IT WAS a proud moment for Tom Lawlor, when the Shanahoe native served as Grand Marshal for the Laois Association at the St Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City. A former NYPD detective, Tom and his wife Brigid have been attendees at the New York parade over the years, but this was his first time to lead his native 60-strong contingent up Fifth Avenue. Tom Lawlor was a past President of the Laois Association in New York from 1967 to 1985. He also served briefly as Chairman of the Laois GAA Club in the city.
Tom, who now resides with his wife Brigid (formerly Kennedy and a nurse from Abbeyleix) in Abbeyleix, returned to Ireland in 1985 where he purchased and worked a farm until his recent retirement.
Born and raised in Shanahoe, he emigrated to New York on May 28 1963, just after his Leaving Cert. On completing service with the army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, Tom joined the NYPD for the next 20 years, before retiring in 1985 with the rank of Detective. He was based mainly in Brooklyn. During that time, he also graduated from NYIT with a degree in Criminal Justice.
Tom and Brigid married in 1971. Brigid worked for a time as a nurse in London. They have a son and daughter: Sheila is a Trinity College Law graduate who works in Dublin, and Garrett is a UCD Medical school graduate who is now an Assistant Professor of Medicine at SUNY Downstate.
On the day, Tom received the Laois Grand Marshal sash from Hugh McEvoy, last year’s Grand Marshal.
Tom has witnessed huge changes in New York over the years. “At one time the homicide rate in the city was 2,600 a year. Now it is 600 a year. Places like Brooklyn have changed completely.”
Also lining out for this year’s parade was Bill McEvoy who, at 90 years of age, was the oldest man on the Avenue. He completed the 40 blocks on foot.