This year's parade was a little wet! Cool rainy weather put a slight damper on things, but we still had fun and there were plenty of folks along the route to cheer on the parade. We had nearly 150 official entrants and many more that showed up to march.
Mary Jo Gessner
Rev. Mary Jo Gessner, born and raised in Miami, Florida, received a Music Education degree from the University of Florida, and a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY. Mary Jo has been a minister at her church, First Baptist Madison, for over 27 years. As a Pastoral Care Minister, she performs marriages, funerals, teaches classes, prays with people before and after surgeries, visits the elderly, delivers food to the needy, and serves as a mentor to many. Rev. Gessner, ordained in 2007, is a Certified Pastoral Counselor with the American Association of Pastoral Counselors and presently recruits and organizes the volunteer Chaplains for Madison Hospital. For the community, Rev. Gessner leads a Loss and Grief Support Group, and facilitates an annual dinner and lecture series entitled "Hope for the Holidays" which equips people to cope with grieving while everyone else is celebrating. As a ten-year cancer survivor she facilitates a weekly Women's Cancer Support Group. Five years ago Mary Jo began a partnership with Madison Elementary School, leading her church to provide food packs to children of families who request them, ensuring that no child goes hungry while school is not in session. Alongside her church members, Rev. Gessner participates in worship services at Morningside of Madison Assisted Living Center, and travels annually to work at Metro Baptist Church in NYC.
Mary Jo enjoys traveling, baking, and music; singing in the choir at First Baptist Madison. She has sung with the Huntsville Community Chorus and will travel to Europe this summer singing with the choir from Church of the Nativity Episcopal. Mary Jo is most proud of her family as she is married to Mark Gessner who is the Minister of Music at First Baptist Madison, and who plays fourth horn with the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. They have two grown children: Jessye Gaines (married to Luke Gaines), who teaches in the Engineering Academy at Bob Jones High School, and Harris Gessner, who is the Choral Director at Mountain Gap School in Huntsville. Mary Jo is “Josie” to her beautiful granddaughters, Kay and Glenne. Having descendants from Cork, Ireland, Rev. Gessner is very proud of her Irish heritage and enjoys Irish music, dancing, food, and "all things green" on her birthday which is on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day!
"Having given my life to the Church, I am interested in studying those who have done the same and am familiar with the history of St. Patrick; how he became a Christian while a young slave in Ireland, and how he escaped, returning home to England ecstatic to share the Good News of Christ. With a strong conviction he entered monastic life, served as a Christian leader, and eventually returned to the land of his captors, his beloved Ireland, to serve it's people and God for the rest of his days! I am especially fond of St. Patrick's 'Christ With Me, Christ Before Me...' prayer which I keep in my office, and which I have prayed communally from time to time; truly worshipful."
Piper Ruth Parker
Congratulations to all these lucky ladies and gent!
2015 Grand Marshals
Gordon and Irma Keene
This year we have two Grand Marshals! Gordon and Irma Keene are founding members of the Irish Society of North Alabama and are very active in many community organizations. They are always lending a hand to support all that we do, all while helping with their many grandchildren and their own school activities. Gordon is also known as St. Patrick on parade day and we could not think of a better person to take on this role. Irma made the St. Patrick costume - she researched exactly what St. Patrick wore and why and designed the best St. Patrick costume we've seen! Gordon and Irma celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in October 2014.
Gordon D. Keene
Gordon was born in Council Bluffs, IA, and raised in Omaha, NE. He joined the Army at age 17 and made the military his career for 23 years, retiring in 1983. He then worked in Civil Service on Redstone Arsenal as an electronics instructor and then as a Youth Sports Director. He retired from that job in 2007 to help take care of the 5 youngest of 7 grandchildren. Gordon is a member if the Irish Society of North Alabama, the Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and the Knights of Columbus. He was also a Shriner for over 30 years and was President of the Clown Unit twice. He won the Children's Choice Award 2 years in a row at major Shrine Clown competitions. He is very proud to be St. Patrick in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade to represent his Irish heritage and to help promote Irish music, dance, and everything Irish, especially the food and beer. He invites everyone to come to the parade and be Irish for the day!
Irma K. Keene
Irma was born in Grayslanding, PA and grew up in a family of 4 generations of coal miners. After graduation from high school, she joined the Army and met Gordon while stationed at Ft. Ritchie, MD. After a whirlwind courtship of 11 days, they were married in Hagerstown, MD and just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary Oct 19, 2014. During their years in the military, they raised 4 children and had the opportunity to live in Germany, Okinawa and Hawaii. When all the children were in school, Irma returned to work, first at Holy Family School in Huntsville, then as a clerk at Tripler Army Hospital in Hawaii and then as a secretary on Redstone Arsenal until she retired in 2007 to take care of Gordon and the grandchildren. She likes cooking, arts and crafts, and collecting memorabilia about Gone With The Wind. The St. Patrick's Day Parade is great family fun for everyone and a wonderful way for the community to gather and experience the best parade in Huntsville.
We would like to give a big thank you to this year's official parade photographer, Melissa Holley Photography!