Kings Park resident Jim Girvan was thrilled when he heard he would be this year’s grand marshal in the hamlet’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.
“As a Scout in parades, I never thought I would be a grand marshal,” he said, adding that when he was a kid, he would march in fire department parades.
Kevin Johnston, chair of the parade committee, said Girvan was the perfect choice for grand marshal. He remembered Girvan saying that when he was younger, he wanted a place where he had friends, a job and a town, and he found that in Kings Park.
“He epitomizes what we consider Kings Parkers,” Johnston said.
The committee chair described this year’s grand marshal as a delight to be around.
“It’s that Irish smile of his that is just beaming,” Johnston said. “He has a very welcoming and endearing smile and that’s what kind of brings people in.”
The 88-year-old Girvan has a deep connection with Ireland. His father, John Girvan, was raised there, and while his mother Mary McGuckin was born in Scotland, she was of Irish descent.
It’s Kings Park though where Girvan has established deep roots.
His father worked in a naval yard in Staten Island, and as a semiprofessional soccer player, would travel out to Kings Park to entertain patients at the psychiatric hospital. Girvan said when his father broke his leg and lost his job at the naval yard, he was offered a position as a kitchen helper at the hospital and worked his way up to head cook.
That move was a fateful one for Girvan, who has lived in Kings Park most of his life except for two years when he was a nurse in Philadelphia. He and his wife have also raised six children in the hamlet.
After graduating from St. Joseph’s R.C. Church’s grammar school, he said he received a scholastic scholarship to Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn. Girvan said he attended the school for two years until he asked his father if he could go to Kings Park High School. The grand marshal said he loved playing basketball, but couldn’t participate while commuting to the city to attend school, sometimes not returning home until 8 p.m.
He would go on to not only graduate from Kings Park High School but to also be part of the basketball team that won the 1950 Suffolk County Championship, the first time the school won a county title in the sport.
“He epitomizes what we consider Kings Parkers.”
— Kevin Johnston
Girvan went into nursing and worked at the Kings Park Psychiatric Center and then Northport Veterans Hospital. He said he was drafted by the army in 1966 but then was commissioned by the navy to work as a nurse in Philadelphia Naval Hospital, where he supervised the Acute PTSD Admissions Unit.
After two years living in New Jersey with his wife and children, and commuting to the Pennsylvania hospital, Girvan and family returned to Kings Park. Through the decades the grand marshal has been involved in the Knights of Columbus, Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Kings Park Fire Department and Ambulance Committee and more. To this day, he is an usher at St. Joseph’s R.C. Church.
When it comes to Kings Park, Girvan realizes there has been a lot of development through the years, but he said when it comes to charm, it’s stayed the same.
“We didn’t change that much, believe it or not,” he said. “The town is pretty much the same.”
He and wife Irene, known by her nickname Rene, said they remember when the Northern Parkway ended in Nassau County and Smithtown was filled with farms. They also still call Commack “Comac” as many longtime residents do, the original spelling and pronunciation of the neighboring hamlet.
Girvan has marched in the Kings Park parade before with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, but this year will be special, he said. He and his wife said friends and family are coming from all over to see him lead the parade, including Texas, Maryland and Florida, and many will also walk with him. A good friend from San Antonio recently came up to surprise him for the Grand Marshal Ball that was held back in January.
“The Girvan family feels very good about it, and it will be in our hearts forever this day,” Girvan said.
Johnston said this year the parade will feature more than 20 bands, 15 of which will be bagpipes, as well as more than 10 fire departments and several local businesses.
The Kings Park 10th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade kicks off at noon Saturday, March 7, rain or shine. It begins at the corner of Lou Avenue and Pulaski Road, continues down Main Street and turns onto Church Street and ends down Old Dock Road at William T. Rogers Middle School.