Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2013, 6:25 pm
Milan man has a special link to Ireland
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By John Marx, email@example.com
Edward James Patrick Kiely II is a people collector of the most genuine kind. He is a yarn-spinner and a tale-teller. If you are his friend -- and he gathers them carefully -- you are forever a member of his family.
Milan's Ed Kiely, left, is named an Honorary Freeman of Clane, Ireland, in a 2008 ceremony. Mr. Kiely will serve as the grand marshal of the 2013 Clane St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The townspeople of Clane, Ireland, are family to the Milan man. For nearly a quarter century, Kiely and his wife, Elizabeth, have spent summer, fall, winter and spring vacations in the Irish town of 6,702.
Clane, Kiely says, is located in County Kildare, Ireland, 20 miles from Dublin. Its population makes it the eighth largest town in Kildare and the 78th largest in Ireland. It is on the River Liffey and in the barony of Clane.
According to Kiely, the town most probably owes its origin to the foundation of an abbey in the sixth century. About 520 A.D., St. Ailbe, Bishop of Ferns, founded the abbey in Clane and made St. Senchel the Elder its first abbot. St. Ultan Tua, who used to put a stone into his mouth to prevent him from speaking during Lent, and his brother Fotharnaise are said to have been buried in Clane.
Google should consult Kiely for info on Clane.
The Kielys have had friends from Clane visit their home in Milan, and they've shared weddings, special birthdays and a variety of other celebrations with friends from Clane. The wonderful Irish hamlet is home away from home for Ed and Elizabeth.
Among the many talents of Kiely, who had a lengthy career at the former Montgomery Elevator, now known as KONE, is the gift of marketing.
He helped the folks of Clane get a St. Patrick's Day parade up and running in 2005, and it has turned into an amazing four-day Mid-March Festival, running from March 15 to 18.
The festival has grown so much that Clane reps have received visitor requests from Japan, Croatia, Korea, Malta, Portugal, Egypt, Slovakia, Finland, Morocco, the Czech Republic, Argentina and Italy, Kiely says. With his assistance, the festival (clanefestival.ie and on Facebook at facebook.co/clanefestival?ref=ts&fref=ts) has become a worldwide spectacle.
In 2008, Kiely was dubbed an Honorary Freeman, or member, of Clane, an honor that had not been bestowed on anyone outside the community for 40 years. To put the Freeman in perspective, President John F. Kennedy and Muhammad Ali were given the same honors from Dublin and Ennis, County Clare, Ireland, respectively.
And now Kiely has been named grand marshal of this year's Clane Parade, a parade that attracts 10,000-plus visitors to the Irish village. The honor brings a humble and grateful smile to Kiely's face when he discusses it.
"It's amazing what has been done with the event,'' said Kiely, who designed the Clane Festival logo (a snake) and event posters. "Technology is an amazing thing, but the work on the ground by the townspeople is remarkable. And yes, I am honored and humbled at being the parade's grand marshal.''
Kiely says the secret to endearing himself to the folks of his homeland is closing his mouth and opening his ears.
"If I wanted to talk about America, I would vacation in Des Moines,'' Kiely said, chuckling. "For 26 years, it has been one unique and pleasant experience after another. Amazing people who -- from the first night we stepped foot in a pub and wound up at the Dunnes' (his closest friends from Clane) at a birthday party -- treated us like we belonged.''
Knowing that someone from a different culture -- with the same heritage -- has many unique stories to tell has also guided Kiely for the past 26 years.
"Listening to amazing stories has changed our world,'' Kiely said of his life and that of his wife's. "It helps that those stories have come from such wonderful people.''
Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or firstname.lastname@example.org.