Betty McLoughlin loves to dance.
So much so that the Irish native moved from Philadelphia to New York in 1963 in part because there were more dance halls here. McLoughlin, 66, settled in Bayside with her husband, Jim, and began raising a family.
Twenty years later - as the Irish dance halls in her neighborhood began to close - she and her husband began driving to Mineola to attend dances at the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk and Queens.
“We loved to dance,” McLoughlin said. “We used to come to every dance we could until my husband got ill.”
When Jim McLoughlin passed away in 2005, Betty McLoughlin took a more active role in the Irish American Society - one which she is being honored for this weekend as grand marshal of the Garden City-Mineola St. Patrick’s Day parade.
McLoughlin became an active fundraiser and organizer for the society, served on the board of directors, and for the two years served as president.
“It’s an honor and a privilege,” McLoughlin said. “It has been wonderful, every single day.”
Tony Jackson, 69, who served as president of the organization in 1985 and 1986, said McLoughlin was a driven and dedicated president.
“Impossible is not in the vocabulary of Betty McLoughlin,” he said. “No task is too hard.”
During McLoughlin’s presidency, she oversaw a major renovation of the Irish American Society building on Willis Avenue in Mineola, including a ceiling and lighting system inside a completely refurbished exterior, Jackson said.
“She was able to put a committee together and get this renovation done in the last 14 months or so,” he said. “She did a beautiful renovation of the building during very hard economic times.”
Aileen Scott, a bookkeeper at the Irish American Society and one of McLoughlin’s four aides for the parade, said McLoughlin has a “phenomenal” talent for fundraising. She has also continued to keep a special focus on dance.
She said McLoughlin took great care in making the annual Inis Fada Feis, an Irish dance competition, a success last year and also resurrected the Miss Irish America Pageant.
She said McLoughlin is also very proud of her roots. She is from Glenamoy, located in northwestern Ireland’s County Mayo, and does what she can to encourage the celebration of Irish heritage in the younger generation.
“What she’s trying to do is to reach out to young people and to celebrate our culture across all generations,” Scott said. “She was chosen because with her work with the Irish dancers and with keeping the center viable.”
Four aides will be honored along with McLoughlin on Sunday: Scott, of Williston Park; Mary Coyne, of Woodside; Sean Treanor, of Mineola; and Jeff Clark, of Mineola.
The 62nd Annual Garden City-Mineola St. Patrick’s Day Parade will kick off at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The route begins on County Seat Drive south of Old Country Road in Mineola.
McLoughlin said she’s especially excited to be chosen as grand marshal the first year the parade has been moved to Mineola. In the past, the parade route was entirely in Garden City and this year it will end less than a block away from the Irish American Society.
“And this year and it just happens to be the year I’m grand marshal,” she said. “I’m overjoyed with the whole thing.”
Photo caption: Betty McLoughlin, 66, of Bayside, Queens, receives her grand marshal sash at an Irish American Society dance in Mineola. Her children Francis, Breda and Seamus celebrated with her.