Joseph Kelly and Francis “Bud” Cosgrove met 40 years ago while competing in a 10k run in Rockville Centre, went out for a beer afterward and became instant friends.
They’ll be back together Saturday on the streets of Rockville Centre as grand marshals for the village’s 15th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“Being named grand marshal is wonderful,” the 72-year-old Cosgrove said. “And I am proud to walk alongside Joe. He is the salt of the earth.”
Kelly and Cosgrove got to work after resident and fellow co-founder David Crowe asked at a local gathering why Rockville Centre didn’t have a St. Patrick’s Day celebration. The conversation led to the founding of the Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Committee.
“Rockville Centre has a large Irish community, so it was the perfect place,” Cosgrove said. “Bishop John McGann discussed it with us, and we decided that we wouldn’t compete with Garden City and it must be on the Saturday after St. Patrick’s Day.”
Their diligence had led not just to community spirit, but more than $622,000 in donations over the last 14 years for 42 charities.
“I have learned a lot about charities being a part of the committee,” said Kelly, 68. “To be able to give a check and see someone so touched and grateful that they are brought to tears is a very emotional experience.”
Saturday will be memorable for Kelly, but perhaps not quite as emotional as his recollections of the parade’s second year.
“Steven McDonald [a Malverne resident and New York City Police Department detective who was left a quadriplegic after being shot in 1986] and New York City Fire Department Chaplain Mychal Judge [who died on 9/11] were the grand marshals,” said Kelly, who retired as an executive at Prudential Securities. “Their participation in the parade with a 38 degree temperature and rain is something I will always remember. Those two going down Maple Avenue stays with me.”
Village of Rockville Centre Mayor Mary W. Bossart feels Kelly and Cosgrove are excellent choices for grand marshals based on their dedication.
“Joe Kelly and Bud Cosgrove are excellent choices as co-honorees because, as founders of the parade, they led others in establishing a tradition that adds to the quality of community life in our village. Joe and Bud started the parade because of what it would mean to our residents – not for honors for themselves. They are both hardworking, charitable, family men who are great examples of the kind of residents living in Rockville Centre.”
The pair will wear tuxedos with tails, green bow ties and top hats. Kelly will go the parade with his wife, Dianne, his children Chris, Tara and Jill, and grandchildren. Cosgrove will be escorted by his wife, Suzie, his children Amy, Cindy, Katie, Michael, Danny and Brian and grandchildren.
The parade is the perfect opportunity to connect with the community, friends and family, said Cosgrove, a retired deputy commissioner of the Nassau County Parks and Recreation Department.
“To see children and family members come together and a sea of American and Irish flags is amazing,” he said.
The Rockville Centre St. Patrick's Day Parade starts at noon Saturday. Find all the information you need to know here.