Michael P. “Mike” O’Shea, former proprietor of Mick O’Shea’s, a popular North Charles Street Celtic watering hole that was transformed into Irish Central on St. Patrick’s Day, died of COVID-19 Oct. 6 at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center. The Lutherville resident was 78.
“Mike was the sort of guy you’d want to have in a tough fight or in a foxhole. He was a gentle soul and a good-hearted person,” said former Gov. Martin O’Malley.
“He was totally loyal to his five daughters, was the patriarch of the O’Shea family and was a great figure in the Irish community for so many years. And it doesn’t surprise me that his ashes will be buried in Ireland, because Ireland spoke to the romantic side of him,” Gov. O’Malley said.
Born Michael Peter Shea, the youngest of seven siblings, in Baltimore, he was the son of Thomas A. Shea, a bricklayer, and his wife, Anna C. McGinn Shea, a homemaker.
In 1964, Mr. O’Shea and his late brother Patrick F. O’Shea petitioned the court to change their name back to O’Shea as the “O’” had previously been dropped.
“That happened when his great-grandfather came through Ellis Island and they changed his name,” said Bill Geraghty, a friend. “I always called him Mick and he was always the life of the party. He wasn’t bashful and loved to sing Irish songs, and once he got on stage, he wouldn’t stop singing.”
Mr. O’Shea was raised on Cokesbury Avenue, and was a member of the last class that graduated in 1960 from the old Calvert Hall College High School that was downtown at Cathedral and Mulberry streets.
After high school, he attended the University of Baltimore for a semester and then dropped out and served a stint in the Army before going to work for Baltimore Contractors and then Mann & Parker Lumber Co. where he learned the lumber business.
“He was not only my best friend, he was my sixth brother. I come from a family of five brothers and he was the sixth,” Mr. Geraghty said. “He’s like family to me and I’m still in a fog over his death.”
In 1971, he was a co-founder of O’Shea Lumber Co. in Towson which later moved to Cockeysville and finally to Glen Rock, Pennsylvania, whose fleet of trucks are painted shamrock green.
“We always called it O’Shea Lumber Truck Green, like it was a Sherwin Williams or Behr Paint Co. color,” said a daughter, Heather O’Shea of Richmond, Virginia. “He always said, ‘Once you see it, you’ll never forget it.’ I’ve even seen his trucks in Richmond.”
James F. “Jim” Anton said: “We’ve been friends for 60 years and business partners for 47.”
“I went to Calvert Hall, Class of 1959, but did not really know him then, and then we worked together for seven years at Mann & Parker. He was always kind to people and always looking out for the other guy,” Mr. Anton said.
Mr. O’Shea stressed service and that the customer was always first.
“Service was important to him and that’s how we built the company. We treated people the way we would want to be treated if we were the customer. But, we were always friends first and we had a good run,” Mr. Anton said.
Ms. O’Shea described her father as a “serial entrepreneur” who opened CraftWoods, a retail woodworking store, in 1977 in Cockeysville that later relocated to Timonium in the 1990s.
In 1995, he and several family members and friends purchased McGinn’s Irish Pub & Restaurant in the 300 block of N. Charles St. The pub had originally been founded in 1974 by George C. McGinn and his partner, Jane Kreig, as the St. Charles Restaurant. It evolved into McGinn’s of Charles Street and finally McGinn‘s Irish Pub & Restaurant, that later sold in 1995.
Gov. O’Malley recalled the 1995 papal visit to Baltimore by Pope John Paul II when he and a number of other patrons were forced to spend the night in what was then McGinn’s.
“The Secret Service had closed down Charles Street because it was going to be the papal route so we were locked up in McGinn’s which wasn’t a bad place to be if you have to be locked up,” Gov. O’Malley said with a laugh. “The things we do out of religious devotion.”
“It’s the dream of every Irishman to own a bar,” said another daughter, Tammy O’Shea Bulluck, of Alva, Florida.
“When we were in danger of losing McGinn’s, Mike and several friends stepped up and bought the place,” said Gov. O’Malley, whose band O’Malley’s March performed at McGinn’s and Mick O’Shea’s through the years.
“We never made any money at Mick O’Shea’s but we had lots of fun and a good time. As my father used to say, ‘We ran up a pretty good score,’” said C. Nelson “Buzz” Berman who was a partner at Mick O’Shea’s and owner of Belair Produce.
“We had to put in cash calls every week and that’s why he stayed in the lumber business and I stayed in my business,” Mr. Berman said. “Mike was hands-on and I think he gave away more beer than we got money for, but the important thing was that we stayed friends for 50 years.”
Gov. O’ Malley said: “Mike was with me when I made the decision in 1999 to make a run for mayor which many people were calling a suicide run.”
“The day after I announced we held a finance meeting, there were about 12 of us, at Mick O’Shea’s, and Mike was there. He believed in me and said ‘We’re all in this together,’” Gov. O’Malley said.
For the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, an “unofficial” reviewing stand was erected in front of the bar that was filled with politicians, family and friends who were “entertained by his antics, quick wit and humor as he emceed the parade,” his daughter Heather O’Shea said, who added that ”one of the highlights of his life was when he was elected Grand Marshal of the parade in 1989.”
“From 1972 to 2009 we walked in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade,” Mr. Geraghty said.
“He was a wonderful fun-filled human being who loved his early Friday night happy hours with his family and friends at Mick O’Shea’s,” Mr. Berman said.
“He always said, ‘There are no strangers here, only friends we’ve yet to meet,” said Heather O’Shea.
The partners sold Mick O’Shea’s in 2000, Mr. Berman said.
Ireland always tugged at Mr. O’Shea’s heart.
“He went there more than 100 times and I accompanied him there 13 times. He was more Irish than American,” Mr. Berman said. “We even went to the 75th anniversary D-Day celebration together.”
“I went with him 28 times and we always stayed two weeks,” Mr. Geraghty said. “He loved to say, ‘We’re Irish and we just cry, dance and have a good time.’”
It was Mr. O’Shea’s friends in Ireland who gave him the name of “Mick,” and he even had dual citizenship and held an Irish passport.
He was a member and former board president of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and a member of the Baltimore Police Emerald Society. He also had been on the board of Fraternity Federal Savings & Loan and when his five daughters attended Maryvale Preparatory School in Lutherville, he along with other parents were the founders of the Maryvale Sports Boosters.
A sports lover, he coached a variety of sports and was a member of Sunday softball teams he organized for O’Shea Lumber and CraftWoods. He also enjoyed duck and goose hunting on the Eastern Shore, boating and spending time at a home he owned in Punta Gorda, Florida, with his wife of 28 years, the former Nancy “Corky” Gunther.
He also collected classic vintage automobiles and in his collection he had a convertible Mustang, a Corvette and a Woody.
A previous marriage to Kathleen A. O’Shea (née Rooney), mother of his five daughters, ended in divorce.
A Memorial Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Nov. 4 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Nativity, 20 East Ridgely Road, Lutherville.
In addition to his wife and two daughters, Mr. O’Shea is survived by three other daughters, Kelly O’Shea Swanson of East Greenwich, Rhode Island, Jackie O’Shea Moore of Richmond, Virginia, and Colleen O’Shea Rayburn of Fort Myers, Florida; a stepdaughter, Kelly McNamara Beck of Hedgesville, West Virginia; a sister, Lorraine C. “Sis” Heagy of Phoenix, Baltimore County; 13 grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.
A previous version of this story misstated when Mike O’Shea co-founded O’Shea Lumber Co., which was 1971, and misspelled the name of his daughter, Tammy O’Shea Bulluck. The Sun regrets the errors.