By Arthur H. Gunther III
Pearl River, N.Y. -- The luck of the Irish is always evident in this small community just 22 miles northwest of New York City. Once settled by expatriate Germans and their offspring, the sons and daughters of the Emerald Isle continue the American story -- post-war suburbia and two interstates having paved the way for an easy commute to jobs as Gotham firefighters and police officers.
And ‘tis a fine place she is, this hamlet of Rockland County, with a St. Patrick’s parade nearly equal to the big one itself. Whether the sun shines or it rains, no matter the economy, a hearty time is to be had by all -- luck of the Irish, you see.
Luck because of easy disposition; luck by Irish wit; luck by frequent grand vocabulary and human understanding since these are readers of words; and luck by long suffering this or that, this and that -- a curse and a blessing that is Irish as is the eye’s twinkle, a Guinness and a good red or brown stew.
Luck of the Irish, too, because as with any particular group, and with people in general, there are always noteworthy characters. As a pre-St. Patrick’s Day present in honor of my own Lyons/Bonner heritage, I’ll tell you about one.
On a recent visit to Pearl River, while reading a newspaper in the car, I kept spotting a moving shadow. Eventually I looked up and saw this elderly, straw-thin fellow, some gray hair left on an otherwise bald pate, walking as erect as can be, in purposeful fashion. The gentleman was covering the length of a shopping strip parking lot over and over, obviously for exercise, physical and probably mental.
If a face can be said to be Irish, and of course that can be said, this fellow was of such descent. It was not difficult to imagine his background. Could not know for sure without asking him, but the probability is that he is American-born of Irish parents, grew up in the Bronx Irish neighborhood, became a New York City police officer and moved with his young family to Pearl River. A likely scenario since that is the usual tale in this hamlet, with “firefighter” a substitute profession.
One other observation gave the man away: shiny, dark blue, gabardine pants, the sort cops pulled on for years in the city. They never lose the shine earned by many seasons, and they never wear out. To the thrifty fellow, and that the Irish be, too, they never go out of style.
So in Pearl River, that other county of Eire, where tradition is both Irish and American, a retired fellow enjoys his afternoons as comfortable in his setting as he can be -- and still walking a beat. Luck o’ the Irish, you see.