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Inspirational Irish singing star brings his message to Greenville

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Irish tenor and physician Ronan Tynan will deliver the keynote address Thursday at the Eastern Carolina Vocational Center annual banquet.

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Michael Abramowitz

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Ronan Tynan, the internationally renowned Irish tenor who will deliver the keynote address at Thursday’s Eastern Carolina Vocational Center annual banquet, quickly deflects any credit he is given for easing the grief of millions after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. But his inspirational life clearly qualifies him for the title of “healer.” 

Tynan, 57, is perhaps most well known in the U.S. for the gently consoling and inspirational voice he brought to New Yorkers and all Americans in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, and again in 2004 at the funeral of President Ronald Reagan, viewed by more than 35 million people worldwide. He also is famous here for his performances of “God Bless America” at Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch, which, he says on his website, have been nothing short of unforgettable.

His experiences facing and overcoming many personal challenges reflect in Tynan’s musical expression and closely connect him to his audiences, he said.

“I think what’s most important is to be attuned to yourself, because you are sharing the talent that the Lord gave you,” he told The Daily Reflector in a phone conversation. “I don’t really think that people turn to me for solace, but if you’re honest with yourself, it transfers to the audience and ... allows them the opportunity to reflect on their own feelings and the people they love.”

To put it another way, Tynan can relate.

He was born in Dublin with a deforming lower limb disability that threatened to sideline him throughout his childhood. Undaunted in his youth, he rode horses and raced motorcycles, according to his website biograpy. When he was 20, his legs had to be amputated below the knee after an auto accident caused serious complications. Within a year, he was winning gold medals in the Paralympics. Between 1981 and 1984, Tynan amassed eighteen gold medals and 14 world records. Nine of his records still stand.

The determination instilled in him by his parents soon propelled Tynan to conquer a whole new field. He became the first disabled person ever admitted to the National College of Physical Education in Limerick, Ireland. He later became a medical doctor, specializing in orthopedic sports injuries.

Though he enjoyed singing as a boy, Tynan did not seriously consider formal voice study until he was 33 and well into his residency as a physician. He retired from private practice in 2016, but still teaches at two universities. He devotes his free time to his family, recording and motivational speaking around the world, including this week at ECVC.

“I love the philosophy of Eastern Carolina Vocational Center,” Tynan said. “People who have challenges have to be of a disposition that they have all the capacity to do what’s possible. This is not an easy world we live in. You have to instill the belief that the ability is there and you have to work to develop it.”

Tynan has relied a great deal throughout his life on his spiritual strength and religious faith to propel him forward from his disabilities.

“People with disabilities have to use the talents that the man above gives them to project themselves forward,” he said. “Nothing is ever straightforward and no life is similar, but if you approach yours with a sense of enjoyment, it makes it very different.” 

ECVC is a private nonprofit corporation that provides job training and employment services to persons with disabilities in Pitt and its surrounding counties. It funds its mission while providing meaningful employment through many lines of business, including frame manufacturing, battery terminal manufacturing and the packaging and distribution of batteries and office products. It also provides commingled recyclable sorting services and local janitorial services, managing two locations at the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station.

Tynan also has drawn much of his inspiration and determination from his close relationship with his parents, a diminutive couple with gigantic ambitions for their son.

“Parents play a huge role in any child with a disability because they have to give encouragement and belief that their child has the ability to go forward,” he said. “Sometimes this requires tough love. While it sometimes is a difficult adjective to use, ‘tough’ love gives children the confidence to go forward. That and a sense of endearment are qualities that parents instill.”

Even success poses challenges for Tynan, including the time he must spend away from family and loved ones in Ireland to pursue his solo singing and speaking career. He applies his simple philosophy to manage those as well.

“It’s life; you accept what you’re given,” he said.

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.

WANT TO GO?

The ECVC annual banquet begins at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Rock Springs Center, 4025 N.C. 43, Greenville. The banquet promotes the continued inclusion for people with disabilities within the community and empowering them to reach their full potential. In addition to the speech from Ronan Tynan, the event will recognize the center’s employees. It is not a fundraiser — funds from sales of seats, tables, and sponsorships only cover expenses of to help raise awareness about the ECVC mission. This year we proudly celebrate our 52nd Anniversary.

For information or to purchase tickets visit ecvcinc.com/annual-banquet or contact Candy Avery at CAvery@ecvcinc.com or by phone at 317-3144.

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