From the Emerald Isle to Iowa
“If you ask about anyone in Marshalltown who is an Irish family, I think most will say, the Leavys,” said Trisha (Leavy) Archer of Tulsa, Okla. “If you ask anyone over the age of 50 where they got their meat when they were young, I bet the answer would be ‘at Leavys, of course.'”
Archer’s pride is both in her Irish ancestry – a first generation Irish American born – and family, with its renown business traits common among Leavy families that called Marshalltown home for many years.
In County Meath, rural Ireland, Laurence Leavy delivered meat from the back of a horse drawn wagon.
He died at a young age.
His sons Frank, Jim and Tom all emigrated from Ireland to the United States in the 1950s in search of a better life. Packing house work led to the trio opening Leavy Brothers Meat Market which had locations on North Third Street, Main Street and in Melbourne all at various times from the mid-1950s to mid-1970s. Another Leavy opened and operated the Outpost tavern for a number of years.
Offspring have scattered throughout the United States but one still in Marshalltown is Nuala (Leavy) Smith.
Nuala’s father was Tom Leavy.
Tom worked in the United States for 16 months so he could save enough to bring his wife Kathleen, and their six children over from Ireland in 1955.
“We were on the ship for 11 or 12 days,” Nuala said. “Then we took the train from New York to Marshalltown.”
They arrived in Marshalltown April 12. Clergy and townspeople were there to greet before they went to their new home.
Leavy first went to Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He arrived in Marshalltown to work as a butcher for the former Hilleman Packing Co. A brother, Frank, was living in Marshalltown. His mother, Mary Leavy, and another brother Jim, lived in Charles City.
Many people, including the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Bernard H. Skahill and other local clergy, went to the station to greet the Irish newcomers. Many accompanied the Leavys to their new home, nicely furnished by kindly Marshalltown folk.
“A tradesman in Dublin makes a fairly comfortable living, but we could not have had all this,” Kathleen Leavy said
Tom and Kathleen would have four more children after making a permanent life in the United States.
Tom died in 2006 and Kathleen in 2010.
Kathleen was from Dublin. She instilled in her children a fierce pride of Irish heritage.
Nuala and husband Greg (“Smitty”) had a friendly debate recently about who was the “most Irish” of the two. Nuala said it was Greg and he said Nuala.
“Thanks to Smitty, he’s a ‘Heinz 57’ mostly German he got into the Irish heritage right from the very beginning probably more Irish than any of us,” said Nuala.
“When I married into the family, my mother-in-law (Kathleen) called me the outlaw,” he said. “So I had to do a bunch of good stuff to become an in-law.
Irish music plays in the background and Greg is wearing a Guinness T-shirt.
“We live it, (St. Patrick’s Day)” Nuala said.
As the duo “Smitty and Nuala” they are DJ’s who had booked two appearances at Jax and TC’s Pub, on Saturday and Sunday to help celebrate the big day. The group plays 50s music as well as Irish songs.
The entrepreneurial sprit instilled in his father Laurence, motivated Frank to leave Marshalltown and the security of the family meat market at age 51.
Frank, with sons J.J., Kevin and Dennis, established Harvest Meat Co. in Phoenix and San Diego.
He would later be introduced into the Arizona Food Hall of Fame.