With the St. Patrick’s season in full swing, Alana O’Dowd asked some Irish New Yorkers about the holiday and what it means to them.
On Sunday, February 26, the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade hosted its annual installation ceremony at Antun’s in Queens Village. There were hundreds of proud Irish Americans in attendance to watch this year’s parade grand marshal, Northwell Health President and CEO Michael Dowling, give his acceptance speech, and to honor the 15 aides who will join him on Fifth Avenue.
St. Patrick’s Day is a memorable time for those proud to be Irish, and we asked a sampling of those in attendance at the installation what their favorite March 17 memories are. One thing is for certain – Irish New Yorkers are proud of their roots!
Tim Myles, AOH Nassau County Board President
Tim Myles, AOH Nassau County Board president, has very fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day. “I’d have to say now that I’m the AOH Nassau County president, one of the reasons why I got involved in the Hibernians is because on St. Patrick’s Day after the parades you go to the bars and you hear people singing these songs, and I wanted to learn more about these songs, so I joined the Hibernians, and the rest is history.”
Myles resides in Baldwin, Long Island and has Irish roots in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary.
Tom Crockett, Kings County aide to grand marshal Michael Dowling
Tom Crockett of Brooklyn shared that his best St. Patrick’s Day memory would be this year, since he is one of the aides to the grand marshal.
“This year, now that I’m the aide,” he said. “I have other great memories, but this is the best one. My parents are up in heaven cheering for me!”
Crockett’s Irish roots stem from his mother, who was from Co. Donegal, and his father who was from Co. Derry.
“I was exposed to both the orange and the green!” he laughed while talking about his heritage.
Kitty Geissler is certainly a seasoned St. Patrick’s Day celebrator. At 104-years-old, she has pretty much seen it all.
When asked what her favorite memory of St. Patrick’s Day was, Geissler said, “I used to enjoy when we would go to the dances. I liked that very much.”
Geissler is originally from Co. Limerick, but now resides in Tarrytown in Westchester County. She received a large round of applause at the installation ceremony.
Brendan Jones, Queens County aide to grand marshal Michael Dowling
Brendan Jones has the great honor of being an aide in this year’s New York City parade. Originally from Co. Fermanagh, Jones’ favorite memories of St. Patrick’s Day include marching in the parades in Manhattan and in Rockaway.
“Marching in the parades would be the best memory I have,” he shared.
Jones resides in Rockaway Beach.
Bill Meehan of Jackson Heights in Queens says that his favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory occurred just last year.
“Last year would definitely be my favorite because I was marching for the first time on Fifth Avenue in many years,” he said.
Originally from East New York, Meehan’s mother was from Co. Mayo, and his great grandparents from Co. Cork.
Therese Crowe had the distinct pleasure of being an aide to the grand marshal in 2014, and that is her best St. Patrick’s Day memory to date.
“I was representing the GAA and all the women in Ireland that always washed the jerseys but never got any recognition, so it was an honor to represent all of them. It was the proudest moment of my life,” she said.
Crowe is originally from Co. Tipperary, and now resides in Leonia, New Jersey.
Walter Butler of Farmingville, Long Island said his favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory was when he was aide to the grand marshal in 1997.
“It was such an honor to be the Aide,” he said. Originally from Pittsburgh, Butler has been living in New York since 1978.
“My mother is from Co. Roscommon, and the Butlers are from Co. Kilkenny,” he said when asked about his Irish roots.
Eileen Lawrence of Douglaston, Queens has many great St. Patrick’s Day memories. When asked about her favorite one, she replied, “Before I retired, I worked for Verizon in Manhattan, and my favorite memories were of leaving the office early and going to the parade with everyone that you worked with.”
All of Lawrence’s grandparents are from Co. Dublin.
Tommy Smyth, originally from Co. Louth, said that his favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory occurred in 2008 when he had the honor of being the grand marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“I led the parade up Fifth Avenue. I couldn’t believe it happened and it was the most incredible day of my life,” said Smyth, who resides in Middle Village, Queens with his wife Treasa Goodwin-Smyth. Each year they provide live TV coverage for the parade on WNBC.
Pamela Harrison’s best St. Patrick’s Day memory occurred when she was a senior in high school at St. Nicholas of Tolentine in the Bronx.
“When you were a senior you got to march in the parade, and I have to say it was one of the highlights of my high school career,” she said. Harrison, originally from the Bronx, now resides in Putnam County and has roots all over Ireland.
“My grandmother was an immigrant from Co. Cavan, and my grandfather’s family came in the 1840s around the time of the Irish Famine,” she shared about her heritage.
Harrison also has a cousin whom she found through genealogy who is a past president of the Cork Association.
Daniel Donovan, Bronx County aide to grand marshal Michael Dowling
Daniel Donovan, originally from West Cork, said that his first St. Patrick’s Day in America was the best he has had to date.
“I was with my daughter who was about two years of age. We were heading down to the parade, and we had shamrocks and everything on our faces. We were on a train, and Eddie Broderick walked in. I waved at him, and he got up and left the subway car,” Donovan recalled.
“I found out afterwards that shamrocks and painting your face is frowned upon because you have to dress up properly, and put your best foot forward for the parade. From that day to this, I have never put a shamrock on my face for St. Patrick’s Day.”
Donovan resides in Throggs Neck.