The call came out of the blue, and it left a hard-to-shock Kevin Rafferty stunned.|
Honored, proud ... but stunned.
"My late father (Larry Rafferty Sr.) was 100 percent Irish, and my late father-in-law, Joe Carlin, was 100 percent Irish,'' said Mr. Rafferty, who last week was named grand marshal of Grand Parade XXVIII, the 2013 St. Patrick's Day parade that will be hosted by the St. Patrick Society, Quad Cities, U.S.A. The annual event is billed as the only interstate St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States.
The Saturday, March 16, parade will be the highlight of a two-day, Quad-Cities Irish celebration, which will attract tens of thousands to the downtown areas of Rock Island and Davenport.
"My father made it a point to share his Irish heritage with everyone,'' said Kevin Rafferty of Larry Rafferty Sr., who passed away in January 2012. "And Joe Carlin always had everyone to his house for corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick's Day. They were two of the best, who wore their heritage proudly.''
Kevin Rafferty, owner of Moline's Rafferty Funeral Home, is one of life's good guys, a 24-karat- gold type with a huge heart. The Alleman High School and University of Iowa graduate has forever been a fan of the local St. Patrick's Day parade and the work of the St. Patrick Society.
"My dad loved the organization and all that it stands for,'' Kevin Rafferty said. "He was president and served on its board. It has been a big part of my life as well. My son, Brendan, who is at the University of Illinois, is a society scholarship winner. I can remember the countdowns to the parade from my dad, checking in to see if I had to work, and if I did have to work, would I be able to be involved after I was done.''
As grand marshal, Kevin Rafferty will be introduced at the Gathering of the Clan luncheon, along with the soon-to-be-selected Irish Mother of the Year. That event is slated for 11 a.m. Friday, March 15, at Davenport's RiverCenter.
On parade Saturday, Kevin Rafferty will share the day with his family the way his father did with him.
"I have two sons coming home from college,'' he said. "I'll have our other two children and Colleen there to be part of our good fortune. What an honor it is. What a list of grand marshals before me -- some amazing company I'm keeping. They told me I was getting picked up in a limousine, which is a switch for me. In my business, I'm usually the one driving the limo.''
Kevin Rafferty said there is a story about Grand Parade that has long stayed in his heart. It involves his late father and a trio of his pals. The group was -- as it did countless times -- prepping for its two-state Grand Parade jaunt from Illinois to Iowa.
"The fellas were in a pub and about three beers into the day,'' Kevin Rafferty said. "My father, knowing what was ahead, had yet to enjoy a beverage. He told the fellas to continue to enjoy themselves, but he was offering them this one-time piece of advice.
"He told them to remember there are no bathrooms on the Centennial Bridge. ... I'll think of my dad and that story when we cross the bridge for the parade.''
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.