By Ron Leir
It’s almost time to get out the green.
Yes, the United Irish Associations of West Hudson will again sponsor the 39th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11 and Harrison Councilman Laurence Bennett will be leading the way as this year’s grand marshal.
“It’s a great honor to be chosen grand marshal,” Bennett said. “It’s important that we continue this parade and to make sure our younger people appreciate what our heritage means to this country. The Irish helped build our country. And we still have a lot of local Irish – and Scots – living here in West Hudson.”
Michael O’Donnell, a decorated East Newark police officer, will be the deputy grand marshal. “Unbelievable! It’s a great honor, growing up in town, to march in this parade,” he said.
Of Bennett’s selection as grand marshal, Quinn said: “Larry’s very deserving. I’ve known Larry about 30 years and he’s always been a guy who’s wanted to help people. Aside from his impressive resume, he also does a lot of things people don’t know about.”
This much is known: Bennett’s family owned and operated the Dairy Delight on Harrison Ave. Bennett recently retired as a supervisor from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission. Since 2008 he has been a Third Ward Councilman in Harrison and, as recreation chairman, he helped secure lights for the Little League field. Bennett has served on the Planning Board, the Housing Authority and the Board of Adjustment.
Bennett has volunteered for the Harrison/East Newark Elks, serving currently as Exalted Ruler and chairing the Thanksgiving Day Meals on Wheels program, aided by the Knights of Columbus; and the Harrison Lions Club which has provided glasses to the needy and eye readers to the Public Library and Senior Center.
After the death of his son from an asthma attack at age 18, Bennett led a campaign to bring a paramedic unit near West Hudson Hospital, Kearny. He has chaired the Harrison/East Newark Drug Awareness and National Night-Out Committee. He has served the Volunteer Harrison Medical Reserve and Harrison Office of Emergency Management. A past president of the Holy Name Society, Bennett served on the board of directors of Pathways to Independence.
Larry and Rosemary Long Bennett have been married for 24 years. They have a daughter, Elizabeth; their son, Larry Jr., is greatly missed. Dep. Grand Marshal Michael O’Donnell, a Kearny High School alumnus, began his career in law enforcement in 1999 as a state correctional officer. In 2005 he joined the East Newark Police Dept. for whom he served as the DARE officer. He received the Hometown Hero/Police Officer of the Year award from the Harrison/East Newark Elks lodge and he was recognized by Kearny Police Chief John Dowie for his arrest of armed robbery suspects.
For the past six years, O’Donnell coached Pop Warner Football. In 2009 and 2010 he coached the Junior team to the Pop Warner League Super Bowl. He also coaches Little League baseball and, most recently, he coached his Little League team to an undefeated season.
As a member of the Harrison/ East Newark Elks, O’Donnell helps his father-in-law Terry Gilmore cater the Harrison Senior Citizens St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas parties.
Michael and Donna Gilmore O’Donnell have five children: Christina, Briana, Amber, Michael and Haley.
On March 11, a “Peace in Ireland” Mass will be offered at noon at Holy Cross Church, Harrison Ave. and Frank Rodgers Blvd., with the Rev. Michael Ward, pastor of St. Cecilia’s Church, Kearny, officiating. And the Irish flag will be raised.
Then, at 2 p.m., the parade begins. More than 1,000 marchers are expected to turn out for what UIA of West Hudson President Kevin Quinn predicts will be “one of the largest since our beginning in 1973.”
“With over 50 marching units taking part, the parade has been expanded (from four) to five divisions,” said Quinn.
Among the groups confirmed to march are the Color Guard of the West Hudson Marine Corps League, the St. Columcille United Gaelic Pipe Band, the Hudson County Police and Fire Pipes & Drums, the Kearny High School Band, Friends of Erin, Military Transport Association of Northern N.J., Hudson County Sheriff’s Dept., Monmouth County Police Pipe Band, WCBS 101.1 FM, Cifelli Association, Ragtimers Band, East Newark Volunteer Fire Dept., Harrison/East Newark Elks, Newark Bears Baseball Organization, Irish American Cluba and Knights of Columbus. Kearny High School will also send a float whose theme will reflect the musical, “Little Shop of Horrors,” sponsored by Teen Drama, which students will perform March 22-24 at the high school.
Returning to the parade is Miss New Jersey 2011, Kathryn Nicolle, who marched in 2008 when she was chosen Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen.
And the U.S. Navy Submarine School Silver Dolphin Drill Team will also be part of the mix. The Silver Dolphins are active sailors training to be submariners at the Navy Submarine School in Groton, Conn.
The march, which proceeds through Harrison, East Newark and Kearny, starts at Third St. and Harrison Ave., proceeds on Frank Rodgers Blvd., then to Central Ave., then Second St., then Sherman Ave., back to Frank Rodgers Blvd., then over the bridge to Kearny Ave., ending at the reviewing stand in front of Kearny Town Hall at Quincy Ave.
Michael Conlon is parade adjutant.
After the parade ends, marchers will disperse to events sponsored by members of the UIA.