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Jack Haren Named Grand Marshal of the 2024 Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade

MORRIS COUNTY — The Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee is thrilled to announce that Jack Haren, a distinguished resident of Morris Plains, has been chosen as the Grand Marshal for the 2024 St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Haren, a first-generation Irish American, grew up in upper Manhattan, with his roots tracing back to County Kerry and County Clare through his parents. He graduated from Fordham University in 1969 and served two years on active duty as a Signal Corps Lieutenant in the United States Army. His commitment to supporting veterans is evident through his membership in the American Legion Post 59 in Morristown. Additionally, he serves as the site coordinator for Wreaths Across America, a program that honors veterans by placing wreaths on their graves in over 2,200 cemeteries across the United States.

Jack Haren

“We’re very excited to have Jack lead us down South Street this year,” exclaimed Publicity Director Michael Leavy. “His profound passion for Irish history and culture makes him an outstanding representative of the Irish-American experience.”

For six decades, Skellig Michael, a remote Irish island once inhabited by medieval monks, has held a special place in the imagination of Grand Marshal Jack Haren.

Haren’s fascination with Skellig Michael began at the age of 16 when he first glimpsed the island’s rugged outline, located roughly seven miles off the coast of County Kerry. Once home to reclusive monks living in beehive huts, Skellig Michael has now attained the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was during an adult visit to the island that Haren had a profound experience that has remained with him throughout his life.

Skellig Michael now finds its place on Haren’s Grand Marshal Pin, a design collaboration between him and the Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. This pin has complemented the official St. Patrick’s Day Parade Pin for over two decades, serving as a symbol to promote this beloved annual event. The formal unveiling of Haren’s pin took place on December 7 at Grasshopper Off the Green in Morristown, attracting more than 100 parade enthusiasts. The event featured captivating performances by the Coffin Ships, Heritage Irish Dance Company, and Rory O’Moore Pipes and Drums. However, the highlight of the evening was Haren’s poignant talk about the significance of Skellig Michael.

More than one hundred people attended the formal unveiling of Haren’s pin

Drawing upon his profound knowledge of Irish history and culture, Haren shared his journey as a 16-year-old to his mother’s family farm in Waterville, County Kerry. In those days, rural Ireland had yet to be connected by power lines, leading Haren to spend his days fishing and his evenings gathered around the fireplace, listening to stories.

He recounted, “On my daily bicycle ride into the village—because the only way to get there was on a bicycle—I would look out into the Atlantic Ocean. Way out in the Atlantic, I would see two jagged isles that were about six or seven miles out. I’m talking about Skellig Michael and its companion, Little Skellig. They were the focus of my Uncle Paddy, who would tell and retell stories about those two isles almost every evening as we sat around the fireplace.”

Parade Committee members Tom and Liz Hand were among the event organizers.

Uncle Paddy’s stories painted vivid pictures of the monks who inhabited the islands, their solitary existence due to the rocky terrain’s limitations, Viking raids, and the practices of the Irish Church before the influence of the Church of Rome.

This childhood experience left an indelible mark on Haren, although he wouldn’t have the chance to visit Skellig Michael until a family trip in 1995 when he was 48 years old. Haren and his brother chartered a fishing trawler captain to brave the rough seas and land them on the island, which lacked proper piers and docks.

During this visit, Haren took a photograph that would become the basis for his Grand Marshal Pin.

He vividly recalled the experience, saying, “We hiked 656 steps to the top, which is about 750 feet. That’s about 60 percent of the height of the Empire State Building. The winds up there were really howling, which is what you’d expect, and of course there were no guardrails. From that view, you could see Antiquity.”

The view included six stone beehive huts where monks had lived for centuries in search of solitude and a connection with God. For Haren, this moment on Skellig Michael was a profound fusion of his Irish heritage and his spirituality, set against the backdrop of County Kerry, his mother’s homeland.

“It has stayed with me in my forever consciousness,” he said. Now, this special moment is available to everyone through Haren’s Grand Marshal Pin.

The 2024 St. Patrick’s Day Parade of Morris County is set to kick off on South Street at noon on Saturday, March 9, at 12:00 Noon. Those interested in supporting the parade are encouraged to become Parade Patrons.

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Frank L. Cahill
Frank L. Cahill
Publisher of Parsippany Focus since 1989 and Morris Focus since 2019, both covering a wide range of events. Mr. Cahill serves as the Executive Board Member of the Parsippany Area Chamber of Commerce, President of Kiwanis Club of Tri-Town and Chairman of Parsippany-Troy Hills Economic Development Advisory Board.
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