Editor’s note: As of March 12, the St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been postponed.
During this year’s 36th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in St. James, spectators will witness a first — two grand marshals leading the parade.
Hosted by the St. James Chamber of Commerce, the parade committee has chosen residents Kerry Reilly DeJesus and Mario Mattera as grand marshals for 2020. William Garthe, chamber board member, said each year residents are asked to write in to say who they would like to see lead the parade. This year the chamber received an overwhelming and equal number of nominations for Mattera and DeJesus.
Mattera said he was surprised when he heard he was chosen because he thought the grand marshal had to be of Irish descent. The St. James resident said he was humbled and honored.
When he heard DeJesus was also chosen, he was thrilled and described her as a wonderful person.
“Just her personality brings a smile to your face,” he said. “That’s the type of woman Kerry is. We need more of that.”
DeJesus also had complimentary things to say about Mattera.
“I couldn’t be in better company than Mario,” she said, adding she was overwhelmed when she heard the news that she was chosen.
“I was so flattered,” she said. “I thought that was so sweet of them to think of me.”
Mattera, a Smithtown resident for 55 years, moved from Nesconset to St. James in 1996. He said his wife of 26 years, Terry, and his two daughters Jessica and Jayme will be on hand to walk with him in the parade.
The husband and father is the business agent for Plumbers Local Union 200 of Ronkonkoma. In addition to his work with the union, he is a member of the Smithtown Executive Board representing St. James, and on the boards of Community Association of Greater St. James, the Suffolk County Water Authority and the Suffolk County Consumer Affairs Plumbing, Licensing and Fire Protection. He is also a Suffolk County Workforce Housing Committee member, the plumber’s union chairman for the political PAC fund for the county and board member for the New York State Apprenticeship Committee.
In his free time, he volunteers with Helmets to Hardhats, which works with returning veterans, and he also finds time to cheer on the Smithtown High School East’s Whisperettes, the kickline team, of which both of his daughters have been members.
DeJesus works as a call center manager for the Stony Brook University’s Southampton Hospital. She has lived in St. James for more than two decades where she and her husband, Ralph, of 25 years, have raised four children. She said she’s excited that her son Ralph Jr., who is serving in the U.S. Marines, has been granted a weekend leave to march with her and the family.
The wife and mother has taught religion at St. Philip and St. James R.C. Church, and with her teaching career in St. James and past service in two other churches, she earned a 20-year service award. She has also been active in the Smithtown Central School District as a Family Living chairperson working on food drives at Mills Pond Elementary School and was vice president of the PTA at the elementary school for two years. She later went on to serve as PTA president for two years. As her children advanced in the school district, so did DeJesus. For three years she was PTA president at Nesaquake Middle School and then did the same for six years at Smithtown High School East’s PTA. She has worked in other roles too as Spiritwear chairperson, recording secretary, vice president and a two-year stint as council president and vice president for the district.
Outside of religious instruction and the school district, DeJesus said she has been a Girl and Boy Scouts leader for her children’s troops. She has volunteered through the years at Deepwells Haunted Mansion where she has played a witch and dead doll, as well as working the concession.
“That’s a lot of fun,” she said. “That’s another great community thing that we do in St. James.”
While Mattera has participated in past parades with the car club, DeJesus has marched with the Boy and Girl Scouts. When it comes to parades, both grand marshals agree it’s important for communities.
“It brings everyone together, and bringing the community together, especially with the feeling right now — that we’re going to give the town a jump start — it’s a lot,” Mattera said, referencing the revitalization of
DeJesus said parades are also a way to draw people to St. James from other hamlets in the township. Plus, she said the St. Patrick’s Day Parade signals that spring is around the corner and gets everyone out of their homes.
“I feel like I’m reconnecting with old friends when I see all these people,” she said.
Mattera and DeJesus will be joined by the parade’s princesses and princes. The court includes two-year-old Avianna Manning, St. James Elementary School third-grader Juliana Cating Gleeson, kindergartener Jayden Cassidy Gleeson, third-grader Samantha Keil, first-grader Violet Keil, third-grader Mia Sherlock, kindergartener Sydney Sherlock, fourth-grader Ethan Tuzinkiewicz, second-grader Benjamin Tuzinkiewicz, first-grader Daniel Tuzinkiewicz and Nesaquake Middle School sixth-grade studentw Kayla Moore.
The St. James St. Patrick’s Day Parade begins at the Smithtown High School East parking lot on Woodlawn Avenue and travels to Lake Avenue where it makes a right and continues to the St. James Gazebo by the Long Island Rail Road station.