As the calendar turned to March and heavy snow fell Sunday afternoon, the Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 7 forged ahead undaunted with the annual John P. Reilly Memorial East Islip St. Patrick’s Day parade.

For the parade's 50th anniversary, the Hibernians invited all surviving past grand marshals to participate as a unit. Among them was Jim Walsh, who recalled that when he was grand marshal in 1972, the weather was about 75 degrees, but that there has been all types of inclement weather through the years.

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This year’s grand marshal was Fr. Hugh Cannon of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in East Islip. One of his predecessors, Frank Lyons, who was grand marshal in 2000, arrived in the United States from Dublin in 1972 and attended the parade for the first time the following year.

“What really got me about that parade was that it was the first time we got to see the Vietnam veterans march, and that time was pretty turbulent, so it was an honor,” said Lyons, who serves as treasurer of the parade.  

The parade is named after John Reilly, another founder of Hibernians Division 7 and the grand marshal in 1976. Reilly was a U.S. Navy veteran and a longtime teacher at North Elementary School in Brentwood. He served as chairman of the parade for the first 41 years. Shortly before he died, he handed the reins to Dr. David Ring, president of the East Islip chapter of the Hibernians. Each year Reilly’s wife, Patricia, and daughter, Cathleen, march in the parade.

“I’ve spoken with people who have been going to the parade for more than 40 years,” Ring said. “They told me that it has snowed before the parade and after the parade, but it has never snowed like this during the parade. I think the 50th anniversary parade will be one of the most memorable.”