Peggy Sue O'Donnell
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Peggy Sue O'Donnell, grand marshal of the 2013 St. Patty's Day Parade, stands near photos of her grandson, Cadden (with hat), and her great-nephew, Carter Reis, with a photo of All American Jim Thorpe in background.
The 16th Annual Carbon County St. Patrick's Day Parade, sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Alec Campbell Division 1, Carbon County, and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Mollie Maguire Division 1, Carbon County, will take place along Broadway in Jim Thorpe starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, March 10.
The parade committee has selected Jim Thorpe resident Margaret Susan "Peggy Sue" O'Donnell to serve as grand marshal of the event.
"We are very pleased with our selection of the grand marshal and aides for this year's parade," said Ronald J. Sheehan, parade chairman emeritus. "Not only do we honor Peggy Sue for her contributions to her community, her devotion to her religion and her pride in her Irish heritage, but we also honor the O'Donnell family for carrying these same traits."
Aides to the grand marshal will be her two brothers and two cousins (see related story).
In addition to honoring St. Patrick, the parade, which will be held rain or shine, has become a huge draw for the residents of Carbon County to celebrate their Irish heritage and reunite with loved ones and old friends. The parade will follow the same route as in past years starting at the upper end of West Broadway and ending at the county parking lot, a downhill route that showcases the natural scenic beauty and unique history of Carbon County.
"I am honored for the honor," said Peggy Sue, a cancer survivor. "It was so ironic. I had just gotten back home from my treatment (chemotherapy) and I was pretty down emotionally. The telephone rang and it was Mr. (Hugh) Dugan. I used to be on the parade committee and I really thought he was calling because he needed help with that. I was prepared to tell him that I couldn't because of my health.
"But when he and Mr. (Noel) Behan asked me to be the grand marshal, I got choked up. I was just so overwhelmed. I was so humbled by their telephone call, I'm not sure I even said yes. After we hung up, I thought about what a wonderful honor it is to be selected. I am really appreciative."
About the grand marshal
Born Jan. 28, 1959, Peggy Sue is a daughter of the late Francis and Margaret C. "Margie" (Cadden) O'Donnell and is a lifelong resident of Jim Thorpe.
She attended Immaculate Conception Parochial School, Jim Thorpe, and graduated in 1977 from Marian High School, Hometown. She attended Kutztown University, where she studied special education.
Peggy Sue worked in the microfilm department in the Carbon County Courthouse, Jim Thorpe, throughout high school and college. For the past 28 years, she has been a package car driver for the United Parcel Service. She has received many citations for safe driving, a great feat since she delivers packages to all of the businesses on Broadway and Race Street in Jim Thorpe. As her customers (and their dogs) will attest, Peggy Sue is the face of UPS in Jim Thorpe, and her friendly and outgoing personality are great attributes to this local ambassador in brown.
She is a member of Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Jim Thorpe.
She is a charter member of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Molly Maguire Division 1, Carbon County, and served as its president from 2008-2009. She also held other officer positions and in 2003 was an aide to Grand Marshal John J. Mulligan in the St. Patrick's Day Parade. She previously served on the parade committee.
An outstanding athlete, she was inducted into the Marian High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. She was the starting point guard on Elsie Tolan's Fillies basketball team for four years (1973-77) and went on to score 786 points. Although no statistics were kept then on assists, players and coaches believe she is among the Fillie career leaders in that category, having played with two 2,000-point scorers and two 1,000-point scorers.
She was the MVP of the 1976-77 Schuylkill League Senior All Star Game and received the Thaddeus Kosciolek Memorial Award as the school's most dedicated female basketball player. While at Marian, she pitched and played shortstop on the softball team. She also played flag football.
Her love for sports carried over to her adult life as she became a PIAA basketball official, refereeing for 15 years until work commitments forced her to hang up the stripes and whistle. She coached the St. Joe's Hammers junior high and Jim Thorpe Junior High girls' basketball teams, as well as the Jim Thorpe Girls' Summer Softball team. She was a member of the Carbon County Women's Softball and Volleyball leagues.
Her "Fighting Irish spirit" helped carry her through a bout with cancer. Diagnosed in July, 2012, she felt it was the continuous prayers and support of friends and family that were the best and most important medicine. Her illness brought together a community in a way no one could have imagined. She may have lost her voice, but she didn't lose her spirit.
The third of four children, she is the sister of Francis "Dubber," Michael and the late Lori O'Donnell.
She has a daughter Keri, wife of Jeremy LaClair; and a grandson, Cadden Philip LaClair.
The 2013 parade is dedicated to the Down Syndrome Foundation and Special Olympics organizations in the area. The dinner program book will be in memory of Bettianne O'Donnell, a cousin of the grand marshal, and in honor of Ryan Lee and Tony Taylor.
The Grand Marshal's Dinner is scheduled for Friday, March 8, at the Mahoning Valley Country Club, Lehighton, beginning with a social at 6 p.m. and followed by the dinner and program at 7 o'clock and entertainment by George McDonald and The Shantations. For tickets, contact Noel Behan, (570) 325-8056, Ron Sheehan, (570) 325-4244, or Hugh Dugan, (570) 325-3359.
The St. Patrick's Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, March 9, at 4:30 p.m. in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Broadway in Jim Thorpe
The deadline for parade participant registration is March 1. Groups can register online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To advertise or place a congratulatory message in the dinner program, contact Bernadette Behan, (570) 325-8056. The deadline for advertising is Feb. 22.
The members of the parade committee would like to remind spectators and those attending private parties along the parade route to respect the parade by not interfering with the parade or any of its participants.
All information concerning the parade can be found on the official parade website: www.carbonstpatricksparade.com.