Shopping Across the Pond
To a proud Englishman, America is a country of vexing insufficiencies. Its supermarkets know not of H.P. (House of Parliament) sauce and tins of steak and kidney pie. Marmite, sadly, remains a mystery.
Several times a year, London-born Robert Halligan, 59, a vice president at Aon, an insurance brokerage firm, would cross the pond to stock up on such indelicacies. He would cheer on his beloved Tottenham Hotspurs, visit his sprawling family, including five adult children, and drop by a specialty shop to add to the locomotive steam engine models he had been collecting since his trainspotting boyhood. Every weekend he brought the old country to his wife, Jerrie, and their son, Trevor, in Basking Ridge, N.J., by cooking a lard-loving British breakfast (sloppy bacon, fried bread, eggs splashed with grease) and Sunday lunch (roast, two vegetables, potatoes, Yorkshire pudding).
Yet for someone who clung to his British identity, Mr. Halligan flourished in America, where he moved with Jerri, his American wife. He gardened here, played golf and danced beautifully. He was a kind, solicitous grandfather of 10 with a knack for joke- telling. And here he celebrated the holiday he loved even more than Christmas: as a citizen of two countries, Robert Halligan adored Thanksgiving.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on November 15, 2001.
Robert Halligan, liked the simple things
Despite his obvious success in life, Robert John Halligan of Basking Ridge was a very approachable person who always tried to make others feel comfortable around him, said former neighbor Robin Day.
"He was very down-to-earth and charming. He loved some of the simple things in life," said Day, comparing Basking Ridge to Seven Oaks in Kent, the English village in which Mr. Halligan grew up. "It was more a cottage-type lifestyle."
Mr. Halligan, 59, died Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. A reinsurance broker for Aon Corp., he was at work on the 99th floor.
An avid tennis player, Mr. Halligan passed on his passion for the game to his son, Trevor, 20. Trevor became a well-known tennis player at Ridge High School, and also shared his father's love of golf.
"He had an opportunity to play golf with his customers. This was one of the things he enjoyed about his job," said a business colleague, Paul Napolitan of Pottersville.
Before he took the job with Aon, Mr. Halligan worked for Paul Napolitan Inc., first on Maiden Lane in Lower Manhattan, then at the World Trade Center. Napolitan has since retired.
But whatever Mr. Halligan's abilities as a tennis player and golfer, Napolitan said, his passion was British football (soccer in this country). He especially liked Manchester United.
Born and raised near London, Mr. Halligan worked for many years as an insurance broker for Lloyds. At Aon and at Napolitan, Mr. Halligan worked in what is called reinsurance, meaning companies that insure other insurance companies.
A talented broker, he had a great affinity for the Spanish- speaking world, and although he didn't speak Spanish, he did a lot of business in Puerto Rico, Napolitan said.
Mr. Halligan -- he was always called Robert, never Bob -- emigrated from Britain on July 4, 1980. He became an American citizen in 1996.
A memorial service will be held Friday at noon at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 140 S. Finley Ave., Basking Ridge.
The family has asked that contributions be made to the American Cancer Society, 600 First Ave., Raritan, N.J. 08869, in lieu of flowers.
Mr. Halligan also leaves his wife, Jerrie, who was working as a flight attendant for TWA when they met in the elevator at the Concorde Lafayette Hotel in Paris. They were married in 1980, one year to the day later.
Besides his wife and son Trevor, Mr. Halligan is survived by his mother, Brenda, who lives in England; children James, Robert, Lara, Emma and Sarah; his brothers and sister, David, Mary and William; and many grandchildren, nieces and nephews.