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Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade

All photos by Media Origin

Hundreds filled the streets of Huntington to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day a few days early on Sunday, March 12.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians, Division 4, hosted its 89th annual parade with member Greg Kennedy as grand marshal.

School bands, volunteers, Scouts, Hibernians and more kicked off the parade at Route 110 and Church Street and made their way down to St. Patrick’s R.C. Church on Main Street.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick's Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Michael Dowling, president and CEO of Northwell Health, recently spoke with The Times of Huntington & Northport about being named grand marshal of the 2022 Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which will take place Sunday, March 13.

Michael Dowling is the 2022 grand marshal for the Huntington St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Photo from Northwell Health

Q: Before we get into the details of this year’s parade, could you discuss your own background? How did you get to where you are today?

I was born in Ireland, and I left when I was young. Then I went to England to work in the steel factories. My dream was always to go to college, but we didn’t have the means to pay for it, so I had to figure out how to get the resources. When I came to the United States, I was 18 years old. 

I came by myself, and I worked on the West Side of Manhattan on the docks for a number of years. The first three years I would spend half the year working in New York and in the second half of the year, I would go back to Ireland and go to college — I was fortunate enough to get into college in Ireland. Of course, I had no money, so that’s the reason I had to continue working. 

After I graduated from college in Ireland, I came back to New York and continued working on the boats for a period longer. Then I worked in construction and in plumbing and other manual labor jobs that I did not mind doing at all. Then I went to Fordham University to get my masters. 

I went, obviously, part-time because I was working all the time. I graduated from Fordham University and after I graduated, I was fortunate enough for them to ask me to come back and teach a course. I taught a number of courses at Fordham. Eventually they asked me to come on full-time as a faculty member at Fordham University, at the Graduate School of Social Service at Lincoln Center. I eventually became the assistant dean of the graduate school, having an administrative role and a faculty role.

I was at Fordham when Gov. Mario Cuomo got elected. His administration reached out to me to ask if I was interested in taking a job in government. I had not been involved in politics, I did not know the governor, but I am a risk-taker and I like new challenges, so I said yes.

I ended up taking on a job in Albany and relatively quickly moved up the ranks. I eventually became the Director of Health, [Education] and Human Services of the State of New York. I was also the deputy secretary to the governor and his chief adviser on health and human services. I did that for 12 years.

 I left Albany and then I was fortunate again. North Shore University Hospital reached out to me and asked if I was willing to join. North Shore, back at that point, was at the beginning stages of building a health care system. Subsequent to my arriving, we expanded through mergers with other hospitals. A couple of years later we merged with LIJ. Five years after I arrived at North Shore I became president and CEO. I’ve been president and CEO for 20 years.

I’ve done manual labor; I’ve been in academia; I’ve been in government; I’ve been in the insurance industry; and I’ve been on the provider side. That’s a very quick snapshot of my career.

Q: When did you first get involved with the Ancient Order of Hibernians? When were you selected as grand marshal of this year’s parade in Huntington?

I’ve been involved off and on over the years with the Hibernians in New York City. Three years ago, the Huntington Hibernians reached out to me asking if I wanted to participate in the St. Patty’s Day Parade. I agreed.

Then, of course, COVID hit and that changed everything, and it delayed everything. Fortunately, now with elements of COVID decreasing big time, hopefully we’ll have a good day this Sunday.

The Hibernians do great work — long history, great legacy, great humanitarian organization and good people. They do terrific work around the Huntington area, so I’m very, very proud to be a part of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade and to be working with the Hibernians.

Q: Given that you were on the front lines of the COVID pandemic, what does this year’s event mean for you?

Well, we’re evolving into some normality now. You go through an issue like COVID and it’s a learning experience. Every so often, during various periods of time, you go through a difficulty like this. When you’re going through them, you just deal with it. Now it looks like it’s receding big time, but we’ve got to be vigilant. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that there won’t be an uptick or some other kind of variant, but this is an opportunity for people to get back to normal. We can get together in-person and socialize and communicate together in-person, which is very important. 

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade next week in Huntington is their first parade since COVID began. The outbreak of COVID in the Long Island area happened right after the most recent parade held by the Hibernians in Huntington. We have had no in-person parades since 2020 and now, two years later, it’s a wonderful reawakening. 

Maybe it is a celebratory thing that we are on the exit ramps of COVID, and we can get together. It’s a positive sign. It shows that there is some optimism and positivity. I’m hoping that the weather is nice, but even if it isn’t we are still going to have a great time. It’s the beginning of a new chapter. 

Q:  Is there anything else that you would like to say to the local readers?

I would say that Huntington is a wonderful place. We should sit back and remind ourselves about how fortunate we all are. We live in the United States, we live in a beautiful place: Huntington and its surrounding areas. We are able to assemble freely and be together for some time. 

This is an opportunity to celebrate the United States, to celebrate how fortunate we all are, to celebrate the liberties and the freedoms that we hold, especially given what we see happening around the world right now. 

It’s a celebration of immigration, a celebration of immigrants, a celebration of our diversity and, of course, it’s a celebration of our Irish heritage, our history and the contributions that the Irish and so many others have made in the building of the United States. 

It’s an opportunity to be thankful. This is a celebratory, joyous occasion and I look forward to it.