West Haven to honor Coleman W. Walsh Jr. next Friday as Irishman of the Year
The city and its Irish-American community will honor Coleman W. Walsh Jr., who has dedicated much of his life to carrying on the traditions of Ireland, as 2018’s West Haven Irishman of the Year in a St. Paddy’s Day eve celebration outside City Hall.
The ceremony at noon Friday will be West Haven’s 27th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.
The West Haven St. Patrick’s Day Committee will honor Walsh, a second-generation Irish-American, by hanging a green street sign designating City Hall’s Campbell Avenue entrance “Coleman W. Walsh Jr. Square” for the coming year.
Last year’s honoree, Kelly Canning Ruickoldt, will be awarded her sign, which hung above the square for the past year, at the start of the ceremony.
West Haven bestows the “Irish Person of the Year” honor each year to an Irish-American resident or couple who personifies service within the city’s sizable Irish-American community.
“I would like to thank the city of West Haven and the committee for this wonderful honor,” said Walsh, a native of Hamden who has lived in West Haven since 1990. He was grand marshal of the 2005 Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade and is its current executive chairman.
Walsh, 62, joined by his wife of 27 years, the former Donna Hackett, will celebrate his Irish roots with scores of his closest friends and relatives, along with other dignitaries and descendants of Irish immigrants.
“I look forward to the opportunity to make West Haven proud of their choice, and I am excited to be in the company of such fine Irish-Americans who have been given this honor before me,” he said.
Members of the West Haven Police Color Guard will escort Walsh to the Campbell Avenue side of City Hall at noon Friday, accompanied by Celtic music played by bagpipers and drummers from the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society Pipes & Drums.
A corned beef and cabbage lunch will follow in the First Congregational Church of West Haven’s Fellowship Hall, at 1 Church St. opposite City Hall on the Green.
The St. Patrick’s Day Committee, led by Chairwoman Beth Sabo, the city’s commissioner of human resources, includes a number of dedicated members of West Haven’s Irish-American community, including members the West Haven Irish-American Club and former honorees.
“It is my great pleasure to celebrate one of the many cultures that makes West Haven the diverse city I love,” said Mayor Nancy R. Rossi. Rossi praised Walsh, whom she called “a man of great character, integrity and wisdom,” for his devotion to the Irish-American community.
In 1890, Walsh’s grandfather, William Joseph Walsh, left his home in Lisdowney, County Kilkenny, Ireland, for the promise of America, landing in Derby and settling in his wife’s birthplace of Ansonia.
His grandfather was an iron molder who later served as an Ansonia police officer, while his grandmother, the former Mary Ann Coleman, was a homemaker who raised the couple’s three children.
Walsh’s interest in his heritage began when he played football and shot darts for the New Haven Gaelic Football & Hurling Club in his youth. His love of Ireland blossomed into a lifelong passion for all things Irish — blended with plenty of community service.
He has been a member of the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee and the Knights of St. Patrick for the past three decades, serving as the Knights’ president in 1997. Walsh also has been a member of the West Haven Irish-American Club since 1991.
On Friday, Rossi will present him with an Irish flag and a mayoral proclamation citing his commitment to “preserving and promoting the vibrant culture of Erin, exemplifying the very best of West Haven.” Walsh also will receive a jacket embroidered with his new title: Irishman of the Year.
David Coyle will serve as master of ceremonies.
The Rev. Mark R. Jette, pastor emeritus of St. Lawrence and St. Paul churches in West Haven, who now serves Sacred Heart Church in Suffield, will offer an Irish blessing. 2013 Parade Queen Fiona Stewart, of Meriden, will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Irish national anthem, “Soldier’s Song,” followed by a greeting from Rossi.
Walsh will then pull off a shroud revealing the rectangular sign.
His father-in-law, William “Bill” Hackett, also will accompany him at the ceremony. Hackett and his wife, the late Carol Little Hackett, were West Haven’s Irish Couple of the Year in 1996.
Walsh was born in New Haven in 1956 to Coleman W. Walsh Sr., a Merchant Marine veteran of World War II and an Army veteran of the Korean War who was superintendent of the powerhouse at Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford, and the former Jane Berry, a homemaker.
He and his three brothers and one sister grew up in a single-family home on Hamden’s Bliss Avenue in the predominantly Irish neighborhood of Spring Glen.
During a prolific career that has spanned 38 years working for prominent engineering firms, Walsh, a chief inspector for HAKS Engineers of New York City, has inspected the construction of many high-profile Connecticut Department of Transportation contracts involving roads, bridges and structures.
Those included the Mianus River Bridge in Greenwich, the Stamford train station and platforms, and UConn’s Harry A. Gampel Pavilion in Storrs.
Walsh and his wife live on Bellevue Avenue in West Shore. They have two children, Jane Walsh, 25, of Nashville, Tennessee, and Coleman W. Walsh III, 22, of West Haven.