It all started in 1982 when Terrance P. Sheehan, Michael J. Carr and Harry McVey spontaneously decided over a traditional Irish beverage to formally celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Flint with a parade and all the customary happenings. And so it was, as Sheehan was “voted” Flint’s first grand marshal. In 2019, it’s Matthew Kenny who carried on the esteemed traditions of the previous 40 Flint St. Patrick’s Day grand marshals. (There were three grand marshals in 2003, two in 1995.) “It’s a very humbling experience,” Kenny shares, “because I’m following in the footsteps of some fantastic people who have done so much for the Flint community.”
Even though he has been a part of the local Ancient Order of Hibernians Sullivan and O’Sullivan Division since 2011, holding the role of recording secretary for two years, Kenny was originally asked to be the grand marshal for the year of 2017. He vividly recalls being very humbled and surprised to be approached for such a revered community honor. Unfortunately, a relocation of employment to west Michigan prevented him from fulfilling the role that year. But his fortunes turned favorable as his job sent him back to the area just last year. “I continued my involvement with the Hibernians and was approached again by Peter Hogan and Jim O’Dea (past grand marshals) and jumped at the opportunity!” he says with unbridled enthusiasm.
Matthew and his spouse, Dee Anna, have two sons, Keegan and Rory, who were all excited and looking forward to experiencing the customs and traditions the Flint St. Patrick’s Day festivities present. However, Matthew is ever mindful of this day when “everybody is Irish.” He ponders, “As long as I can remember St. Patrick’s Day is about being with family and friends and celebrating our heritage.” He recalls spending almost every St. Patrick’s Day of his adult life with his friend and fellow grand marshal (2017), Pat Fergerson, while admitting with a wink some of the memories are a little hazy at times. He goes on to say, “As we got older and joined the Hibernians, I think it took on a different meaning for both of us. It became more than an excuse to party and more of a time to enjoy our friends, families and our roots while also celebrating Flint, and supporting the many charities that do so much good all year round.”
It can be philosophically said that Matthew Kenny, Pat Fergerson and Alex Lee (2018 grand marshal) accept the passing of the Flint St. Patrick’s Day Parade grand marshal “torch.” “Being the grand marshal is a tremendous honor,” Kenny thoughtfully states.” Being part of the younger generation of recent grand marshals, I feel a sense of duty to continue the great traditions we’ve set forth, to continue to promote our Irish heritage and to continue to support the greater Flint community.”