The chant of the bagpipes outside Saint William the Abbot Church on July 7, 2015 announced to the public that an Irishman had passed away. And so it was—Martin Kelly, the President of the Irish Cultural Society, was going home to his beloved Catherine and to his reward for a life lived largely. We who knew Martin were reminded by the bagpipes of his disposition for doing things in a colorful and memorable manner.
Marty always wanted a pipe band to march with us in the Mineola/Garden City St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Colorful, uplifting, exciting, the pipers fit Marty’s larger vision of the Irish Cultural Society as a group which celebrated Irish culture as a feast for the eye and ear, and for the mind, too, as the writers, professors and entertainers at our meetings attest. Where is Martin Kelly’s vision today? When Marty died, he had left an organization that has robust attendance at the monthly meetings, a writing contest that packs the meeting room on Awards Night, and a financial statement which is in the black.
Marty’s greatest contribution to the Irish Cultural Society was himself. No matter how riveting our guests were, his introductions were a part of the delight of the evening. In Marty’s presence we were in a place of acceptance, a kind of Newgrange in Garden City where the light of Ireland beamed on all of us. As one of our members said about Martin and Catherine, “They embraced Cead Mille Failte by their warm, receptive countenances and welcoming smiles.”
Marty was one of the founders of the Irish Cultural Society along with Tom Lee, Ray Coyne, Dan Martin, John McGowan, and Tom Dwyer. He served as president for the last twenty-three years.
We as an organization have made a contribution to the Martin J. Kelly Scholarship Fund at Freeport High School, and we have renamed the writing contest the Martin J. Kelly Writing Contest of the Irish Cultural Society. May Martin and Catherine rest in peace.