Feeling a sense of home in Ireland and the Bronx, Sheila Haney eager to grand marshal ‘her parade’

image001 (1)
After 20-plus years asking “what can I do” for the Throggs Neck St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Sheila Haney is ready to grand marshal ‘her’ parade.
Photo courtesy Sheila Haney

Home for Sheila Haney spans 3,060 miles.

One home is in Ireland, in the counties of Leitrim and Silgo, where she vividly recalls life on the farm, running through the fields with her brother Joe and encounters with a stubborn calf who “had it in for her.”

Her other home is the Bronx — Castle Hill’s Chatterton Avenue — where she was born, living with her aunt and uncle, before growing up in the South Bronx where she’s made lifelong friends and connections.

Ireland is the home that has shaped her both personally and culturally. When Haney was four, her parents who met in New York at an Irish dance and had two other children, went back to Ireland for what was supposed to be a short visit. Instead, that visit would last three years, when seven-year-old Sheila said her final goodbye to her mother, who had been in poor health and sought recuperation at home in Ireland.

“Unfortunately, my mother passed away when I was 7 years old, and soon thereafter we were given passage on a ship and returned to the Bronx. I still have family in Ireland and I’ve been lucky enough to go back and visit several times,”  said Haney. “I’m extremely proud of my Irish heritage and all that my parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles had to overcome in their lives. My father fought to free Ireland as a young man and he held true to his beliefs all his life.”

But it was in the Bronx where Haney found love with her late husband Mickey, started a family of six with a move to Edgewater Park and relished the chance to merge her two homes together through a 20-plus year involvement in the Throggs Neck’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

This year, Haney won’t just be a participant or volunteer, she will be one of two grand marshals in the 24th annual celebration of the parade. The other grand marshal is Jack McCarrick, a fellow civic member of the Throggs Neck community.

“They always called it ‘My Parade,’ mostly because I told them it was mine, so it is a special honor to be the Grand Marshal of my parade this year,” joked Haney, who has long been a part of the Throggs Neck Benevolent Association (TNBA) and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee. “My family is preparing to celebrate and we have lots of friends and family flying in to take part and march. I’ve never missed the parade, so I’m very familiar with the day’s events and the format – I just never thought I’d be the one in the horse and carriage.”

The 86-year-old, who also celebrates a birthday in March, is often quoted as saying “what can I do for you?” and it’s that act of service that has been instrumental to the TNBA and the Parade Committee.

Despite performing almost every role there is to fulfill in the parade from selling tickets and raffles, and working the annual parade breakfasts to everything from entertainment and cleanup, Haney said she was still shocked when she was announced as the grand marshal in 2020.

“I was surprised when they first told me the news back in 2020, but they said they were recognizing me as one of their longest running volunteers. I know how hard they all work and I just pitched in wherever I could … whatever they needed, I did it,” she said. “It is an incredible honor to have been named as a Grand Marshal. This was an unexpected honor, but it means the world to me and my family.”

Of course, Haney has had to wait two years for this moment, after the parade was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s parade, the grand marshal hopes, is not only a celebration of Irish contribution and community, but also a chance to honor those who won’t be there in person, but rather in spirit.

“It’s important to bring people together again to celebrate the many contributions that the Irish have made to the world. The parade is also an opportunity to celebrate the lives of the Honorary Grand Marshals,” she said. “We lost far too many people in the last few years, but I will be remembering them and praying for their souls. Several of the honorees were very dear to me and my family; we will miss them and honor their memories as we march up the Avenue.”

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.

More from Around NYC