By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
Cancelled in both 2020 and 2021, the Friends of St. Patrick luncheon and parade finally returned to Walpole this year, which meant that two years after his nomination, Jim Brady could finally accept his Person of the Year award.
It had been a rough couple of years for the Friends of St, Patrick. In 2020, they were a day away from putting on their event, but with the the raffle and trolleys ready to go, COVID led to the board deciding to pull the plug. That meant the group had to both get the word out on incredibly short notice, and make sure people either got their raffle prizes back or rolled them over to 2021, when the pandemic would be over, and the event could return.
Only, obviously, that’s not quite what happened.
The event was cancelled again in 2021, so instead of the usual event, the Friends of St. Patrick held a virtual raffle. But impressively, while they struggled to raise their usual amount of funds without the luncheon and parade, the Friends dipped into their savings and found the funds to keep their tradition of charitable donations going.
“We had the virtual raffle and raised some money — obviously nowhere near the money we would have raised during a normal event — but it was enough to sustain us through,” Friends of St. Patrick President Donnell Murphy explained. “We still continued to give donations to people in need in the community, even though we weren’t able to hold our event. We went into our savings and went into the things we were doing. But we were able to survive, and we’re still here and looking forward to getting back on track.”
While the Friends of St. Patrick may have survived the pandemic lockdowns, the large venue in which they’ve celebrated after the parade didn’t. As a result, the group needed to move to a new one in Wrentham, which holds about 620 people — lesser than the one thousand people the old venue held. The group also didn’t have as many of the big raffle prizes as they’ve had in the past, as there was still a very real question as to whether they could hold the event; as recently as January, when the Omicron variant was still making its way across Massachusetts, threatening to derail plans.
“In January, we had Omicron, so only six or seven weeks ago, we were contemplating whether we were going to be canceling this year’s event. We had a meeting and decided to go forward, and said if we had to cancel it the day before again, we could. So that limited us as far as raffle prize. We weren’t able to get the really big items.”
But one thing that was never going to be compromised was Jim Brady’s celebration. While one individual walked out of the bar just ahead of the parade, declaring that Brady was “man of the year 2020, ’21 and ’22,” Murphy had made it clear since the beginning of the pandemic that Brady was going to be honored at a luncheon, no matter how long they had to wait.
The former 2005 Walpole Citizen of the Year, Brady — who in lieu of a big speech opted to simply note that since he had the key to the city, he was declaring there would be no parking tickets given out on Friday, March 11th — earned the honor for being one of the original founders of the Friends of St. Patrick, as well as a board member for thirty years until he stepped down. Brady was also on the Walpole Prison Advisory Committee, the Low Level Radioactive Waste Oversight Committee, was town moderator, and founded the Walpole High Alumni Association, of which he was president for sixteen years.
For that, nearly three years since his initial nomination, he was the pride of the parade, which featured a group of colonials, a contingency of Corvettes, and, of course, the Friends of St. Patrick.