By Valerie Bando-Meinken, Peggy Spellman Hoey, and Jade Eckardt
Parade season 2018 comes to a festive conclusion this weekend, with St. Patrick’s events in Montauk, Hampton Bays, and Jamesport.
Let’s meet the leaders of the bands, the grand marshals.
Kathy Keller will lead the annual Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day parade in Montauk. A lifelong resident of Montauk, Keller grew up volunteering her time to the organization and has been a regular participant in the parades. “You probably wouldn’t recognize me though, since I’ve been a fish, a lobster, a pirate, a lion, and a chicken,” she joked.
“Keller’s nomination was unanimous,” said Joe Bloecker, a longtime Friends of Erin member. “She’s the brains of the organization!”
“She has a great heart and cares about the community,” added FOE Vice President Matthew Doris. “Everyone thinks we just put on a parade, but we do much more and Kathy is always there organizing and planning the fundraisers and events so we can sponsor programs for our youth,” Bloecker said.
Keller’s association with the Friends of Erin traces through generations. “In 1945, my grandfather marched with a white horse from Second House Museum to Trails End Restaurant. It was the first St. Patrick’s Day parade in Montauk (and) it grew from there. In 1962, 12 men started the Friends of Erin and organized the first real parade. They had a color guard and the fire department brought their trucks and they marched from the Montauk IGA to the firehouse.”
“One of the original members of the Friends of Erin was actually my father,” stated Keller. The men held their meetings in the basement of her home. “The women really did all the work, back then,” she divulged. “They were the ones who paved the way for the Friends of Erin Ladies Auxiliary.”
A graduate of East Hampton High School, Keller has a degree in food science from State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Morrisville. After graduating college, Keller went to work at the J.R. Simplot Company in their new products development division in Idaho. In 1981, she took a position with Ruby Tuesday in New Orleans. She returned to Montauk in 1985 to work with the Town of East Hampton’s Division of Human Resources from which she is now retired.
Her commitment to her community keeps her very busy. “It’s a lot of work planning some of our big events like the Seafood Festival, The Grand Slam Fishing Tournament, and the Gala Cocktail Party. These events help fund the parade as well as the youth programs.”
You can catch Keller as she leads the Montauk St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday. The parade will start at 11:30 AM at Edgemere Road and will finish on Main Street by the IGA.
For Fergus Scully, Saturday’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Hampton Bays should be old hat for several reasons.
For one, he’s Irish — like, real Irish having been born and bred in the aul sod itself. And two, he’s only been emceeing the event for the last 10 years for parade organizers the Ancient Order of Hibernians’ Michael Collins Division 11 of Hampton Bays.
“They said they needed someone with a brogue,” quipped the County Laois native. Scully, 51, has worked behind the scenes with the Hibernians preparing for the parade — a process that goes all year with meetings and fundraisers — from its early beginnings. “It’s a crazy amount of work,” he said. “It’s not just this week or next week, it’s year-round.”
The Hibernians are “kicking him off the stage,” for his largest role yet, according to Scully.
All joking aside, the third and most important reason why Scully will take to his new role this year fronting the parade is that participating in and preparing for the festivities is something that runs in his blood. His father, Padraig, was involved with the local parade committee back home and served as its grand marshal one year as well, so, that said, he’s had plenty of practice attending meetings and the events themselves.
“I’ll be very proud and very honored to have it,” said Scully of his grand marshal-ship. “It’s a little bittersweet because my father passed away last year, so I’ll be thinking of him a lot on that day.”
Scully, who emigrated to the US in 1992 and works as an estate manager in Southampton, has two high school-age daughters with his wife, Liz, a professional photographer and member of the Hampton Bays Board of Education.
This year, the Scully family tradition will continue with the ‘GM’ making a stop at the Irish-American Society of the Hamptons’ annual breakfast in the morning and then family members will all take their respective spots in the parade. Following the parade, they will head over to St. Rosalie’s Church Center for the parade’s after party.
The day after, it will be parade business as usual, same as it always has been.
“It was kind of natural to fall into once the parade got up and running in Hampton Bays,” he said.
The parade kicks off at 11 AM Saturday at the Hampton Bays Elementary School.
The fifth annual Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day Parade will take place on Saturday at 1 PM with former Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter doing the honors as grand marshal. Walter served as town supervisor from 2010 to 2017 and was also one of five members of the town board.
He was the Chief Executive Officer of the Town of Riverhead, head of the administrative branch of town government, and was also responsible for the general administration of the town.
“It was really humbling to be asked to serve as grand marshal,” said Walter. “I’m honored to participate.”
Walter resides in Wading River with his wife Cathleen and their sons Gregory, Timothy and Zachary. He says living near the water is what he loves about living on eastern Long Island. “I’m a boater, so I love being on the water and being near the Long Island Sound,” he said. “This is such a wonderful place to live.”
Walter, who is approximately 25 percent Irish, says he simply likes “celebrating everything Irish” on St. Patrick’s Day.
“I’m going to ask my sister-in-law Geraldine Walter who was born in Ireland to march with me,” he said.
Walter graduated from St. John’s Law School in 1999. A year later, he was hired as a Deputy Town Attorney by Town Supervisor Robert Kozakiewicz to assist the town attorney in all phases of town litigation.
In 2006, Walter left the town attorney’s office to open a law practice in Wading River. His work primarily involves land use, real estate, estates, and litigation.
Walter an active member of Riverhead Rotary, the Knights of Columbus, and is part of the children’s liturgy team at St. John the Baptist RC Church in Wading River.