2004-02-27 / Columnists

On The Beach

With Beverly Baxter
For Now, A Spot For James Conway Sullivan
On The Beach With Beverly Baxter For Now, A Spot For James Conway Sullivan

With Beverly Baxter
For Now, A Spot For James Conway Sullivan

What’s in a name?

One of the most profound ways in which we memorialize the life of one who has had an enduring impact is in the form of a dedication in their memory. We attach a particular cause, philanthropy, academic institution, etc...; an entity that most memorializes and personifies the culmination and es sence of one’s entire life’s work and pas sion. We do this with the dedication of buildings, universities, and lib rar ies. We set up Foundations in their name that endow scientific research, the construction of hospital wings, cultural centers, parks, golf-outings, marathons, fraternal organizations, to airports, bridges, and street-names.

Locally, during the past two and a half years, our Community Planning Board, through its Ad Hoc Memorial Committee chaired by Zandra Myers, has had the daunting task of renaming many streets around our town for those whom, through the work of their lives, have made a significant contribution on our community.

Today, thanks to the commitment ofA0Community Planning Board 14, Zand ra Myers, Councilman Joe Addabbo and so many others, James Conway Sul livan Blvd. will be unveiled and he will deservingly take his place among those whose memory will endure.

Perhaps it all began when his mother gave him that name: James Conway Sullivan. It seems from that moment on he was destined to wear those three names like a tri-color scepter. Al though he was not born in Ireland, he had an unremitting passion for his heritage and the advancement of the Irish cause. Whether it was his participation in the protest for the release of Joe Doherty, the hunger strike of Bob by Sands, organizingA0 fundraisers for Northern Aid, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (of which he served for a num ber of years as President); the mounting of political campaigns, or even rallies in defense of the First Amendment when a local newspaper and its Publisher, a fellow Irishman, was sued for libel; to the use of his position on the school boardA0 to change the inequitable hiring practices of the day to provide to the Irish more access to jobs for which they were qualified. He used his position to help uplift the Irish community. Although he merely did what many in higher positions of power do, he paid dearly for doing so; however, there are literally hundreds of Irish Americans and Irish born who are to this day receiving a comfortable pension due to the access that he provided. Yet, when he fell from grace, many of them fell away.

Jimmy is being memorialized here today, in the town he loved so well, for his greatest legacy of all: The Saint Patrick’s Day Parade which he founded and bequeathed to the people he lov ed so much: the Irish! Now celebrat ing its twenty-ninth year, it continues to boast the distinguished position of being the second largest parade in New York State honoring the Patron Saint of Ireland.

For Jimmy, it was just as much a celebration of the Irish people themselves and their accomplishments and triumphs over such fierce adversities. Through his love of words, his wit and eloquence, he never tired of engaging in passionate dialogue and debate or singing to his favorite rebel songs... and even if you weren’t.

He took us all along on his magic carpet ride where we went with him to extraordinary places like the White House, Gracie Mansion, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to concert halls to hear the Wolftones and Paddy Reilly, the plays of Irish Playwrights. And along with him... through the streets of Rockaway in his glorious parade. I extend my personal gratitude again to those who acknowledge Jimmy’s con tinued relevance to the Irish community as well as their willingness to exclaim this mark he made with the marking of a portion of the parade route in his honor. God Bless.

***See you...on James Conway Sul livan Blvd. today, Saturday, at 12 noon!

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