If there is one thing people can learn about Patsy Furlong by walking past his Glen Cove home, it’s that St. Patrick’s Day plays a huge role in his life and that of his wife, Nancy. All of their windows are adorned with dozens upon dozens of shamrock stickers, the largest of which sits at eye-level on their screen door, showing visitors that they are entering a festive Irish household. The shamrocks can be found in the house too, extending all the way through the kitchen and onto the back door.
A home such as this is exactly where one would expect the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal to reside, and that is finally the case this year. Furlong will forego his usual role at the leprechaun in Glen Cove’s annual parade to take up the mantle of the parade’s leader on his 61st birthday, an honor for which he has been destined for years.
Patrick William Furlong was born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1958 in the rural County Wexford, Ireland. He would ultimately become the second of seven children to Joseph, a factory worker, and Ellen Furlong, a stay-at-home mother. He describes his early years as “a regular Irish childhood,” as he, his four sisters and two brothers attended school, were raised Irish Catholic and, although they were “not well off,” as he put it, enjoyed their young lives all the same. After he graduated from high school, Furlong started working as a truck driver, never quite seeing himself leaving his country.
But Furlong believes that everything happens for a reason, a philosophy which was fully realized in 1983. He came to the United States to serve as the best man at his brother Martin’s wedding in Westchester. Martin was marrying a woman named Margaret, who had a cousin named Nancy Merrick.
Furlong and Nancy met at the wedding and were immediately taken with one another, deciding to keep in touch via letters and phone calls after the celebration ended and he returned to Ireland. The ocean-length distance was not enough to deter the two from speaking to one another, as they continued to call and write for years. In 1986, they decided to get engaged, and Furlong moved to New York in 1987. The two were married on July 8 of that year, the hottest day of the summer, something which he said determined that he would spend the remainder of his life in the United States.
“If I had never met my wife, I’d probably never be here,” Furlong said.
The two spent the next several years living in Sea Cliff, Nancy’s home town. On September 5, 1993, the Furlongs had their first and only child, Emily, who was born developmentally disabled. They then dedicated a great deal of their lives to giving their daughter a high quality of life, something which Nancy heavily attributes to her husband.
“He’s a hard worker, he’s a good father,” said Nancy. “He goes to every length to make her happy and to keep the family going.”
The family ultimately moved to Glen Cove in 1996. While he serves a vital role in his own household, several Glen Cove residents said that they find Furlong to be just as important to the community. As the head of maintenance at All Saints Regional Catholic School, Furlong — or Mr. Patsy, as he is called — has been a favorite among the school’s students for over two decades.
“He’s been loved by generations of school kids who went there,” said Robert Lynch, the publicity chairman for the Glen Cove St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“If I were to go into the supermarket alone, no one would say [anything],” Nancy said. “But if Patsy were with me, the kids would hang from the ceilings yelling, ‘Mr. Patsy’s here!’”
However, Furlong’s presence at All Saints will be coming to an end soon, as the school will be shutting its doors in June. Nonetheless, he said he remains optimistic when looking into the future.
“I’m gonna be all right, I’m not too worried,” Furlong said. “I always say, ‘If you’re prepared to work, you’ll find work.’” He said that he will continue to run his personal landscaping business, which he operates on the side of his typical day job.
Even outside of All Saints, Furlong is a beloved member of the community thanks to his ever-present enthusiasm which he puts into the St. Patrick’s Day Parade each year. He joined the Glen Cove Hibernians in 1993, immediately becoming a fixture in the city’s Irish community. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that he cemented the most memorable part of his legacy as the parade’s leprechaun.
“I just marched the first couple of years,” Furlong explained, “and then I had the idea to get a pot of gold and just start throwing candies to the kids, that’s what really got it going. As soon as I turn onto School St., you can hear them yelling, ‘The leprechaun’s coming!’ They’re out in the middle of the street jumping around. They go crazy.”
Unfortunately, along with the title of Grand Marshal comes Furlong’s inability to be the leprechaun this year. While he said that he is still confident that this year’s parade will be great, he is slightly saddened by his lack of a green suit and bright red beard.
“I think it’s going to be a very good parade,” he said, “[although] I know the parade’s not going to be the same without the leprechaun.”
While the leprechaun’s absence is sure to be lamented by many, most are thrilled to see him in his new role. “We’ll miss him this year,” said Lynch, “but for one year we’d prefer to see him leading the whole parade.”
Each year, the parade committee suggests a few different people to consider for Grand Marshal honors, one of whom was Furlong this year. Lisa Forgione, the chairwoman of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, said that choosing him to be the Grand Marshal didn’t take a second thought.
“As soon as his name was mentioned, everyone was like, ‘Oh, perfect!’ I don’t think we took a real vote, everyone just agreed,” said Forgione.
“He really has a heart of gold,” she later added.
Furlong said that he is greatly honored by the committee’s choice, saying that being the Grand Marshal is “a once in a lifetime thing.” He said that he is greatly looking forward to the parade, which he says is sure to be one of the best days of the year in Glen Cove, as it usually tends to be.
Lineup for the parade will begin on March 12 at 12 p.m., and the parade itself will set off at 1 p.m. from the corner of Forest Avenue and Dosoris Lane. It will then head to School Street before turning onto Glen Street, ultimately ending at St. Patrick’s Church for an after-parade party.