Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Peter Mehas died Saturday, based on information from a family spokesman.
She was only 28 years old, a young Irishwoman beginning her teaching career in Dublin. She was worried about Ireland's economy and looking to make a temporary move closer to her sister who lived in California. Her teaching credentials weren't recognized in the U.S., but an affable Fresno County education official took her call anyway.
The man was Pete Mehas.
"It is a funny story because it started with me calling him in the middle of the night so I could capture him on California time," said Eimear O'Farrell, now principal at Clovis West High School. "He said to me, 'In order to secure a job over here, you want to maybe start out and apply at a Catholic school.' "
It was 1992 and Mehas -- who passed away unexpectedly Friday -- was in his first term as the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools.
A year earlier, O'Farrell warmed to the idea of moving after visiting her sister Sinead Beach, who was living in Fresno. A special program allowing O'Farrell a five-year leave from her teaching job gave her the out she needed to make a move. So she asked her sister to tear out the education section in the Yellow Pages and send it halfway across the globe.
"I put my finger all the way to the very top," she said, and called Mehas directly the next day.
Mehas' secretary patched her through.
An hour later, Mehas had shared the ins and outs of the public school system in Fresno County, advised her to secure a job at a parochial school first and talked her through the public school teacher credentialing process.
His zeal for education and willingness to take so much time to help out a novice teacher -- more than 5,000 miles away, no less -- gave O'Farrell the confirmation she needed.
"I don't know if I would have had the confidence to pursue it except he told me go for it ... he gave me my start," O'Farrell recalled this week.
Mehas died Friday from a ruptured thoracic aortic aneurysm, a few days shy of his 74th birthday. Funeral services are planned for 10 a.m. Friday at St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Fresno.
His passing led to an outpouring of online remembrances from friends and family, with many recalling his winning football career at Fresno State, his time as a civics teacher at Roosevelt High School -- even the old orange pickup he drove.
One online commenter likened him to an oak tree, with "deep roots that made him loyal and strong, and an expansive, far-reaching canopy."
For O'Farrell, Mehas was always a friendly face she'd see every three years or so at banquets or education award ceremonies. They didn't socialize regularly, she said, but he was the kind of person who would find her in a crowd and make a point to catch up.
Their paths crossed several times over the past 20 years, she said. O'Farrell would tell him about her decision to plant roots in Fresno, about earning her master's degree, and teaching at Our Lady of Victory in central Fresno and then Maple Creek Elementary in Clovis Unified School District.
"He said to me, 'You need to stick with this and continue ... and even further your impact on kids.' "
And she did.
She earned her doctorate in education from Fresno State, became principal at Valley Oak Elementary and moved into her current job at Clovis West in 2012.
"I'm sure there are a lot of people like me who he impacted in his own way," O'Farrell said.
A public funeral service for Peter George Mehas is planned for Friday at 10 a.m. at St. George Greek Orthodox Church, 2219 N. Orchard St. in central Fresno followed by a private burial. Church officials say between 900 and 1,000 seats will be available at the public service. In lieu of flowers, remembrances can be sent to the church or to Children's Hospital Central California in Madera.