She's petite, white-haired and 88 years old. And if you ask Rosie the waitress what's in the meatloaf, she's likely to tell you, “It's made of old socks.”
Order clams and she'll say, in her Northern Ireland brogue, “I'd rather be shot than eat clams.”
Rose Donaghey is a bit of a legend in the East Bronx, so well-liked and well-known that she can attract business to a new restaurant — as she's doing these days at the Wicked Wolf.
The restaurant's manager, Kathy Gallagher, hired Donaghey 14 years ago at Charlie's Inn, a German-Irish hangout.
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“She was, what, 70-something then, and when she asked me about a job I thought she meant for her daughter — or granddaughter,” Gallagher said. “My mother-in-law said, ‘Just give her a chance.'”
Charlie's closed last year, and Donaghey figured that was the end of her career.
Then the Wicked Wolf hired Gallagher. Two months ago, she called Donaghey.
Attorney James Newman comes in only when Donaghey is working — Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“Any time you joke with her, she jokes back,” he said. “She always tries to order for you. You ask for a burger well done and she says, ‘I'll have it cremated.'”
She brought a Budweiser instead of a Bud Light to one table but turned it into a joke: “I'd blame the bartender,” she whispered.
Rose McElroy, born in 1920 in County Tyrone, married James Donaghey in 1947. They came to America in 1949.
Her sister had a bar in Queens. “I arrived on a Friday and she put me to work on the Saturday,” Donaghey said.
She was retired when her husband died in 1994. The funeral lunch was held at Charlie's Inn, and Donaghey apparently thought the place could use her help.
Asked what it takes to be a great waitress, Donaghey said, “Be pleasant, and let them take their pick of tables.” And then, “I guess it's the blarney.”