The Shamrock Club of New Dublin have announced that the Irish Rose and Irish Man of 2014 are Carrie and Larry Katerzynske.
The two are anxious to see the Grand Parade, which begins at 1 pm Saturday, March 22. This is the 30th anniversary of this gigantic parade.
In 1986, Mike Coyle pulled Carrie (Palmer) Jones into a parade and encouraged her to cry. Yes, cry. She was to be a mourner in Finnegan’s Wake, a satire of huge proportion.
In the early 1990s, Alice Lawton invited Carrie to join the Shamrock Club. She took her up on it. Shortly after that, Larry Katerzynske would enter her life and come to be her partner in all things Irish.
Larry Katerzynske and his childhood friend, the late Bill Wyse, grew up in Princeton, WI. After graduating college, they went their separate ways. Wyse eventually settled in New London, becoming a well-liked advertising salesman. Katerzynske, the chief information officer for Sturm Foods, had no idea that Wyse lived so near Waupaca, the place Larry called home. In the late 1980s, being in the right place at the right time, they were reunited. Wyse invited Katerzynske to join in the fun of Finnegan’s Wake. Katerzynske watched as the mourners arrived at Pup’s Pub in Northport, with Wyse driving the wacked out green hearse.
The Katerzynske’s can hardly claim their last name originates in County Clare, Ireland.
“I’m Irish by marriage,” stated Larry. “That’s my story.”
Carrie’s great, great grandparents both came from Ireland. She had an interest in traveling to Ireland to experience the culture and countryside. The Katerzynske’s could travel inexpensively in the early 2000s. Deals like a $300 round trip airfare made it easy to decide where to go on vacation.
“We fell in love with Ireland,” says Larry. “Bill was with us on the first trip. He loved it so much that two weeks after we came home he found an even better deal and he went again,” said Larry.
“We’ve gone 10 times now,” says Carrie. “We’ve seen things change quite a bit over the years. Since 2008, the unemployment rate has been over 12 percent. There is a big, big difference in the economy. So many large corporations pulled out and went elsewhere in Europe. Their economy is just now starting to recover, but we have always found it hospitable and with so many interesting things to do.”
The Katerzynske’s gravitate to the west side of Ireland, near the ocean. “We love the coast, the landscape of rocks, the many small towns,” shares Larry. “The world’s largest exposed limestone formation (the Burren) is also on the west coast of Ireland.”
“This year, we saw snow on the 12 bens of the Comemara Mountains. That’s new to us,” he says as he shares a picture of the mountain on his phone.
As the couple returned often, they forged new friendships with Tony and Majella O’Brien and John and Betty Grimes, residents of Killaloe. This small city is located on the river Shannon in the southeast of County Clare. These folks are very hospitable as is nearly every Irish citizen they converse with. The O’Brien family is quintessential. They offer the best of everything to you, right down to their own home.
Larry says the food is wonderful. The Irish really do love their potatoes. They might serve two kinds of potatoes with an entrée, such as mashed potatoes and also French fries. Stews are hearty. All soups are pureed and flavorful. The Katerzynske’s particularly enjoy their heavy brown bread.
“This entire Irish experience in our lives is a gift to us,” explains Carrie. “That is why we love to be involved in the entire week of Irish events around New Dublin. To see how the Shamrock Club is able to give back to this community is the real payoff for the work we do.”
“Since 2008 alone, the club has donated nearly $100,000 back to various local groups,” Larry figured.
The two explained that club members work in committees to pull off the weeklong schedule. “The whole thing happens like clockwork. I don’t mean to say we’re so precise,” she explained, “I just mean everyone knows their jobs so well that it all comes together.”
Larry nodded his head as she relayed her message. “Reliable people get it done.”
An additional project the club took on this year was to create a dignitary float. “It’s sometimes been hard to obtain enough convertibles for the parade,” said Carrie. This new idea eliminates the need for so many in the parade line up.
It’s a shame not to enjoy those beautiful vehicles, but let’s face it, sometimes the weather gets in the way,” says Larry. “Our new dignitary float seats 16 and it’s looking good.”
The couple is honored that they will be part of the parade and look forward to seeing it in its entirety. Both work far behind the scenes every year, and this is the first time they’ll be able to experience the whole thing.
“When the parade is all over and the tent is closing, we’ll see how royal we are when someone sticks a broom in our hands,” says Larry with a knowing chuckle.