FAMILY TIES Laurita Blewitt pictured at The White House with outgoing US Vice President Joe Biden, her brother Joe and brother-in-law Francis O’Flaherty.
Mayo relatives attend surprise Medal of Freedom ceremony in Washington
OUTGOING American Vice President Joe Biden hopes to return to his ancestral home of Mayo this summer.
President Barack Obama’s right-hand man is hoping to return to Mayo with his son, Hunter.
Biden’s great-great grandfather, Patrick Blewitt, was born in Garden Street, Ballina, in the early 1830s and left with members of his family for the US in the 1840s.
Last June, Biden and members of his family flew into Ireland West Airport Knock for a five-day visit meeting his relations the Blewitts in Mayo and the Finnegans, of Louth.
Last week, Laurita Blewitt, her brother Joe, along with their brother in law Francis O’Flaherty, got the once-in-a-lifetime chance to be guests at a surprise White House event for the Vice President, organised by Barack Obama: the awarding of the Medal of Freedom.
“We didn’t know the exact details until Tuesday evening so we were packing our suitcases thinking ‘What do you wear to the White House’. We rang to say we were there [Washington DC] on Wednesday and they told us about the surprise,” explained Laurita.
All they knew was to show up to the White House at 1.30pm the following day with their passports. They then got a tour of the famous West Wing, including the Oval Office and Situation Room, before making their way to the official dining room for the surprise.
“He [Biden] wasn’t aware of it. He thought it was dinner with the Obamas and his wife and then we were there with his family, his staff and close friends. It was amazing to witness him receive the Medal of Freedom.”
Laurita briefly met President Obama, saying the encounter was short because the president did not want to upstage his VP.
According to Laurita, Joe Biden described the surprise event as ‘the best day of his life’ – and he enjoyed showing off his Irish cousins at the event.
The outgoing Vice President will now take up a lecturing position at Penn State University, and he has offered to help raise funds for Mayo/Roscommon Hospice, the palliative care service that Laurita works for.
“He said he would like to help raise funds for Mayo/Roscommon Hospice. His mother died of cancer and used palliative care services, and his son Beau died from brain cancer in 2015,” she explained.