For Morris County Democrats, the hot ticket on Monday was a Morris Township speech by a guy of Irish ancestry named Joe Biden.
For everyone else, the place to be was the fourth annual Irish Heritage Month Celebration in Morristown.
Tickets were much cheaper than the $1,000 admission to the Vice President’s fundraiser for Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ). In fact, the heritage event was free. Six Irish-Americans were recognized for their civic contributions, there was singing and dancing, and the corned beef-and-cabbage was pretty tasty, too.
Morris County Prosecutor Robert Bianchi, whose office co-sponsored the heritage celebration with the Irish American Cultural Institute of Morristown, got some laughs explaining that while he has no Irish blood, virtually every girl he ever dated–including his wife–came from an Irish family.
On a more serious note, the Prosecutor said afterward that this monthly series of cultural events is central to good law enforcement.
“It’s important that the Prosecutor’s Office be very community-oriented. Community outreach gets us out of the ivory tower, to reach out to the eyes and ears of the community. It helps us get tips and do our job better.”
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Honorees included MorristownGreen.com correspondent Robyn Quinn, recognized for her years as a volunteer on the Morris County St. Patrick’s Parade Committee.
“This is a great group of people who I enjoy working with, and they work diligently for nine months to put on not only the largest, but the best St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New Jersey,” said Robyn, whose sons, Thomas and James, played bagpipes and drums to bookend the proceedings.
In between, the DeNogla School of Irish Dance performed, Mick Mitsch sang Celtic songs, and Patricia Stewart of the Prosecutor’s Office traced the history of the Irish in America.
Kathleen Ginty Hyland, who was honored for serving in Morris Township’s government and on numerous boards, said she was proudest of co-founding Teen Pride, an organization dedicated to keeping kids free from drugs and alcohol. Coaching girls softball still gives her lots of satisfaction, too, she told a big crowd in the Morris freeholders room that included her personal cheering section with several grandchildren.
Carol Buck of Roxbury was applauded for her work as operations director for the Irish American Cultural Institute. Peter J. O’Hagan, owner of Fitness Together shops in Morristown and Morris Plains, got a statuette for 35 years of volunteer efforts with groups like the Morris Minute Men, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick and the Big Brother organization.
Another honoree, Capt. Richard Wall of the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, has degrees in accounting and public administration–and is an FBI-certified bomb technician. He also has served on his hometown school board and township committee in Warren County, and has been a reservist for the Army National Guard and the Coast Guard.
Rounding out the awards list was Lt. Col. Matthew Wilson of the New Jersey State Police. The Marine Corps reservist and 1998 Trooper of the Year has spent much of his career investigating official corruption, street gangs, organized crime and narcotics and weapons trafficking.