It’s an emotional moment in the The Irishman movie, and it mirrors real life: Peggy Sheeran, Frank Sheeran’s daughter, stopped talking to her father for good when Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, according to the book that detailed Frank’s confession to Hoffa’s murder.
Frank Sheeran, the Delaware union boss whose life story and confession are featured in the Martin Scorsese Netflix film, did in fact confess that he murdered Teamster boss Hoffa to author Charles Brandt in the book, I Heard You Paint Houses. Some people don’t believe the confession (many experts think the shooter was Sally Bugs Briguglio on the order of mobsters Anthony Provenzano and Russell Bufalino).
But the real Sheeran, who had longstanding mob ties and a friendship with Hoffa, was in close proximity to the mobsters long suspected of ordering the hit, especially Bufalino, the secretive but immensely powerful mob boss whose relationship with The Irishman is detailed in the Netflix film. (You can read details of the theories of Hoffa’s death here. Read how the various real-life characters actually died here.)
Peggy Sheeran is shown in the movie, first as a child, bonding with Hoffa, who has an affinity for ice cream as well as the child. Much has been made of the fact that the actress cast to play Peggy as an adult – the gifted Anna Paquin – only has six lines in the script. Her silence, though, shows her disapproval over her father’s actions. “I auditioned for the privilege of joining the incredible cast of ‘The Irishman’ and I’m incredibly proud to get to be a part of this film,” Paquin wrote on social media.
Despite minimal lines, Paquin rings a lot of truth out of a few disapproving gazes. In a mob-affiliated world of moral ambiguity, she alone draws the firm line. With the Hoffa disappearance, her father has gone too far.
What’s the story of the real Peggy Sheeran? Where is she now? Today, she’s living life in Pennsylvania outside the public eye.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Peggy Was Frank’s Daughter With His First Wife Mary
Frank Sheeran was married twice. First to Mary, and then to Irene. He described the disintegration of his first marriage in Brandt’s I Heard You Paint Houses book (The title is a metaphor for carrying out mob hits.)
Mary was Peggy’s mother, and the mother of two of Frank’s other daughters. He had one of his four daughters with Irene.
In the book, he described the first time he saw Mary. She was Mary Leddy, a “pretty Irish girl sitting in the stands with the sweetest smile on her face” at a boxing match. “She had beautiful dark-brown hair and the prettiest Irish face I had ever seen. And boy could she dance. I had in my mind that night that this was the girl I was going to marry. I wanted to settle down.”
He said in the book that Mary was “a real strict Catholic” and thought he was “what they used to call shanty Irish.” Her family considered themselves “lace-curtain Irish.”
They married at Mother of Sorrows Church, where he had been an altar boy. She worked as a college secretary.
He described Mary as being a “terrific mother” who showed Peggy and the other two girls affection. Frank said that was hard for him to do because he didn’t get it as a kid, and he said that Mary raised the kids. He used to take Peggy, who was the second daughter, to Johnny Monk’s Club. They had picnics and would go to Willow Grove Amusement Park.
Frank said in the book that he considered himself “a little neglectful” but not abusive as a father. Eventually, Sheeran’s marriage to Mary crumbled. He wrote that Mary “was too good a woman, too easy on me. Then, at some point, I just joined that other culture and I stopped coming home…I was a selfish bastard. I thought I was doing good by giving money, but I didn’t give the kids enough family time.”
When he married Irene, his second wife, and had his fourth daughter with her, Connie, he was making a steady paycheck with the Teamsters, he was older, and he was home more, so things were different.
2. Frank Admitted That Peggy Stopped Talking to Him After Jimmy Hoffa Disappeared After Saying She Didn’t Want to Know a Person ‘Like You’
In the book, Sheeran acknowledged the breakdown in his relationship with Peggy.
“I was very close to Peggy, but she doesn’t talk to me anymore, not since Jimmy disappeared,” he said in the book.
In the book, Sheeran described a banquet attended by Jimmy Hoffa. His wife Irene and all four daughters were there. Peggy was 26 years old then. “They all looked very proud of me,” he said, adding that Jimmy gave Irene a dozen roses.
“Peggy and I had always been very close,” he said, indicating that she went to dinner with him at the club when she was a little girl and later went to dinner with him, crime boss Russell Bufalino and Bufalino’s wife.
That all changed in 1975 when Jimmy Hoffa vanished in Detroit. Although the disappearance has never been solved and Hoffa’s body was never found, he was later declared dead. Sheeran confessed to shooting him at Bufalino’s request, and, although some don’t believe that’s how it went down, the widely accepted theory is that a tight-knit circle of mobsters in Bufalino’s orbit did the deed. The real Sheeran did associate with those people.
The mob was upset with Hoffa for a variety of reasons; they thought he was a snitch, there were concerns he’d block them from Teamsters’ pension funds if he became union president again, and he had a long simmering feud with Tony Provenzano, one of the two mobsters he thought he was meeting at a Detroit restaurant the day he disappeared (they didn’t show). Sheeran says Hoffa was lured to a Detroit home, where he shot him. He claims Russell Bufalino ordered the hit. Other people believe Provenzano, at Bufalino’s behest, ordered the murder, but that a different gangster was the triggerman.
