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JIM O'LEARY (1944-2013)

Jim O'Leary


Jim O'Leary spent more than 50 years working for Waterford Crystal working his way up from a teenage apprentice to international ambassador to become a driving force for both design and quality.

Despite his long history with the company and his respect for traditional design Jim was passionate about evolving with the modern world and the need to remain fresh and contemporary. Described by his colleagues as enchanting and gentlemanly he approached design as a "whole way of life".

A local Waterford boy, Jim began his career as an apprentice cutter aged just 15 and qualified as a master cutter by 24. His eye for patterns were swiftly recognised and after being picked for the design team in 1984 he worked his way up to become Design Director in 1989.

He remained committed to the brand upon the formation of WWRD in 2009 and spent up to 5 months of the year travelling as an international brand ambassador. For collectors around the world his name was synonymous with quality and design.

Jim was curator of a design tradition that stretches back to 1783 but was determined to make sure that ancient skills were put to new uses to create designs that were timeless rather than dated.

The son of a painter and one of six children, Jim was born in Waterford in May 1944. Attracted by the glamour of Waterford Crystal and the international side of its export business Jim joined the company based in his home town with ambitions to travel the world.

He achieved this as an ambassador for Waterford Crystal and said meeting fans from around the globe was a gratifying experience and that seeing them buy one of his designs for family or friends was "such a compliment". His tours across the US alone saw him visit San Francisco, Dallas, New York, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami and most major US cities.

Pierre de Villemejane, CEO of WWRD said: "Jim was an example for all of us. An example of dedication, excellence and passion in his work. An example of joy, kindness and compassion in his life with his family, friends and colleagues. And over the last few months as he was fighting his illness, an example of courage and humility. Jim lived Waterford Crystal and his eyes sparkled just like his designs."

Jim's repertoire of limited and exclusive creations won him legions of fans around the world particularly with crystal collectors in the United States, Europe and Australia. The Araglin collection that he designed, manufactured now for more than three decades, is second only to Lismore as one of Waterford Crystal's most famous and successful patterns.

He came to the wider attention of the US public as a Waterford ambassador of the Times Square Millennium Ball which was first used to mark the countdown on New Year's Eve 1999 in New York. The Times Square ball has become a vital part subsequent New York celebrations with more than 10 made since then and its illumination is watched by millions around the world on New Year's Eve.

A modest man Jim described cutting a piece for the actress Grace Kelly as "one of the highlights of my life".

Among his most significant designs are: the Araglin, Carina and Castlemaine patterns; The Romance of Ireland collection; and the Star of Peace, which were the first Waterford Crystal panels to be placed on the famous Millennium Ball in Times Square in 1999.

Jim married "a local girl from Waterford". He was devoted to his wife Monica with whom he had two children, a daughter, Edel, and a son, Ian. The couple raised their children in Waterford City, Ireland and have lived in the same home for over 40 years with Jim devoting time to his rose garden when not travelling the globe.

After a valiant 2 and a half year battle with cancer Jim quietly passed away at home surrounded by his loved ones. For memorial contributions, the family has designated the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge in Boston. This state-of-the-art facility, near and dear to Jim's heart, serves as a "home away from home" for patients traveling to their outpatient treatments. This charity embodies everything that Jim was all about - remembering to help those in need and making sure everyone is looked after including those behind the scenes. Checks can be made out to:
      The American Cancer Society
      Attn: Christopher Thomas
      30 Speen Street
      Framingham, MA 01701
      Please mention "Hope Lodge Boston, Jim O'Leary" on the check and include your name and address.
      Click here for more information or to make a donation online

Jim O'Leary, master cutter, Waterford Crystal Design Director, was born May 26, 1944.
He died of cancer on June 8, 2013, aged 69.

Jim O'Leary