For the first time in the 23-year history of the Bayport-Blue Point St. Patrick’s Day parade, the grand marshal was not among those in green leading the procession down Montauk Highway.
The 2013 parade was marched in memory of Doug Monsell, a Bayport-Blue Point High School teacher who was posthumously honored as its grand marshal, and was led by his wife, Lauren, and daughters Jenna, 14, and Karli, 10.
As the Monsell family moved along the parade route, people cheered them on and screamed their names, along with cheers for "Doug."
“What I hope for today, is for my girls to take it all in,” Lauren Monsell said. “It’s really all about their dad.”
The Bayport-Blue Point Chamber of Commerce by unanimous vote gave the honor posthumously after a suggestion by one of his former students. He is the first grand marshal to be given the title posthumously.
Last year, Monsell died of liver disease at age 47. He grew up in Bayport and graduated from Bayport-Blue Point High School before eventually returning to teach business there, according to his grand marshal biography prepared by members of the Chamber of Commerce.
As a business teacher, Monsell, who was also a member of the chamber, created a “Shadow Day” program in which students spent a day with local business owners. He also coached junior varsity boys golf and junior varsity and varsity girls golf at the high school.
It was always his dream to be grand marshal in this parade, Lauren Monsell said. She said her husband was involved with the parade for most of his life in different capacities. From year to year, he would help his friend Karl Auwaerter, from the Bayport Flower House, give out yellow daffodils to everyone at the parade.
Auwaerter said they handed out about 3,000 flowers to the people along the parade route. This year, the florist’s float stood as one of many memorials to Monsell. It was adorned with a picture of Monsell -- handing out flowers at last year’s parade.
“It’s quite incredible really,” Lauren Monsell said as she was walking in the parade with her husband's portrait, a large one draped in a grand marshal sash. “It is going to be quite emotional when I round that bend up there holding his picture.”
Chris Cavanaugh, parade chairman, said Monsell was the kind of man who got 30 hours of work done in a 24-hour day.
“We are very happy to do it for him and all the work he did in the community,” he said. “We miss him.”
Chandler Verone, 17, a senior at Bayport-Blue Point High School, first introduced the idea to the Chamber of Commerce to honor Monsell as grand marshal. Verone first had Monsell as a teacher during his freshman year and was a member of the Distributive Education Clubs of America, which Monsell founded and advised.
For his Eagle Scout badge, Verone built a memorial patio outside his high school, each brick dedicated to Monsell with a message from a student or community member. It was unveiled in the fall.
“He could get anything accomplished, his demeanor and attitude just inspired me,” Verone said. “He was my mentor, I learned a lot about him.”
Monsell’s presence shined through at the parade despite his absence. Among those present, students, family and friends wore the same green shirt with the message “Everyone is a Monsell.”
“This is the way to honor Doug and his memory because he did so much for the community,” said Steve Klinzing, who is the president of the Chamber of Commerce and counted Monsell as a close friend. “This is more than he would ever ask for, he would never have dreamed of being honored like this.”