Brian O'Dwyer remembered his great-grandmother's amazing life and the sacrifices made by millions of emigrants who came to America
Leading the 258th New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade up Fifth Avenue was “better than I ever expected,” grand marshal Brian O’Dwyer told the Irish Voice on Tuesday morning, just prior to leaving for a vacation in San Juan for a few days with his wife Marianna.
Sunny skies were in order for the throngs of parade-goers who lined Fifth Avenue on Saturday, March 16 to greet the marchers. The theme of this year’s parade was immigration, and O’Dwyer made sure to pause with his top hat off at the 54th Street location where his Irish grandmother Mary Alice Rohan first came to work as a maid.
“I stopped to remember her sacrifice and the sacrifice that so many immigrants made when they came to our country,” O’Dwyer said.
“And what I found really touching is that all the aides turned and took their hats off as well. It was a wonderful sign of solidarity.”
The O’Dwyer clan was well represented on the day, with a contingent of 105 friends and family members, 40 of who came from Ireland. They marched behind a special friends and family banner not far from the start of the parade.
“It was just a wonderful thing to be surrounded by so many family and friends,” said O’Dwyer, who marched with the aides up to the American Irish Historical Society on East 81st Street before returning to the reviewing stand to watch the rest of the contingents.
“Marianna and our grandchildren made it a point to take a horse and carriage from the University Club breakfast in the morning to St. Patrick’s Cathedral because we wanted to show our support for the drivers and the carriage industry,” O’Dwyer added.
“It was three days of a party, and it was really unforgettable.”
The parade was led as always by the Fighting 69th Regiment, and was joined by a number of dignitaries including New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, state Attorney General Letitia James, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Irish Caucus Chair Danny Dromm, and Irish Justice Minister Charles Flanagan, who marched with members of the Irish garda. Governor Andrew Cuomo was a no-show.
The parade was reviewed by Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who posed for photos with many of the marching units that passed by St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Joining the line of march for the fourth year was the Irish LGBT group Lavender and Green Alliance.
“This is our 25th anniversary and New York is also honoring the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising of 1969,” said Brendan Fay, Lavender and Green Alliance founder.
“We honored two of our community heroes --
Lisa Fane for her organizing the historic breakthrough allowing an LGBT Irish group in the Brooklyn parade. We also honored Randy Wicker, pioneer of the LGBT civil rights movement since the late 1950s.
“We also remembered the community activists in Ireland who opened the LGBT community center in Dublin on March 17, 1979 during a time when it was a criminal offense to be gay.”