Ronan Tynan, the Irish singer who is known as “America’s Favorite Tenor,” performed “The Last Full Measure of Devotion” at George H.W. Bush’s funeral in Washington D.C. on December 5. Tynan’s performance came just before former President George W. Bush paid the final tribute to the 41st leader of the free world. Accompanying Tynan was The Armed Forces Chorus and the United States Marine Orchestra. He has a long-standing relationship with the Bush family and it was understood that the decision to have him perform at the funeral was made a long time in advance.
Despite being born in Ireland, and representing the country of his birth at the 1984 and 1988 Paralympics, Tynan is best known in the U.S. for his renditions of “God Bless America.” The New York Times reported that in the lead-up to George Bush’s death, Tynan sand “Amazing Grace” to him at Bush’s home in Houston.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Tynan Performed at Ronald Reagan’s Funeral & George Bush’s 80th Birthday
Tynan has performed at a presidential funeral before, in 2004, he was asked to sing at President Ronald Reagan’s funeral. In addition, Tynan also sang at George H.W. Bush’s 80th birthday party, he was a guest of then-President George W. Bush en route to the celebrations. Tynan was also a performer at Rudy Giuliani’s 2003 wedding.
Prior to being a solo singer, Tynan was a member of the Irish Tenors. However, even before Tynan ever sang, he was a doctor who specialized in sports injuries and prosthesis. Tynan attended medical school at Dublin’s prestigious Trinity College.
2. Tynan Was Born With Phocomelia & Had His Legs Amputated at the Age of 20
Tynan was born in Dublin but grew up in Johnstown, Kilkenny, in Ireland. At birth, Tynan was diagnosed as having phocomelia. While his twin, Edmond, tragically died at 11 months old after he contracted pneumonia. This meant that his legs were unusually short. Tynan has said that he spent much of his youth in hospitals and only returned to Johnstown on the weekends.
At the age of 20, following a car accident, Tynan was forced to have both of his legs amputated. At the 1984 and 1988 Paralympic games, Tynan amassed 18 gold medals for his country. On his amputation, Tynan told the Irish Echo in 2011, “No-one else can make the decision for your limbs to be amputated. You have to accept the fact that it’s the best thing that can happen to you if it’s going to be for your betterment. And I knew it would ultimately benefit me. I knew I’d walk again.”
3. In 2009, Tynan Was Accused of Anti-Semitism But Was Later Forgiven by the Anti Defamation League
Tynan was embroiled in a controversy in 2009 that cost him his regular stint as singing during the 7th inning stretch at Yankee Stadium. NBC New York reported at the time that Tynan ran into a real estate agent who was showing an apartment in his building. The agent told Tynan, “Don’t worry they’re not Red Sox fans.” Tynan reportedly said to the agent, “I don’t care about that, as long as they’re not Jewish.” Tynan went on to say that two Jewish women had viewed the apartment earlier that day and they were scary. Tynan apologized for his words saying they were intended as a “joke” but he realized they had been “inappropriate and hurtful.”
His apology was accepted by the Anti Defamation League and he later performed an event for the ADL.
4. Tynan’s Horses Play a Major Role in His Life
Tynan has spoken at length in the past about his love of horses. In 2006, this love was featured in a TV show for Animal Planet. Tynan told Equus Magazine at the time, “There has never been a time when horses weren’t part of my life. I was born into a family that had been breeding horses for three generations. They gave me my first taste of freedom, and from then on, there was no stopping me.”
Despite his condition, Tynan was able to ride horses as well as cycle thanks to his prosthetic legs.
5. Tynan Published His Memoir, Halfway Home: My Life ’til Now, in 2002
In 2002, Tynan published his memoir, Halfway Home: My Life ’til Now. The book was updated in 2016 and has been described as a “beautifully written memoir.” While Barbara Walters said of the book and Tynan’s life story as “so amazing you may find it hard to believe.” Speaking of the condition he was born with, Tynan wrote in his book, “In layman’s terms, this means that my legs were about a quarter shorter than they should have been and both my feet were splayed outward… I had only three toes on each foot, which I eventually named Curly, Larry and Moe on the right and Tuppeny, Futto and Jinks on the left.