The Rockland County St. Patrick’s Day aims to keep tradition going, as its slogan says, and Matt Reilly thinks the parade does more than enough to keep it alive.
“It helps me to remember where I came from,” said the Northern Ireland-born Blauvelt resident. “There’s Irish dancing and music and just everyone is out having a good time.”
Reilly was born in Drumanymore, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He remembers celebrating St. Patrick’s Day back home from his youth.
“It’s a very, very big family day there,” he said. “It’s also a big church holiday. Everybody goes to church in the morning, goes out in afternoon with their families to sports or other festivities in towns. Everyone wears an Irish shamrock on their lapel. It’s absolutely one of the biggest days in Ireland each year.”
Reilly moved to America in 1962 and eventually got a job with the New York City Transit Authority. He moved to Blauvelt in 1968 and shortly after changed his membership from an Ancient Order of Hibernians chapter in Inwood, N.Y. to a new one in South Orangetown.
After years of working with the organization, as well as many others in the community, Reilly has been named Rockland County Hibernian of the Year for this year.
“It definitely gives one a great lift in life,” he said. “That so many in your life would be so thoughtful to give you that honor is great. When my name was put forward for consideration, I never thought I would win.”
Reilly was nominated for Hibernian of the Year by Tom Leavey, chairman of the Blauvelt AOH division and . Reilly will also march in Sunday’s Rockland County St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Pearl River, which he’s done since moving to Rockland.
“I remember when it used to be very short, maybe 20 minutes, a half hour or just 40 minutes tops. We used to bring kids and wife over to enjoy activities, and the parade used to switch towns before settling in Pearl River,” he said. “It’s grown into this huge event each year. It’s really a great day.”
Reilly still likes when his four daughters come to the parade or just to see him, and he likes it even more when he gets to see his nine grandchildren.
“I like to see them come around as often as they can so I can have a ball with the grandkids,” he said.
In his time in Rockland, Reilly has been involved with Rockland County Feis, Rockland County Pipe Band and Rockland Irish American Cultural Center. He was voted as an Aide to the Grand Marshal of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1974, Grand Marshal of the Rockland County St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1974, Rockland County AOH Presidents Award in 1999.