2003-03-08 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter

Well, the drums went bang, the cymbals clanged, and the horns they did blaze away! And yours truly is still absolutely speechless! Partly due to laryngitis, but mostly due to the fact that I am still absolutely awed by the beauty, success, and glory of this year’s parade! From the parade route, it appeared to have been our most well-attended parade in recent memory. I was speaking with Daily News Reporter Warren Woodberry, who covered the parade and was also working on a piece about Rockaway, which for decades the Irish have so much been a part of, and I explained to Mr. Woodberry that this occasion of our parade, especially in the wake of 911, is a proud display of not only a particular culture, but also of a proud community that has endured so much.

The day’s festivities began with a Mass for Peace and Justice in Ireland at Saint Frances de Sales. Parade Chaplain Rev. Father Robert Hoatson, as did Father Devine, remembered Parade Founder James Conway Sullivan and stated how we have to be thankful for Jimmy’s vision and determination in making this great day possible. Parade President Mike Benn, who has done an extraordinary job with this legacy, remembered Jimmy with awe as he marvelled that although he had been born in Ireland and Jimmy was born here, he had never met anyone who had Jimmy’s keen understanding and remarkable knowledge of Ireland’s history and culture; and how his commitment to the Irish heritage and its people has and will continue to inpsire him.

The parade committee hosted an invitation-only Breakfast Reception at The Beach Club. It was attended by the honorees, their families, movers and shakers within the Irish community, as well as our elected officials who presented proclamations to our Grand Marshals. Among those in attendance were City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Councilman Joe Addabbo, Congressman Mark Weiner, Regent Dr. Geraldine D. Chapey, Democratic District Leaders Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey and Lew Simon. Perhaps the best quote came from Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer who proclaimed that although she was wearing green socks and a green Aran sweater, it just didn’t work! She’s still a "Pheffer!", but in her heart she’s Irish! Another highlight of the event was a special performance given by Broadway Entertainers Andrew Wise and Patrick Lynch who performed a mellifluous rendition of "I Will Take You Home Again Kathleen". Parade President Mike Benn introduced Mrs. Rosemary Sullivan who graciously congratulated Mr. Benn and stated that on behalf of her family and her son’s memory, she welcomed everyone to enjoy the day.

It was a profound honor for me to be able to march with the James Conway Sullivan parade banner, which led the parade. At one point, while marching along the parade route, Rosemary Murphy, Jimmy’s sister, said, "If Jimmy were with us today, he’d be so proud." And Mrs. Sullivan, who is such a remarkably strong lady, stated, "He is with us!", as she took out of her pocket a picture of Jimmy. It was his Local 608 card, of which he was so proud.

The spirit of the day could best be described by one of the kids who marched with The Saint Rose Parish Band. As the parade route ended at St. Rose, he exclaimed, "Let’s do it again!" It was certainly no wonder that the children of St. Rose of Lima received the James Conway Sullivan Spirit Award! Trophies also were awarded to Saint Camillus Special Olympics, Broad Channel Athletic Club, Beach Channel High School Marching Band, Co. Cork Marching Band, Eastern Long Island Fife and Drum, and the O’Malley Step Dancers. Barbara Morris and her staff at West End Realty won the "100 Club" 50/50.

The committee extends its gratitude to the business community and to all of you who continue to support Rockaway’s grandest day. On behalf of the committee and the Sullivan family, I extend my personal praise to Mike Benn for the Herculean effort he has made in keeping this extraordinary legacy and tradition alive!

*****Special thanks to Felicia Edwards, Howie Schwach, and Brian Magoolaghan of The Wave for the beautiful layout of last week’s parade edition.

*****They’re going to the chapel and they’re going to get married! Michael Benn Jr. of Rockaway Park and Kimberly Tobin of Broad Channel will marry on March 22nd! He is the son of Parade President Mike Benn and Christine Benn. She is the daughter of David and Ursula Tobin. Father Robert Hoatson will officiate the Nuptuals in a ceremony at Saint Rose.

*****Congratulations to Dr. Geraldine M. Chapey on her much deserved selection of N.Y.1’s New Yorker of the Week! Dr. Chapey was chosen for her extraordinary work on behalf of the Trinity Seniors in providing luxurious bus transportation for seniors to exciting destinations such as The Met, Ellis Island, MOMA, and shopping excursions. Dr. Chapey has done much to expand the quality of life for thousands of seniors who would ordinarily be home-bound without adaquate transportation off the peninsula.

*****Belated Happy Birthday wishes to John Pino, the "Good Son"!

*****Get well wishes to Kenneth Huhn. We look foward to seeing you son.

See you.....On the Beach!

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