Con Lyons, Grand Marshal of the 2021 St. Patrick’s Day Parade
Honorary Grand Marshals – John Casserly, William ‘Bill’ Luque, Agnes Monahan, Josephine Rivero
Grand Marshal – Con Lyons
Con Lyons was raised on a small farm near the south Cork village of Nohoval, about 17 miles outside of Cork City. He was the second oldest of five children born to Donie (RIP in 2017) and Margaret Lyons. He was educated in the local National School in Rennies and later graduated from the technical school in Kinsale, where he showed a keen interest and mastery in woodwork and metalwork. Following the completion of his formal education, Con went to work for locally in Cork for Steven McCarthy Builders as a laborer.
Back then when you started out as a laborer you are expected to learn several trades at once. Forming, pouring and finishing concrete techniques as part of public works projects became second nature to Con while at McCarthy’s. However, in October of 1986, a friend of Con’s-Gerry Tierney from Kinsale decided to emigrate to the USA, and Con decided to go with him for the adventure and try it out for six months. At the time, thousands of young Irish people were emigrating on a weekly basis from the Emerald Isle. Long term prospects were not good for anyone “hanging around” and “waiting for things to improve in Ireland,” according to Con.
Con and Gerry arrived in Boston in October 1986, but looking back on it now it was probably not the best time of year to arrive in the North-East as winter came early and constant snow on the ground limited the opportunity for work. After three long weeks, and with money running low, Con and Gerry had a decision to make. Should they return home to Cork on the return flight or find a way to go to the West Coast? Con and Gerry borrowed $50 each from an old lady that Gerry’s family knew and they bought a one way Greyhound ticket to San Francisco.
Gerry’s friend from college-Neilus Connolly from Drinagh provided accommodation upon arrival in an old house near 5th Ave in the inner Richmond. Con said work was pretty sparse during that time but once you were willing to work you always got a few days with moving companies, laboring and painting. Looking back now Con recalls that Tim O’Keeffe who owned a bar at the corner of 5th and Balboa “was a great resource and help in the early months after arriving.” It was Tim who provided Con with his next gig after hanging up his paint brush, plastering with Gerry Gardiner from Galway. After a few years Con branched out on his own creating construction firm-Lyons Construction and more recently Cork Corporation.
Con met his wife Brenda (from South Armagh) in 1992 on a night out in the Abbey Tavern on Geary Street, and they were married in 1995 in Ireland. They have four children. Padraig who is in Business marketing with Alpha sites ; Eoin who is a forensics associate with KPMG . Cormac is a senior at Saint Ignatius Catholic High School in the Sunset while their younger sister Caoimhe is a Junior also at Saint Ignatius and Caoimhe is also the youth officer for Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann the Cooley – Keegan Branch which has been instrumental in the development of our youth in playing musical instruments and learning the Irish language.
Con has always been a great supporter of all the festivities surrounding the busy March schedule set by the United Irish Societies, his four children have danced, played the fiddle and tin whistle at these events while they were in grammar school.
Involvement with the GAA
Con in his youth played hurling with his local club Tracton, football was played when the hurling season ended. While honors were few and far between for the small rural parish down through the years, Tracton, with current Cork manager Kieran Kingston as a team mate.
Like many emigrants to the USA, the local GAA can provide an outlet as well as a comfort to those many miles away from home. Con played gaelic football with the Michael Cusack’s in the early years of the clubs formation.
Con’s interest in the local Youth GAA scene was further enhanced when his twin boys reached age 4. He started out coaching his own young lads and was hooked from there on. The first Continental Youth Championships (CYC) was in 2005 in Foster City and the Lyons Family have not missed a CYC since. The Lyons children have won numerous US National football, hurling and camogie championships. Although Eoin and Padraig never did get to play “The Féile” competitions in Ireland, younger brother Cormac played in the Féile competitions in 2013 and 2015. Younger sister Caoimhe has won a Ladies Feile Football title with San Francisco in 2017, while also being a runner up in the Camogie Feile in 2016.
