David Roach Democrat Mayor
auth&PD4 Roach4Mayor Committee DCRoach Treas.
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Many people probably know Deer Park Irish Pub for its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. However, the story behind how it all began isn’t as well-known. Nearly 20 years ago, an unlikely new owner took over.
“I’m the second owner of the Deer Park. I bought it from Mrs. Brown who never wore a frown,” owner Tony Henry said.
Henry used to deliver orange juice to the pub. Once Mrs. Brown turned 80-years-young, she decided it was time to sell the place.
“I’ve had it for 18 years now,” Henry said. “Great ideas are born in pubs, and so I just like to create experiences where people can really freely think, create, and talk.”
Having the bar across the street from a college campus is no coincidence, but not for the reasons one may think.
“I was a former Franciscan monk, friar. I just felt a real affinity towards having the pub and having it across the street from the university. I thought this was just a natural marriage for me,” Henry said.
St. Patrick’s Day hasn’t always been the Irish pub’s specialty. Henry comes from a very large Irish family, 17 brothers and sisters to be exact.
The devout Catholic started the celebrations to honor his favorite saint.
“I’ve always been a lover of St. Patrick. He’s a fascinating early century saint. When you talk about the fighting Irish, he was a fighting bishop. He was kidnapped from England. He was taken over to Ireland, and held as a prisoner. He escaped, but the Irish really took him by storm. Somehow, he really fell in love with their paganism. He felt that the ground was right for evangelization, so he returned and he taught them the concept of the trinity. He used the clover and the shamrock as a way to explain that concept. He fell in love with the people and they loved him,” Henry said.
The pub takes the saint so seriously they put a quarter in his hat every time someone drops a certain four-letter word. Henry said it usually takes around three months to fill him up. The money goes to the St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen. It looks like it might not take too long to fill up again after this weekend.
“The Franciscan sisters visited us this morning and I’m glad we weren’t drinking then because if we were, there’d be flying cuss words, but we were very saintly this morning. Thank God they’re not going to come after sundown, look out! You know what they say about Catholics. Wherever you find four, you find a fifth,” Henry said.
Although, Henry will argue adamantly the pub is about more than just what’s poured.
“It’s not just about drinking and bellying up to the bar. It’s about just having a wonderful conversation with somebody,” Henry said.