The Montauk Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade is the unofficial beginning of the season for many East Enders. A huge, community-wide event, the parade chooses a beloved local each year to lead the parade. This year’s Grand Marshal is Gordon Ryan, 69, a lawyer with ties to Montauk dating back to the 1980s.
“I started with the parades in 1980 or so,” the jovial Ryan says. “My buddy and I snuck a float in the parade! It was a dune buggy and we put seven surfboards on top of it and called ourselves ‘The Geek Surf Club.’ We snuck in at the very end of the parade, and then did it a year later. Then the Friends of Erin said, ‘Why don’t you just sign up?’” Ryan and his friends initially balked, thinking they’d have to pay a fee to enter their float in the festivities, but were soon corrected. “They said, ‘you idiots, it’s free!’”
A former Mr. Amagansett, Ryan feels a great connection to the community both professionally and personally. “I opened up my practice in 1983. I do real estate closings, criminal cases and evictions,” he explains. “I got married in 1983 to Dianne. We had three daughters born in the same room in Southampton Hospital. Robin, my oldest, lives in Dallas, and raises cheetahs. Loralee lives in New York City and works on Wall Street. The youngest was Tess, who got cancer and died in 2001.”
Ryan says that dealing with Tess’s devastating illness was made easier by the Amagansett and Montauk communities, which came together to help the family cope as they took Tess for treatment in New York City. “That was a huge event because the town took over for us. The local attorneys took over our business. The [people of] Amagansett took over everything for us. They’d help the kids, if we couldn’t make it home in time…they took Tess for rides in squad cars and fire trucks. The town saved us, really. They said, ‘we’re going to have someone to pick up your mail.’ They knew before I knew. Everybody would stop and want to hear the latest. The town donated money. That was a tremendous event in my life, the way the town came together.”
Ryan often gives his time and energy back to the area. “I love it year-round. Winters are great. People from away don’t understand how great it is during the winter. I drove the town snowplow for five years,” Ryan says. “What I like is that nobody’s in town but your friends. My wife and I go biking all winter long at night—down at Lazy Point it’s pretty quiet. I was the volunteer attorney for the youth court for several years. It was sanctioned by New York State and handled real cases.”
He’s even contributed to the Montauk-set drama The Affair as a legal consultant. “They called me up. I had been involved in a hit-and-run case, and the writers called me up and asked things like “what’s the name of the family court?” so I helped them with that.” Ryan has worked with the show’s writers and producers throughout the series.
As the parade approaches, Ryan reflects on his love of Montauk and the East End. “People talk about a sense of place,” Ryan says. “This area is great. [People] are concerned with the environment; beneath all the glitter it’s a small town and everyone looks after each other.”
Head to Montauk for the annual Friends of Erin St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Sunday, March 24 at noon.