He's usually one who likes to comment on things. But when Emmett McCall received a telephone call last week from Noel Behan, Jim Thorpe restaurateur and one of the persons instrumental in the success of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in Jim Thorpe, the caller's inquiry, McCall admitted, left him speechless.
"Would you accept the honor of being our grand marshal," Behan asked the popular Irishman from Lansford and Carbon County's current recorder of deeds, now in his 11th year.
"Honored and humbled," McCall accepted, resulting in Behan and Hughie Dugan, co-chairmen of the 2011 event to be held on Sunday, March 13, announcing McCall's selection as the guest of honor for the 14th Annual Parade.
A brainchild of the Alec Campbell, Mauch Chunk Division 1, Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Carbon County Mollie Maguire Division 1, Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, the parade will step down Broadway in the county-seat community beginning at 1 p.m. with McCall at the helm.
"We're thrilled to have Emmett as our grand marshal, said Dugan, who, incidentally, was the grand marshal this year. "He truly exemplifies our AOH motto of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity."
There's no question about it, McCall possesses exactly what the parade committee looks for in selecting its keynote participant. The 71-year-old's life is underscored by service to his family, community, church and school. Similar to his latest honor, he has been recognized in the past for that kind of community spirit, as well as his Irish ancestry, most notably when he was named Irishman of the Year 20 years ago by the Panther Valley Irish-American Association, which in 1990 presented McCall its annual Shamrock Award.
"I think about it (his recent selection) every day, since I received the call from Noel, and I just can't believe it," he said. "It's a great honor to be selected to join the special people who shared the honor before me. When I look at the list of past grand marshals, I am humbled to be asked to join them."
Of course, McCall will tell you, "I'd rather give than receive," testimony of that having never been more prevalent than in 1989, when as a 51-year-old father, he gave a kidney to his son Terry.
When the PVIAA honor came less than a year later, McCall told the TIMES NEWS, "Last April 18 was the greatest moment of not only my life, but (his wife) Mary Ellen's, our boys, for my sisters and brother and my friends. It was something we'll never forget. To be picked for the Shamrock Award is probably something I'm never going to forget. I thank God every day for our family, and now I have to thank Him even more, because to be put in a class with prior recipients is just an honor that words cannot explain."
Now, 20 years later, in very much a comparable way, McCall is feeling those emotions again. He said, "I never missed any of the parades because they are special. But this time, coming down Broadway and seeing everyone is going to be a great day for me and my family. We have always been proud of our Irish ancestry. My mom and dad were both of Irish decent, so I'm sure when I look back at this time, I'll be thinking 'I wish they could see this, they'd be very proud.'"
About the marshal
Born Dec. 31, 1938, McCall is a son of the late Patrick and Helen (Shields) McCall.
He is married to the former Mary Ellen Sniscak, daughter of the late George and Helen Sniscak of Lansford. They observed their 50th wedding anniversary on Nov. 12.
They are the parents of five sons: Emmett Jr. of Lehighton; Michael of Summit Hill; Patrick of Lake Hauto; Terrance of Lansford; and Connell, deceased. They also have six grandchildren, Amanda, P.J., Riley, Madison, Darby and Avery.
A lifelong resident of Lansford, he has long been active in scholastic and civic initiatives, having served the Lansford Little League for eight years as a manager and coach; piloted the former St. Ann Parochial School basketball team for many years; and was a coach and officer in the Panther Valley Catholic Youth Organization for 35 years, during which time he was its secretary and president.
In 1973, McCall received the Allentown Diocese Bishop McShea Leadership Award for distinguished service.
A 1957 graduate of Marian High School, he continues to serve his Alma Mater as vice president of the Marian Hall of Fame Committee, which he helped establish in 2004. He has worked for the school for many years as a Men of Marian and Marian Alumni member, and played a principal role in its fundraising telethons.
McCall is a member of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church, Lansford, and the former St. Ann Catholic Church.
Besides receiving the Shamrock Award as "Irishman of the Year" in 1990, he has been active in the PVIAA for the past 25 years.
He is a charter member and vice president of Carbon County Area Sports Hall of Fame; formerly served as a captain of the Heart Drive in Lansford; and twice served as exalted ruler of the former Elks Lodge No. 1337, Lansford.
A member of the Carbon County Democratic Executive Committee, he is serving his third term as the Carbon County Recorder of Deeds.
McCall recently chaired the Carbon County campaign of the Citizens for Yudichak, the committee that helped John Yudichak get elected to the 14th Senatorial District position that includes parts of Carbon County.
He is one of seven children. His siblings including Grace Crane of Houston, Tex., Helen "Trudy" Feeney of Duluth, Ga., Geraldine Pendell of Chester, Va., and John of Miami, Fla. Two sisters, Patricia Melley and Sheila McCarthy, are deceased.
The traditional dinner honoring the grand marshal, his aides (yet to be announced) and members of the AOL and LAOH will be held on Saturday, March 5, at The Grand Ballroom of Kelly's Irish Pub, Lansford.