Leadership Role within the GAA
After a decade of productive and exhaustive work with the under age GAA teams here in the city, Con was elected Chairman of the local Irish Football and Hurling Youth League in 2010 (taking over from fellow Corkman John O’Flynn) and served until 2016. In the same year Con was appointed to the CYC Steering Committee in 2015 by the then President of the Gaelic Athletic Association in Ireland, Aogán Ó Fearghail and was recently appointed for another 3 Year term in 2018 by current President John Horan. Con also serves on the new club development committee for North American Youth Board.
Con joined the RCBA in April 1995 after encouragement from local RCBA booster Jerry Linehan (RIP)-who kept the organization’s flag flying for years. Con is a past President of the RCBA and is a regular attendee of the monthly meetings at the Kopling Center on Taraval. He is a strong supporter of rejuvenating the Rebel Cork club through getting younger members and their families involved in the various activities now being held annually. Con celebrates 25 years of membership this year. On behalf of everyone in the RCBA we wish him many more years of service and good health!
Honorary Grand Marshal – John Casserly
John was born on January 28, 1939 in St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco. John and his twin brother, William, were the first children born to the late Jack and Mary (Pembroke) Casserly.The twins were premature and, sadly, John’s twin died at the age of four weeks. Thankfully John survived and thrived in his life. John was a third generation San Franciscan and grew up in the Richmond District. He graduated from Roosevelt Junior High and George Washington High School. John was the eldest of five children; four Sisters, Rita Bray, Joan Haskell, Rose Casserly and Mary Keil, his brother -in- law Gardner Haskell and his niece Anne Bray and nephew Joseph Bray. His amazing memory served him well as a U.S. Postal Clerk for 36 years. Upon retirement, John became a volunteer for the DCCC (Democratic Central County Committee). Under the guidance of Jane Morrison, he attended and volunteered at hundreds of political events, met countless politicians and stuffed zillions of envelopes to help further their campaigns. John loved the social part of volunteering and became a member of the Irish Cultural Center and the United Irish Societies, Native Sons of the Golden West, The Irish Democratic Society, The Order of Ancient Hibernians, The Godfathers, The Friars, The Good Shepherd Grace Center, The Kolping Society, and the local union for retired Postal Workers. John was a hearty eater who loved to travel; he was a collector of cook books and travel guides. He spent many happy times in London and out at sea sailing aboard P & O ships or the Cunard Line. John’s faith sustained him throughout his life in the face of many difficulties and shaped his kind and generous nature towards all he met. John died peacefully in his sleep on July 13, 2019 at his home in the Richmond District. John’s final resting place is in the old family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery, where he has joined nineteen of his Irish-American ancestors. He would be honored as an Honorary Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In spirit, John will proudly be marching along.
Honorary Grand Marshal – William ‘Bill’ Luque
“He is the classic gentleman. He is always willing to give of his time and energy. I cherish his dedication to the United Irish Societies of San Francisco (UISSF), the Board and to me personally. Because of his positive attitude and strong commitment, the UISSF continues to improve and grow as a family.” (On the occasion of being nominated as SF Kolping’s Distinguished Member. ) – Liam Frost, President of the UISSF
William “Bill” Luque was a Friend to Many and lived a life of service to his community. He is remembered fondly by the many people he touched.
Every two years, members from the ten Kolping societies throughout the U.S. gather at their National Convention to honor members from each individual family who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to the society, through their actions, interactions and contributions.The year before he passed away, Bill was honored as San Francisco Kolping’s Distinguished Member. Bill had been a member of the San Francisco Kolping for 10 years and has made a significant impact on the organization and its members. The San Francisco Kolping was (re)established in 1925, founded on the beliefs of Father Kolping, who stressed the importance of family, hard-work and education.
Joining at the suggestion of a friend (Jack Curtin), Bill embraced the role of an active member, not only attending all meetings, but progressively assuming more responsibility. Bill was a Board Member and was the Vice President of the Society.
For many years, Bill played a key role at the United Irish Cultural Center-including serving as Chair of the 32-50 Club-a major fundraiser, Vice-President of the Board, Chair of the Operations Committee, a member of the Ulster Club and a member of the History Committee. More recently as a member of the United Irish Societies Board, he took over the huge job of organizing the Grand Marshal dinner for the annual St Patrick’s Day Parade.
He will also be remembered for his outreach to the homeless community of San Francisco.
