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April 25 2017

Kate O'Beirne, R.I.P.

by Charlotte Hays

We at the Independent Women's Forum mourn the loss of Kate O'Beirne, who died Sunday, and extend our condolences to Kate's family and many friends.

Kate's death, at 67, is a loss to the conservative movement, which she adorned with wit and wisdom.

All Kate's tributes highlight her wonderful sense of humor and generosity of spirit.

Kate's dear friend April Ponnuru wrote:

Everyone knew Kate Walsh O'Beirne. She was famous, of course, in the way that people can only dream of being in Washington. There wasn't anyone who wouldn't take her call or do her a favor. Instantly recognizable at nearly six feet tall, blonde, and dressed to the nines, she was one of the most attractive women I ever knew. Her personality was magnetic: a lively voice, quick wit and razor-sharp intellect. But it was her kindness and genuine interest in people that set her apart in a self-serving town.

. . .

Much will be written about Kate's generosity — she was always eager to help or give someone else the credit. She had a special love for priests, and they were often guests in her home or, tight on funds, sent to Rome on her dime ("He gave his life for the Church, the least I can do is get him to Rome! I made sure he had some money for cappuccinos, too, because no one should be moping around Rome and not be able to stop for a cappuccino.") She had the gift of friendship, and she gave freely of her time to encourage us. But more than that, she engendered a spirit of love and camaraderie among all her girlfriends ("April, how much do we love Barbara?").

Any woman who reads this tribute will know just how unusual that is. And she truly believed in all of us. She thought we should be running everything, no matter what it was. Even with all of her accomplishments, she always made us feel better about ourselves. Lord knows how many risks I took because Kate believed in me. And she taught me, in that Irish way of hers, that you always do right by people, that you always go to the funeral.

John O'Sullivan captured the quickness of Kate's wit and the depth of her knowledge:

When the late Robert Bork was received into the Catholic Church only a few years ago, his two godparents were Kate O’Beirne and me. He was amused enough by this to say to Kate that he felt that he was becoming an Irish Catholic rather than a Roman Catholic. “Beware the sin of pride, Bob,” responded Kate.
. . .

Kate's wit and sharpness were an important part of her appeal to conservatives. We get so used to seeing our champions floored by non-sequiturs and platitudes that it’s an enormous relief when one comes along who can more than hold her own with the best of enemies. I never felt nervous on Kate’s behalf when she was on a platform or a television talk show defending some difficult point of conservative theory or Republican folly. I had seen her win too many arguments on NR cruise panels (against me on too many occasions) to doubt her ability to kill a fallacy with an epigram and to leave her defeated opponent laughing. I would sometimes watch her husband, Jim O’Beirne, when she was speaking to see how he was reacting. He always looked supremely relaxed.

Mona Charen rightly recalled that Kate was one of a kind:

Yesterday, as she lay in a hospital bed surrounded by adoring family and friends, I was able to say goodbye to my dear friend Kate O’Beirne. Breathing had become difficult, and she wore an oxygen mask. Her two handsome and devoted sons, her “saintlike” (her word) husband Jim, and her three sisters were there, along with the friends who couldn’t stay away. It’s the only time I’ve ever been in a room with Kate that she didn’t say anything witty.

Kate O’Beirne was brilliant and hilarious and generous and good. Her personality was radiant. She spoke fast, and would often introduce new information with ”as you know.” But few knew as much as she. It just one of her stylistic accommodations to the reality that practically no one could keep up. When she was a law student interviewing for a firm, a partner asked her where she pictured herself in 10 years. “Five years older,” she winked. Speaking of a prominent Republican politician who was on his third wife, she quipped “When a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening.”
 

Never one to mince words, Kate titled her book on the leaders of the feminist movement Women Who Make the World Worse.

Kate was a lady who made the world a better place.

R.I.P., Kate.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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