Mon Valley Irishmen celebrating
Irishmen in the Mon Valley have many reasons to celebrate.
Right now they are observing a couple of special anniversaries — the 100th of the first organization of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in the Mon Valley and the 20th year since an active reorganization occurred.
Mon Valley Division 1 of Washington County is best known throughout western Pennsylvania as the “singing Irshmen.”
The group captures awards year after year in the annual St. Patrick’s Day parades in Pittsburgh.
Ribbons and plaques proclaiming they were the best “Irish singing group” and best “marching group” were dispolayed during the anniversary celebration at Mon Valley Country Club. Members of the Ladies AOH joined them for the dinner program at which native Irishman Cahal Dunne entertained.
One of the leading voices in the chapter, belonging to John Paterra, also offered Irish ballads that evening and was proclaimed by Dunne as “one of the best.”
Another member of the group with outstanding vocal talent is Sean McDonald. I’ve heard him sing at Irish masses and also at the funeral of one of my brothers. When he sings “Amazing Grace,” there isn’t a dry eye among the listeners.
Bill Lee of Speers was instrumental in the reorganization and accepted the presidency. In fact, he’s president today.
“No, only abount one-third of the time,” he responded to inquiries about him continuing in the top spot. Al Herd and Ed hank are past presidents.
Ed Ritzer is the current vice president; Jack Gallagher, secretary-treasurer, and Bob Oates, historian. Bud Ritzer and Tom Claybaugh head the importnat charitable services committee.
Primary goal of the chapter is to promote friendship, unity and Christian charity.
They generously provide funds for the Appalachian food and clothing drive, Echoes of Erin radio program, St. Patrick Fund, Lifeline and Little Sisters of the Poor.
Under Lee’s leadership. the group has formed the practice of naming an “Irishman of the Year.”
The late Steve Dwyer, who was a member of the original chapter, was the first one so honored. The 19th and latest is Paul Tracey.
A part of the group’s function is to develop additional chapters and just recently several members from Fayette County formed their own chapter. Former member Ron Berry from Brownsville was named president of the new chapter.
“Mon Valley AOH is always looking for new members who have Irish heritage,” Lee said.
He didn’t say, but I think other requirements are that you wear green on St. Patrick’s Day and you can belt out an Irish ballad anytime the group meets.
Lelik is a freelance writer from Donora and once served as society editor at The Valley Independent.