If a parade’s grand marshal is supposed to exemplify the community, then the people of Miller Place and Rocky Point have a lot to live up to.
Cornelius Maguire, who will lead Sunday’s St. Patrick's Day parade, is a hard worker, a self starter, a go getter and a resilient spirit, according to his family and friends, who call him Neil.
“Neil would do anything for anyone,” said longtime friend and neighbor Frank Faivre. “He just does the kinds of things you wouldn’t expect anyone to do. He’ll blow the leaves off his driveway, and then he’ll do the whole neighborhood before anyone even wakes up.”
John Barchi, president of the Friends of St. Patrick’s parade committee, said Maguire’s willingness to take on any task and his work ethic are just two of the qualities that made the committee proud to choose him to lead the parade.
For the past 10 years, Maguire has led the queen committee and served as parade master of ceremonies. “He really puts in a lot of work,” Barchi said. “He is very conscientious about maintaining the traditions of the parade.”
Maguire, 57, grew up in Queens with seven brothers and one sister. In 1969, his father got a job on Long Island and moved the family to Port Jefferson. Maguire attended his first Rocky Point-Miller Place St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1970 and, except for a four-year stint working on an oil rig in Louisiana, he hasn’t missed one since.
That record includes the 2008 parade, when Maguire was battling testicular cancer.
Maguire’s wife, Eileen, said she remembers it was a cold, windy day and her husband wasn’t feeling well. He was having a bad reaction to his chemotherapy treatments, she said, but he insisted on staying for the entire parade.
“Everyone kept saying, ‘You don’t look good, Neil,’ and he didn’t look good at all,” she said. “He was hospitalized for 13 days after that, but he had a positive attitude throughout the whole day.”
Maguire, who’s been cancer free for a year and a half, has never been one to succumb to obstacles. And he’s a man who always pushing himself to do more.
When he returned home from Louisiana, Maguire wanted to put his newly learned carpentry skills to use. He thought it would be nice to own his own house, so he purchased an acre of land in Miller Place and built one.
Then he convinced his friends to do the same thing.
“We purchased the property together, put in this road and built all the houses,” Faivre said.
In 1992, Maguire was working as a tool and die maker when he became restless. One day, he was at the store buying milk and said to himself, “I wish I could get milk delivery.” So he did his research, founded the Bedrock Creamery and became a milkman.
Maguire said he starts his route at midnight and finishes about 7 a.m. He serves the area between Smithtown and Miller Place and says he has about 300 loyal customers. Maguire appreciates the solitude of working overnight and the stress-free environment.
“I really like what I do,” he said. “You have to like what you do for a living, that’s really important.”
Maguire said he is excited and honored to be the grand marshal of this year’s parade that begins at 1 p.m. Sunday. But he said, as usual, his favorite part of the parade will be when it’s over.
“It’s always amazing to me that we start working on this in October,” he said. “And then to see it all come together and work out, that’s great.”
Photo: Cornelius Maguire, of Miller Place, will lead Sunday’s Rocky Point-Miller Place St. Patrick's Day Parade.