This year Bill was selected as one of the Honorary Grand Marshals of the St.Patrick’s Day Parade-a well-deserved honor
Honorary Grand Marshal – Agnes Monahan
Agnes passed away in San Francisco, CA on August 9, 2018. She was 76 years old. She was born on January 23, 1942 to the late William and Mary Dunphy. She was the youngest of 12 children born in this order: Liam, Sheila, Mary, Jim, Mick, Kathleen, Paddy, John, Larry, Nancy, Kieran, Agnes. Agnes was born on a farm in Cullahill, Co. Laois, Ireland.
In 1960, at the age of 18 she emigrated to the United States. In 1967, she became a United States citizen and also received her BA degree from the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, TX.
Agnes was a devoted teacher for 37 years from 1973-2010. The first four years she taught in Metairie, LA and San Antonio, TX. The next 33 years she spent teaching at Catholic schools in San Francisco starting first with St. Gabriel, then St. Philip and finally St. Stephen.
Agnes loved going to dances at the United Irish Cultural Center. It was there in 1981 that she met her future husband, Emmet Monahan. They were married at St. Gabriel Church on June 12, 1983. Their only child, Mary Ann, was born on March 13, 1988. The three took a total of 10 trips back to Ireland going back every three years to see their relatives. On these trips, Emmet took Agnes and Mary Ann through all 32 counties of Ireland.
Agnes was highly committed to her Catholic faith. She was a devoted parishioner of St. Finn Barr Parish for the last 35 years. She was a huge fan of the San Francisco Giants and was ecstatic over their three World Series wins in 2010, 2012 and 2014.
The Monahan family would like to express our gratitude to Carole Nobis and the staff at Nobis Care Home for the loving care they gave Agnes for almost five years since the start of her assisted living care on December 20, 2013. We cannot say enough how grateful we are to her chief caregiver, Sandra, and others who assisted in her care such as Noli, Gina and Louise. We also want to thank Hospice by the Bay for their help with Agnes at the end, principally nurses Eithne and Jennifer.
Agnes is survived by her loving husband of 35 years, Emmet, and her cherished daughter, Mary Ann. She is also survived by a sister and three brothers in Ireland: Sheila Lynam; Paddy Dunphy and his wife, Breeda; John Dunphy and his wife, Marette; and Rev. Laurence Dunphy. She is also survived by three sister-in-laws Annette Dunphy, Bridie Dunphy and Mary Dunphy. She was predeceased by brother Liam Dunphy and his wife, Nell; sister Mary Finnegan and her husband, Joe; brothers Jim and Mick Dunphy; sister Kathleen; sister Nancy Kehoe and her husband, Mick; and brother, Kieran. Her brother-in-law, John Lynam, also passed away.
Honorary Grand Marshal – Josephine Rivero
Though born in Athy, County Kildare, Josephine “Josie” Smyth was a true Galway Girl. She grew up in her dad’s home city of Galway, living for most of her childhood just across the Claddagh Bridge on Fr. Burke Road. Josie emigrated at the age of nineteen, and settled in with her aunt in the Sunset District. This is where she met her future husband, the late Mark Rivero. Mark and Josie married, and started their family soon after. They brought up their nine children in the house Mark built on Lawton Street. Josie lived in that house up until her death last May.
Josie was a fine example of faith in action. She served her church by preparing couples for marriage through participating in Pre Cana Conferences, as well being involved in the Christian Family Life movement and teaching CCD at St. Anne Parish. Josie sang in the St. Anne Adult Choir for many years, and in later life, she served as a lector at morning masses.
Josie’s knowledge of Celtic Mythology and Irish history and language, made her a walking encyclopedia of all things Irish. This and her seemingly endless catalogue of Irish poetry and music gave her a way to contribute to any gathering, Irish or not.
Involvement with the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians was important to Josie. She held offices at the Division Level, as well as on the County Board. Whether attending meetings, marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade or visiting the so-called dude ranch at Wonder Valley, she enjoyed the camaraderie of this fine group of women.
Up until the year before her death, Josie was a faithful attendee at the monthly Mass and luncheon hosted by the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center. She loved being part of this group and enjoyed the fellowship she experienced with the regulars at her table.
Josie left a legacy of Faith, Family, and Friendship, and is missed by all who were lucky enough to know her.