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Quinn the Irishman leads parade

St. Patrick’s Day always brings high jinks to Oak Harbor as the Irish Wildlife Society kicks up its heels. So tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you spy a boxer jabbing and upper-cutting down Pioneer Way.

Irish Wildlife Society loosely organizes the day honoring the town’s sainted Irish ancestors with a parade and a ceremony at the Blarney Stone near the windmill at City Beach Park.

Long before the 4 p.m. parade, leprechauns daub shamrocks on homes and businesses.

Pat Quinn, grand marshal of the parade, plans to be in the thick of things.

Quinn, an all-around character, started life as a farm boy near Sequim then turned to professional boxing. That career led him to the job of body double for movie star Mickey Rooney and the celebrity-studded world of Hollywood in the 1940s and 1950s.

Quinn competed in matches in Los Angeles and Las Vegas as a featherweight. “Irish Patty Quinn,” as announcers named him, wore shamrock-embellished green trunks and a green-and-gold robe in the ring. His boxing rig is packed away.

“If I find the outfit, I’ll think about wearing it,” Quinn said Tuesday morning.

If he can’t bring his trunks and robe to light, Quinn will sport a cheery green hat he wore during an Irish parade in Arizona.

He and his wife Betty flew from Arizona Monday night for Thursday’s festivities.

The longtime residents of Oak Harbor recollect numerous St. Patrick’s Days.

“We made our own entertainment,” Pat Quinn said of early celebrations. He wouldn’t elaborate but he chuckeld and rolled his eyes at his wife who laughed.

He didn’t keep fun in reserve just for St. Patrick’s Day.

Quinn and a group of other raconteurs, including Whidbey News-Times publisher Wallie Funk, met religiously at an “office” Friday evenings for erudite discussions and problem-solving roundtables.

The exact location of the office was never divulged, Quinn said.

“That way, no one could easily track us down.”

Politics never got too complicated as their “office” rotated among Oak Harbor bars and restaurants.

After retiring from Quinn Glass, the business he established, Quinn and his wife Betty have traveled extensively.

They visited Ireland and Quinn met distant relatives, or at least those who claimed to be kin.

“Of all the places we’ve been, Ireland is the only place I’ve seen so many shades of green,” Betty Quinn said.

One year they spent March 17 in Hong Kong.

“That’s no place for an Irishman to be on St. Patrick’s Day,” Quinn said, shaking his head.”

Thursday, March 17, 2005, Grand Marshal Pat Quinn plans to be in the midst of revelry in Oak Harbor. The Quinns have three children, 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Most of those will be in or at the parade.

The parade begins at 4 p.m., on SE Jensen Street near Smith Park. Line up begins at 3:45 p.m. Everyone is welcome to wear green and walk the parade route to City Beach windmill for a brief ceremony. Prizes will be awarded for most Irish looking lad or lass, best decorated car, dog or potato. After that, groups will descend upon local restaurants for spirited singing and refreshments. Depending on the number of Irish coffees sipped, some revelers may see the arms of windmills revolve at midnight.

For more information, call Robbie McGee Strehle, 675-0235.

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