For the first time since it was formed 53 years ago, the Sons and Daughters of Erin chose both an Irish "Man of the Year" and an Irish "Woman of the Year" at the annual banquet.
More than 250 people turned out for the Wednesday event, which is the unofficial kick-off for the St. Patrick's Day celebration in Springfield. The benevolent association has picked a man of the year every year except for last year and in 1974 when only a woman of the year was selected.This year Jean Moody and John Patrick "Pat" Kelly were honored by the association.
Last year's winner was Norene Davlin, and the 1974 honoree was Sister Mary Patrick O'Brien.
The board of directors of the Sons and Daughters of Erin picks the honorees each year based on their contributions to the community.
"The Irish Claddagh portrays two hands clasping a heart under a crown. These symbolize love, loyalty and friendship - all the traits our Irish Woman of the Year possesses," Norene Davlin said as she introduced this year's recipient, Moody.
Moody, said Davlin, was born a coal miner's daughter, and she grew up during the Depression and learned that with hard work and determination she could overcome any obstacle.
"She met her future husband on a blind date at Bana's," Davlin said. "They married on March 15, 1952, in an Irish celebration like no other, complete with green beer."
Moody's husband is the late James J. Moody. He was one of the founders of the Sons and Daughters of Erin and was himself Irish "Man of the Year" in 1989.
Paul O'Shea, who held the title in 2002, introduced this year's honoree. This year's winner was the youngest of eight, and aside from a brother who passed away as an infant, the only boy, related O'Shea.
"Legend has it that he was fully 8 years old before his feet ever touched the floor," O'Shea said.
Kelly, who is retired, spends his time spoiling his 13 grandchildren and scouting the area for good chili, O'Shea said. Kelly's daughter and son-in-law opened a bar last year - on St. Patrick's Day - named J.P. Kelly's in his honor.
"In closing, it seems only fitting that our Irish 'Man of the Year' has recently had a local public house or 'pub' named in his honor. The place is a little like him - fun but not fancy, a little wild at times, always with a focus on friend, family and human connections that make us what we are - Irish," O'Shea said.
The grand marshal for the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade is also named and introduced at the banquet. This year's grand marshal is Butch Elzea. Elzea is the driving force behind Southwind Park, a play area and park designed to be totally accessible for the handicapped.
More on the web:
On the Sons and Daughters of Erin
On the St. Patrick's Day parade
Kathleen Ostrander can be reached at 747-1296.
Story published Thursday, March 12, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 2 )