Irish eyes will be smiling all around the East End as several villages hold their annual St. Patrick’s Day parades. You could say that Westhampton Beach kicks it all off on Saturday, March 10, at noon—along with the shortest parade “Am-O’gansett’s,” also at noon, followed by Cutchogue at 2 p.m.
Westhampton Beach’s 51st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be ushered in by a true leader of men. Grand Marshal Peter Cuthbert, an 88-year-old Korean War veteran who lives in East Moriches and is a familiar face throughout the area. In fact, Cuthbert has often been seen right behind the grand marshal, carrying a rifle in the VFW color guard.
Cuthbert worked as a Westhampton Beach High School teacher for 31 years and as a basketball coach and summer principal. He says it’s quite an honor to lead the 51st annual parade—his first memories of participating in the annual parade date to the ’60s when he volunteered with the Westhampton Fire Department.
When we caught up with this robust octogenarian, Cuthbert had just returned from a morning tennis game. Cuthbert is a proud father, whose daughter Lynn Jones, owner of Lynn’s Cards and Gifts in Westhampton Beach, was invited to carry out grand marshal duties in 2010 in recognition of her community service. Cuthbert and his late wife Nancy raised Lynn and her twin sister, their two other daughters and two sons, in Westhampton Beach. Notably, two of Cuthbert’s children have also performed military service in Korea.
In addition to leading the parade, Cuthbert was invited to decree this year’s theme. He chose “Hometown Heroes” to “represent all vets, all first responders and anyone in the area who does more than their share, including the local football team.”
Cuthbert knows about sacrifice. He left his young wife and first-born baby girl behind to serve two years of active duty in the Korean War. He recounts that he was a platoon leader who fought alongside many different troops, including a two-month stint working with the Turkish army, which lacked tanks of its own. Following that war, Cuthbert served another 17 years in the army reserves and 13 years in the National Guard.
What makes Cuthbert’s Irish eyes smile? He says, “I love the bagpipes. They thrill me—my background is Irish and Scottish and my brother played the bagpipes. I think they’re wonderful.”
When asked what Irishman he most wishes could march with him, he chooses his maternal ancestor Elijah Cousins. Members of the Cousins family emigrated from Ireland to York, Maine in the 1660s. Elijah Cousins fought the British in the American Revolution more than 100 years later. Cuthbert points out, “I was a HISTORY teacher.”
Of course, Cuthbert will be far from alone in enjoying the spectacle of the parade on Saturday. As he says, “It’s not a small parade. Everybody loves it and takes part—big crowds!”
After all the excitement of the parade, where can you pat Cuthbert on the back and thank him for his service? He shares that, “I’ve been instructed by last year’s grand marshal that I have to go to four or five different bars.” This “tour of duty” will include the VFW, the Claddagh Restaurant & Tap Room (where the annual parade fundraiser was held last weekend) and the Westhampton Beach Yacht Squadron where, like his grandfather before him, Cuthbert has served as Commodore.
Come out to Westhampton Beach on Saturday. As Grand Marshal Peter Cuthbert says, “On St. Patrick’s Day, we’re all Irish!