Irish eyes were smiling on John Barchi last Sunday at the Miller Place-Rocky Point St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Barchi, who was last year’s grand marshal and a longtime leader of the Friends of St. Patrick in Miller Place and Rocky Point, died six days before the 2017 parade at age 60 after a two-and-a-half year battle with colon cancer.
His spirit was very much alive at the 67th annual parade with that stepped off on Harrison Avenue in Miller Place and ended on Broadway in Rocky Point, close to a former bar called Gracie’s Hearty Foods & Spirits that Barchi used to run with his brother, Jim.
The Kerrey Kearney Band used to play in the parking lot of Gracie’s after the parade, and on Sunday, it paid tribute to Barchi during a performance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Rocky Point by auctioning off a black Regal guitar that raised funds for cancer research.
“It means so much to come here and do this for him,” said the band’s leader, Kerrey Kearney, who was a longtime friend of Barchi and performed at his wake, held at Rocky Point Funeral Home on March 8.
Barchi, a longtime Port Jefferson resident, worked as an art director in Manhattan before co-owning Gracie’s. He was an active volunteer as a member of the Rocky Point Civic Association, Rocky Point Historical Society and the Brookhaven Business Community Alliance.
“He was a caring and giving person and a great storyteller,” said Walter Colleran, Friends of St. Patrick’s vice president and parade chairman. “He made you laugh and he made you feel comfortable.”
Many parade participants donned memorial pins that Barchi designed with his sister in 2009 after the death of Friends of St. Patrick member Richard McCarick, whose brothers Kevin and Hugh were master of ceremonies Sunday. The pins are proudly worn by Friends of St. Patrick members to honor past contributors like Barchi who made a difference in the community.
“John was a spark plug in our organization from the moment he came in,” said Kevin McCarick. ‘He brought our organization and parade to a whole new level.”
Kearney said he will forever be grateful for Barchi’s friendship and loyalty to his band. Barchi’s passing less than week before the big event did not dampen the band’s spirit, who felt his presence in the room.
“He is with us,” said Kearney. “I can see him now smiling like he always did.”