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AOH/LAOH kick off Irish ancestry celebrations

  • Charles E. Wildoner
    Charles E. Wildoner
Published March 10. 2017 09:45PM

A weekend celebrating the Irish heritage kicked off Friday night at Dean Anthony's Banquet Hall, Jim Thorpe, where the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Alec Campbell Division 1, Carbon County, and the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, Mollie Maguire Division 1, Carbon County, held their traditional Grand Marshal Dinner, a prelude to the county's parade in the county-seat community.

Charles E. Wildoner, retired Carbon County commissioner and Jim Thorpe businessman and banker, was the guest of honor. The 91-year-old grand marshal was adorned with his Irish and escorted to the podium by a bagpiper, after which time he offered remarks on his role in leading the 20th annual parade.

"It's quite an honor, I'm excited about it. What boggles my mind, all of these Irishmen are on this committee, they can't find an Irishman to be the grand marshal. They have to use me, and I'm a German," Wildoner said with a laugh.

"It's the 20th anniversary, and I've watched every parade, never missed one. Now I'm going to lead the parade, it'll be a different perspective."

Wildoner was joined by four aides to the grand marshal who were selected by the AOH and LAOH. They include Carol Coll, Judy Nederostek, Ryan Lee and Shawn Kresge.

The marshal and his aides will lead Division 1 of the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade, beginning at 1 p.m. Sundayin upper Broadway, Jim Thorpe. The event, which attracts thousands of viewers, is Carbon County's largest tribute to Irish ancestry and heritage and is typically held on the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day.

The official sponsor of the parade is the St. Patrick's Day Parade Committee of Jim Thorpe, a spinoff of the Hibernian organizations.

"Everyone looks forward to the annual parade, but many are unaware of what goes into it," said Ron Sheehan, a founder of the parade who carries the title "chairman emeritus."

He added, "It's not just the planning of the parade that commands our time and attention, but the Grand Marshal Dinner and a Mass honoring St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland."

The Mass will take place at 4:30 this afternoon in Immaculate Conception Catholic Church on Broadway in Jim Thorpe.

Sheehan said hosting the parade is a huge expense to the sponsoring organization, totaling $31,832. Included in those costs are $11,550 in entertainment for the parade lineup, $5,000 paid to Jim Thorpe Borough for police services, and $5,000 in program printing costs.

Other expenses go toward sashes and plaques for the honorees, insurance, administration, donations, transportation, the dinner and miscellaneous costs.

The 2017 program is dedicated this year to Law Enforcement Agencies, Sheehan said.

Among the participants in last night's dinner program were officers of the AOH, including Donald Riley, president; Daniel Evans, vice president; Michael Brennan, recording secretary; Hugh Dugan, financial secretary; Noel Behan, treasurer; John Barry, sentinel; Edward Coll, marshal; Robert Lee, historian; Sheehan, standing committee; and Monsignor John Chizmar, chaplain.

Members of the LAOH who participated included Mary Figura, president; Peggy Sue O'Donnell, vice president; Sharon Choley, recording secretary; Kathleen Arner, financial secretary; Bernadette McGinley, treasurer; Bernadette Behan, historian; Kay Carroll, Catholic Action chairwoman; Mary Kay Malaska, Missions/Charities; Rita O'Donnell, mistress-at-arms; Kathy Arner, Office of Correspondence; and Molly Ebbert, Freedom for All Ireland/Immigration and Legislation chairwoman.

Hugh Dugan and Noel Behan are the parade committee co-chairmen.

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