In the Brandt book, Frank Sheeran said that Mary and Peggy were watching “all the Hoffa disappearance news on the TV” when Peggy look at him and “saw something she didn’t like. Maybe I looked hard instead of worried.” She asked him to leave and said, “I don’t even want to know a person like you.”
And that was it. That was on August 3, 1975, 28 years before the book, and he had not seen nor talked to her since. “She has a good job and lives outside of Philly. My daughter Peggy disappeared from my life that day,” he said in the book.
Frank felt as if Peggy “had seen right through his eyes to his soul,” the book says.
3. Peggy Was Left Out of Her Dad’s Obituary When He Died in 2003
Frank Sheeran passed away in 2003 of natural causes. His obituary leaves Peggy out completely.
“SHEERAN, FRANK J. formerly of Bensalem, PA and Wilmington, DE on December 14, 2003; beloved father of MaryAnne Cahill (Richard), Connie Griffin and Delores Miller (Michael); loving grandfather of Christopher, Karen, Brittany and Jake; great grandfather of Sarah,” the obituary reads.
“Relatives and friends are invited to call Thurs. Dec. 18th after 9:30A.M. at THE DONOHUE FUNERAL HOME, 3300 WEST CHESTER PIKE, NEWTOWN SQUARE, PA. Memorial Service at 11A.M. Interment Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon.”
When Peggy’s sister Maryanne Francis (Sheeran) Cahill died at age 69 in 2018, she was mentioned in that obit, which read that Maryanne was survived by her “sisters Dolores Miller, Peggy Sheeran and Connie Griffin.”
“Maryanne was a registered nurse and worked at both Fitzgerald Mercy and Bryn Mawr Hospitals. She was passionate about her career and her co-workers at both places became lifelong friends. She was an avid reader and loved to bake for her family,” the obit reads.
Maryanne was still living in Pennsylvania when she died, a state in which the Sheeran family has deep roots.
A 1974 article in the Philadelphia Daily News describes Frank Joseph Sheeran as the “son of a Depression steeplejack who worked as a church sexton at Our Mother of Sorrows at 48th and Lancaster in West Philadelphia.” The New York Post reports that Sheeran was raised in Darby Pennsylvania in a “rough-and tumble childhood.” He joined the military in 1941 and was sent to Italy. He moved to Philadelphia in 1945, got married, and began working as a grocery chain truck driver, The Post reported. By 1955, he was running errands for gangster Russell Bufalino.
Frank’s father was Thomas Francis Sheeran Jr., who was of Irish descent, and his mother was Mary Agnes Hanson, who was Swedish, Ancestry records show. Here’s Frank’s dad’s draft card:
1940 federal census records show the Thomas Sheeran family (Frank’s dad), including Francis (Frank). Thomas worked as a painter and had an 8th grade education, according to census records. He was born in Philadelphia.
A WWI veterans’ compensation application for Frank’s dad says that Thomas Sheeran’s mother was Elizabeth Sheeran and his father was Thomas Francis Sheeran Sr.
Ancestry records show that Thomas Sr. – Frank’s grandfather – was born in Pennsylvania in about 1859. However, census records say that his parents were both born in Ireland. Thomas Sr. worked in the iron industry as a moulder.
4. Peggy Has Stayed Out of the Public Eye But One of Her Sisters Thinks Their Dad Probably Killed Hoffa
Peggy has retreated completely from public life. Online records and her mother’s obituary show that she has retained her birth name and worked as an executive assistant for various companies. She lives in Pennsylvania. Today she is 70 years old.
Dolores, Peggy’s sister, has spoken out publicly. “I feel like we’ve lived under this black cloud forever,” said Dolores, according to Irish Central. “I want it to be over. My father is finally at peace now. I would like the same for (Jimmy Hoffa’s) family.”
Dolores Sheeran is now Dolores Miller, 55, a former medical secretary and a realtor, according to her Facebook page.
According to Cosa Nostra News, Dolores thinks her dad probably killed Hoffa. She is the most public of the sisters, posting numerous old family photos on social media.
“I suspected my father was behind Jimmy’s death but I never asked him directly,” she said, according to the site. “My mother disagreed. She said he and Jimmy were as thick as thieves but my gut instinct told me otherwise.”
5. Scorsese Responded to the Criticism Over Paquin’s Lack of Dialogue
Martin Scorsese has explained the lack of more dialogue for the Peggy Sheeran character.
“I kept asking Steve Zaillian if we can layer her in the story,” the director said, according to IndieWire. “I decided that she doesn’t have to say anything. You see your father do something like that, I’m sorry. … You see him crush the guy’s hand like that, other kids maybe, but this kid couldn’t take it. She looks at him. She knows he’s up to something and Lucy was great, but Anna ultimately was amazing in the looks.”
Scorsese said more lines weren’t necessary to capture Peggy’s feelings toward her dad.
“She has one line in the film,” Scorsese added. “There’s something you can’t talk about. She knows it. She knows who she is. He knows she knows. Even when she’s sitting there and the police are talking about Joey Gallo being [murdered.] ‘A lone gunman walked in…’ and you see she’s looking at him.”
READ NEXT: Frank Sheeran’s Real Story.