New Dubliners honored
Shamrock Club hosts Irish entertainment
By Scott Bellile
The Shamrock Club of New Dublin put the spotlight on a number of community members at Irish Entertainment Night.
The following are highlights from this year’s annual program, held at New London High School on Thursday, March 16.
Irish Man Jerome O’Neil
Shamrock Club member Judy McDaniel planted kisses upon the Irish Man in introducing Jerome O’Neil, whom she nominated him for this year’s distinction.
For 27 years, O’Neil has dressed as a leprechaun to change New London’s welcome signs to “New Dublin” each Monday during St. Pat’s week. He and his co-leprechauns also entertain at schools and nursing homes that day.
Born and raised in New London, O’Neil now lives in Appleton. He and his family have participated in every New Dublin Grand Parade but one, when his sister Patricia died in 2009.
O’Neil thanked to his friends and family for his honor, and “most of all, to my wife Denise for putting up with me during St. Pat’s week, and to my parents, Lester and Dorothy O’Neil. I hope they’re looking down on me and I hope they are very proud of me.”
Irish Rose Jill Hart
Jill Hart’s daughter Mollie Ritchie provided Hart’s back story: Hart’s great-great-grandmother Mary Lamb was born in Ireland in the mid-1800s and immigrated to the United States with husband William Marshall. They settled in New Jersey. About 120 years later in the 1960s, Hart was born in New London.
“Although Jill wasn’t born in Ireland, Ireland was definitely born in her,” Ritchie said.
“Like a good Irish woman, Jill is loyal. Her strong convictions and unshakable beliefs are the most visible when it comes to her family and friends. If somebody insults her family or friends then they have likely got a fight on their hands that they won’t win. She’s fiercely loyal to all she holds dear.”
Ritchie said Hart’s fierce loyalty extends to the Shamrock Club, in which she’s been involved for 27 years. Hart coordinates the annual parade, arranges for the downtown streets to be painted with shamrocks, and represents New Dublin in Milwaukee’s annual St. Patrick’s parade.
“With good luck and good health, I’ll be continuing running the parade for a lot of years to come,” Hart said.
Grand Marshals Mickey and Wally Schmidt
Wally and Mickey Schmidt live near the start of the parade route and for years have provided a hearty Irish lunch to parade-goers beforehand.
“Wally showed me his grocery slip and they had purchased 125 pounds of corned beef this year,” McDaniel said, adding, “They are the kind of people who are always willing to listen and easy to talk to and help ease your problems. And sometimes with some advice comes a little glass of cheer.”
Wally Schmidt said he and his wife were “very pleasantly surprised” to receive the news from McDaniel that they were grand marshals.
“Obviously with the name ‘Schmidt,’ it’s kind of tough claiming we’re Irish. So in polite company, be careful how you say our name,” Wally Schmidt joked to the crowd, then adding with seriousness, “We’ve really come to respect what the Shamrock Club has done for our community here in New London and for that we’re really thankful.”
Jim Loughrin honored
The Shamrock Club also praised Jim Loughrin of New London for his contributions to New Dublin’s St. Patrick’s festivities.
Emcee Dick Murphy explained an annual St. Pat’s program began at St. Patrick’s Parish in 1924. In the program’s later years, his father Gerald Murphy teamed up with Loughrin to entertain the church’s crowd with skits, jokes and stories.
“The program at St. Patrick’s ran until about 1960, and for whatever reason lives got busy, the program was discontinued,” Dick Murphy said. “But in the mid-1980s, well, Shamrock Club came back and we started doing entertainment down here [in New London]. Dad thought this would be a great time to put the program back together.”
Loughrin and the group started an annual program above John’s Bar. It moved to the former Washington Junior High and is now held at New London High School. Dick Murphy said every year it took convincing to get Loughrin to participate again, but each time he “always said yes and he always gave a great performance.”
“No matter what Jim has done throughout his career … he has dedicated himself 100 percent,” Dick Murphy said. “Jim, you are one of the last remaining members of that golden era, and we are thankful that you are here to share those memories with us.”
Loughrin said the Shamrock Club brings scores of people to the community by producing “one of the finest parades in the state.”
“You have become a part of New London’s legacy,” Loughrin told the club.
Children take part
Children also got involved in the Irish celebrations.
The 2017 Irish Lad and Lass were Kayden Kloehn and Erin O’Donoghue. The pair ride in the parade for winning the Shamrock Club’s youth poetry contest.
Kloehn, son of Kaylene Kloehn, is a sixth-grader at New London Intermediate/Middle School. He wrote his poem in Kelly Keach’s language arts class. His poem centers on the mischief the New Dublin leprechauns create. Among his verses: “Changing up the town signs; Painting on the road lines; Making shenanigans all over town; Nobody knows how to calm them down.”
O’Donoghue, daughter of Tom and Amy O’Donoghue, is in Sam Van Alstine’s fourth-grade class at Lincoln Elementary. She wrote about the “New Dublin” traditions that include changing the sign and painting shamrocks on the streets. Her poem advised listeners: “St. Patrick’s Day is for everyone so make sure to have some fun.”
As far as other youth taking part in the event, students from the Fox Cities-based Kinsella Academy of Irish Dance opened the night and Emberly Hobbs sang numbers with music instructor Melissa Mulroy.