Irish Heritage Society names Irish man and woman of the year

As the height of the Irish heritage season approaches, Milford’s Irish Heritage Society has named this year’s Irish man and woman of the year: Ed Mead and Jennifer Hussey.

Both are charter members of the club, having joined when it formed in 2006. Both are very involved in the club and both treasure their Irish heritage.

Hussey said she traces her Irish heritage through both her parents, and growing up, the family tapped into their Irish heritage, always paying heed to the Irish culture.

A preschool teacher, she organizes the children’s events for the annual Irish Festival and other events the club holds throughout the year. She has been the organizer behind face painting, beading, plant-a-shamrock, making family shields, and other children’s crafts and games.

Hussey said she was surprised when she was named this year’s Irish woman of the year because she likes to do things behind the scenes; she’s served as club secretary, vice president and interim president.

Mead, who has been vice president, president and sergeant at arms, also does a lot of behind-the-scenes work.

Mead has also been involved in local politics, now filling an unexpired term on the Planning and Zoning Board. He said the Irish heritage was not prominent in his family when he was growing up. But over time, he developed an interest in his ancestry, researched his family connections and developed a real appreciation for Irish culture.

He recently connected with a family member who helped him fill in more of his family tree, and he learned that his great-great-grandfather Patrick Hogan was born in County Offaly, Ireland, on St. Patrick’s Day in 1833. Patrick’s father, Richard Hogan, was born in 1798.

“I was the first one in the present generation to really embrace this,” he said, folding up a piece of paper that outlined his family tree.

He and his wife, Deborah, have been members of the Fairfield Irish Heritage Society and traveled to Ireland in 2007.

Mead said he was “humbled” to be named this year’s Irish man of the year.

“There are a lot of people in the club doing a lot of things for the club,” Mead said.

Irish Heritage Society President Martin Hardiman said Mead and Hussey both go above and beyond for the club.

“You ask Ed to do something, and he’ll do it,” Hardiman said. “The same goes for Jen.”

Many Irish clubs name an Irish person of the year, and while the title does not come with a lot of perks (“There’s no special seating for the year or anything like that,” Hardiman said), he thinks it is a great title to have.

The Irish man and woman of the year will be in this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, which is Saturday, March 15, starting at 1 p.m. downtown.