram. Fortunately for me, I was lucky to call him my friend.
from highlands wrote on January 30, 2023:
One of the finest , funnies fantastic kind men I know
Louise and Wayne
from Stanhope, NJ wrote on January 29, 2023:
Gary: "Larger than life" and with us forever.
Happy Birthdays from Lovey and Gary-o;
Bidding 3 on a 10-high hand;
Morning walks before the boiler;
A fifth and cards at 1:00 am--poor B___d;
Bliss Mine Road;
Bring in the Clowns....
Abigail, Frank, Samantha, and Franklin Clark
from Stirling, NJ wrote on January 28, 2023:
Gary-O lives on in our hearts. His smile and accompanying gleam of mirth or mischief in his eye made him an instant part of the family. Not a birthday would pass without a musical singing phone message from Gary-O and Auntie Sue-z wishing us well and making us laugh! He has always been the life of the party, gathered around a table with the extended Miller-Clark clan. He even was able to lend his plumbing expertise to my dad in an adventure involving a furnace, much banging, and eventual success with a celebratory beverage! We honor his memory with stories, love, and laughter. Thank you for being part of our family, Gary.
Arthur and Lorraine Galloway
from Naples, FL and Cranston, RI wrote on January 28, 2023:
Gary was one of the kindest and nicest persons we ever knew. It was such a pleasure to be in his company. We always had interesting conversations with Gary and enjoyed his friendship and his kindness. We will miss him so much!!! Rest in Peace, dear friend