Ain’t They Grand?
By Kitty Merrill, Peggy Spellman Hoey, Jade Eckardt
Who’s the leader of the band? East End parade season kicks off this weekend, with a trio of St. Patrick’s processions on tap, all led by beloved community members boasting top hats, sashes, and shillelaghs. Below, we introduce this weekend’s grand marshals. See elsewhere in this edition for a roundup of parades.
Organizers of the Am O’Gansett parade—the shortest parade in the world—celebrate its tenth anniversary with native son Dell Cullum up front. At noon Saturday, he’ll lead bands, floats, firetrucks, and civic groups on the one-block march down Main Street from Mary’s Marvelous to the Talkhouse in Amagansett.
Patty Sales, a parade founder, explained the decision to select Cullum with, “We chose him because of his selfless involvement in all things Amagansett.”
Born and bred in the hamlet, Cullum grew up on Hedges Lane, attending Amagansett School back when it went all the way up to eighth grade. His mom ran the Amagansett deli in the building now home to Indian Wells Tavern. His grandfather owned the hardware store on Main Street.
Recalling an idyllic childhood, Cullum spoke of families like the LaCarrubbas, Ranas, Scotts, Silliches. “We all lived in this little neighborhood. There were so many kids, we never had a boring time,” he said.
Cullum’s passion for photography and filmmaking birthed early. “We were making movies with my father’s wind up 8 MM camera. We saved up to buy three-minute film reels from Reed’s Photo in East Hampton.”
With a communal fondness for Irwin Allen’s disaster flicks, the neighborhood kids would gather to recreate scenes from blockbusters like Towering Inferno. “We started remaking them, recreating the most disastrous parts,” Cullum recalled. Mischief makers, they flooded a neighbor’s basement to lens their version of The Poseidon Adventure. Pal Tommy Slattrey took the heat, since it was his parents’ basement under water.
Water, filmmaking, photography, and the beloved landscape of his hometown continue to be a focal part of Cullum’s life. He’s a wildlife photographer and rescuer, found down at area beaches at sunrise most every day. Visits to local beaches triggered another obsession—Cullum’s known as the local litter crusader and has hosted weekly cleanups for the last five years.
About a year ago, Cullum fell off a roof during a wildlife job and broke his back. He sees the grand marshal recognition as a chance to thank all the people in the community who helped him. “This is a great opportunity to honor them,” he emphasized. “They’re so special to me . . . The community support is just incredibly abnormal on such a good level. What people in Amagansett do when someone needs help. I saw it firsthand and it’s mind-blowing.”
Westhampton Beach will be ‘painted’ 40 shades of green—or more—as its 51st St. Patrick’s Day Parade wends its way down Main Street Saturday.
In keeping with its Hometown Hero theme, the village’s parade committee chose 88-year-old Korean War veteran Peter Cuthbert to lead the parade as its grand marshal. The East Moriches resident describes himself as a citizen soldier, who, after college, served in the U.S. Army for two years, and upon his return, commanded Army National Guard units in Patchogue and Riverhead. He later served in the reserves.
Cuthbert has an extensive history marching in the village’s parade, with both the local fire department and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5350, for which he carried a rifle as a part of its color party. He jokingly quipped he believes it was that experience which landed him in his latest role at the head of the parade.
“So, they found out I could walk,” said Cuthbert in a phone interview last Thursday.
As part of his official duties following the parade, Cuthbert said he will be making stops at five village bars, the last two being the VFW Post 5350, where he is a trustee, and the Westhampton Yacht Squadron in Remsenberg, where he once served as a commodore.
It won’t necessarily be a bar hop in the literal sense, though.
“I will be taking it easy,” he said.
Cuthbert retired from the military after 32 years, with the rank of colonel. Military involvement can be traced back to his ancestors, who emigrated from Ireland in the 1660s to York, Maine and later participated in the American Revolution. He is the author of a book, Korea: Our War, which tells the story of his wartime romance with his wife of 31 years, Nancy, through their correspondence to each other. The book can be found at the Westhampton Beach Free Library.
Cuthbert spent 30 years as an educator with the Westhampton Beach School District where he was a teacher, coach, and summer school principal. He has six children.
A carnival for children will start the parade’s festivities an hour before kickoff time at noon, and will go on until dark, weather permitting. For more information, visit www.whbstpats.com.
Cutchogue’s 14th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will feature Paul Connor, Eastern Long Island Hospital CEO and president, as grand marshal. Connor has been with the 90-bed hospital that serves the North Fork and Shelter Island for nearly 20 years.
“It’s an honor in a community like this to be asked to be grand marshal. I’m very proud to represent the community both personally and professionally,” said Connor.
Connor earned a master’s degree in health care administration and has been in the industry for 40 years. He and wife, Connie, moved to Mattituck in 2000 and have two children who graduated from Mattituck High School.
Connor fell in love with the North Fork’s beauty and found living and working in a tight-knit community different than he had been told to expect. “I’d been warned I’d find no peace living and working in a small community. But it’s the opposite, the community is so kind, peaceful and grateful,” Connor said. “There’s mutual admiration between the hospital and the community.”
Connor is vice chairman of the Peconic Landing Board of Trustees, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and the American College of Healthcare Executives, and sits on the board of Nassau Suffolk Hospital Council.
“What I love about St. Patrick’s Day is that everyone is happy and just wants to have fun,” said Connor. “Everyone gets to be Irish for a day.”
Connor, who’s approximately 25 percent Irish, didn’t grow up in a traditional Irish household. “But this special day has always been one of my favorite holidays, and I never forget to wear green,” he said.
Cutchogue’s festivities kick off at 2 PM on Saturday.