Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Pub on the Marietta Square is asking the religious spirit of the day be remembered and will stop the St. Patrick’s Day party at the bar four times today to hold a benediction offering prayers for a veteran and police officer, who is battling thyroid and skin cancers.
“St. Patrick was a real person,” Gary Leake, owner of Johnnie MacCracken’s, told a group of partygoers gathered at the pub Sunday night.
Celebrating the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, the holiday commemorates the patron saint of Ireland, St. Patrick, and was originally celebrated as a feast that lifted the restrictions of Lent for the day.
The party today at Johnnie MacCracken’s will be complete with a traditional celebration, Leake said. However, it’s also a day to reflect on the life of St. Patrick, a fifth-century missionary who is credited with converting Ireland from paganism to Christianity.
The pub plans to let religion into the bar by praying for service members and law enforcement.
Leake says thanking public servants during the bar’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration is important to him because he built the pub to honor his father, Henry Grady Leake, who was a U.S. Marine of Scots-Irish heritage.
“It’s just our way of saying thank you one more time,” Leake said. “We don’t ever want this to be forgotten.”
Patrons wearing green and eating Irish classics stopped to bow their heads silently Sunday night as the Rev. Chip Faucette, of St. James Episcopal Church in Marietta, prayed, asking for blessings for the bar, the people in the pub and the beer being served.
“We still strongly believe that Jesus and cold beer go together,” Faucette said with a laugh.
It may seem strange to pray in a bar on a holiday that has become associated with alcohol, the color green and leprechauns, but Faucette said spirituality shouldn’t be separated from the holiday.
“For some reason, we separated what we do on Monday through Saturday from what we do on Sunday,” Faucette said. “There are holy people who come this bar and have a glass of fun.”
Honoring a policeman with cancer
Much of the celebration at Johnnie MacCrackens pays tribute to Cobb police officer Craig Fowler. Prayers were offered for Fowler on Sunday as partygoers raised their glasses to toast the policeman who is fighting two forms of cancer.
A fundraiser for Fowler will be at Johnnie MacCrackens from 1 to 5 p.m. April 13. Last year, a similar fundraiser for a firefighter who had quadruple heart bypass surgery raised $8,000, Leake said.
Fowler, a former U.S. Marine, was diagnosed with cancer after going to WellStar Kennestone Hospital for a free lung examination offered to veterans.
“I had been having some health issues during the year and I thought I’d just go,” Fowler said. “It wouldn’t hurt.”
He never expected the call that came two days later. Fowler had nodules on his thyroid that were choking him from the inside out.
A second diagnosis came after Fowler visited his family doctor who saw a spot on his shoulder that resembled a contaminated legion.
“She actually said, ‘What the hell is that?’” Fowler recalled.
It was melanoma.
Fowler has since had his thyroid removed and a 4-inch piece of cancerous flesh removed from his shoulder.
He’s cautiously optimistic that the worst of his battles with cancer are over.
“I have been advised that I am cancer free from my thyroid cancer and doctors are sure all of the cancer was removed from my shoulder,” Fowler said.
Still, he’s seen an outpouring of support from a community he’s dedicated his life to improving and protecting. Friends, family and fellow church members have put their support behind Fowler.
“I’ll just tell you that it’s overwhelming. It really is,” Fowler said of the encouragement he has received. “There’s no words in the human language that could describe it. I really can’t.”
Fowler is an integral part of the community outreach done with Cobb Police and is the head of the Integrity Program, which aims to reduce crime among young people.
But Fowler hasn’t let his struggles define him or break his spirit. He sees it as just another problem to tackle.
“If you’re looking for somebody to lay on the floor in the fetal position, you’re looking at the wrong guy,” Fowler said.
If You go ...
A fundraiser for Cobb police officer Craig Fowler will be at Johnnie MacCracken’s on the Marietta Square from 1 to 5 p.m. April 13. Fowler has been diagnosed with both thyroid and melanoma cancers.