When longtime colleague and friend Tim Laube told Michael Pitcher he needed help on a project, Pitcher willingly set aside some time for them to meet.
They planned to go over things on Sunday, a few days after Laube called, at 3 p.m.
When the meeting time rolled around, Pitcher got a phone call from Laube, who is also the chairman of the Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee.
“I said, ‘Where are you?’” Pitcher recalls. “He said, ‘Actually, I’m down at Kerrigan’s Pub in the village and the committee just named you grand marshal of the parade.’ I was completely floored. He totally sandbagged me.”
As grand marshal, Pitcher, 61, director of communications at the Suffolk County Legislature, will lead the Westhampton Beach St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which kicks off at noon on Saturday at Oneck Lane and Mill Road.
Afterward, Pitcher said he has been told it’s his duty to make rounds at every bar in town, and he’ll also stop at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars, and St. Mark’s Church for its annual corned beef and cabbage dinner.
“I really can’t wait for Saturday,” he said.
Pitcher said he considers leading the parade a great honor and is most looking forward to seeing so many friends on that day. He reminisced about his time as editor of “The Southampton Press,” when it would take him an hour to make the short walk from his Westhampton Beach office to the post office.
“Store owners would come outside and complain to me about a story we ran,” he said. “Or I’d get to the post office and people would pull me aside to tell me about whatever problems they were having. It was great.”
Pitcher worked for The Southampton Press’ western edition, originally called “The Hampton Chronicle-News,” for 28 years. He said he fell so deeply in love with the East End and with community journalism that at one time he turned down an offer to be a metro reporter for “The New York Times.”
Even after leaving community journalism for “the dark side,” which is what his newspaper friends call his transition into public relations, Pitcher’s commitment to the community only flourished.
Pitcher was a founding member of the board of directors of East End Hospice and currently serves as chairman of the board.
East End Hospice President Priscilla Ruffin said Pitcher has been an active and supportive board member, helping to raise funds and move along big projects like the hospice’s new in-patient facility in Quiogue, set to break ground this year.
She said he also completed volunteer training courses so he could serve as a family services volunteer visiting patients at home and providing their caretakers with some relief, and a counselor at Camp Good Grief, the East End Hospice-run bereavement camp for children.
“He’s a guy who feels good about his community and is very interested in the well being of people,” Ruffin said, adding that his hospice colleagues will be waving him on during the parade.
Laube, clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature, first worked with Pitcher at the “The Hampton Chronicle-News,” where Pitcher hired him as a reporter. In Pitcher grand marshal nomination letter, Laube said Pitcher was also being recognized for his work with the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, where he served on the board for about five years in the late 1970s.
In all of his ties to the community, Laube said Pitcher is a dedicated and giving individual.
“Michael epitomizes what it means to give back to your community,” he said. “Lots of people give money, goods, services, which is great -- but Michael gives up something that many people have trouble giving up, and that’s time.”
Pitcher, who grew up in East Norwich then lived in Eastport and Quogue before moving to Westhampton Beach two years ago, said he will be joined at the parade by his younger son Casey, 17. His elder son Quinn, 19, won’t be able to come home from school -- he attends Pitcher’s alma mater, Williams College in Massachusetts. Pitcher’s brother, John, will be able to come down from Maine to attend the parade.
“Everyone comes out for the parade,” Pitcher said. “It’s going to be great fun.”