By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
For more than 30 years, Linda Phelan Shaw has walked alongside her Irish family members in the St. Patrick Society’s Grand Parade. But this year, she’ll be making the trek from Rock Island, Ill., to Davenport on the back of a convertible.
“This is the first year I get to ride instead of walk,” she said.
That’s because she has been named the parade’s Irish Mother of the Year — an honor she finds almost unbelievable. When a St. Patrick Society representative called to tell her the good news, “I thought some of my friends had put them up to it!”
It wasn’t a joke — her four sons, along with several nieces and nephews, nominated Phelan Shaw for the award with a flurry of heart-felt letters.
“It’s quite an honor,” said Phelan Shaw, 73, a resident of Eldridge and an active member of St. Ann Parish in Long Grove. She is a 1962 graduate of Assumption High School in Davenport.
Relatives from California, Colorado, Chicago and Las Vegas will be traveling in to see her big moment in the March 18 parade, which begins at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street in Rock Island, Ill., and ends at the RiverCenter at East Third and Perry streets in downtown Davenport.
Phelan Shaw credits her mother, Dorothy Phelan, for fostering her sense of cultural pride. Dorothy Phelan came up with the idea to walk in the parade as a family in 1986. “She thought it would be a fun thing to do.” Phelan Shaw has walked in the parade every year but one — the year she lost her husband, Roger Shaw.
She said her Irish heritage means everything to her. When her grandparents emigrated from Kilkenny, Ireland, to the United States in 1893, they were met with anti-immigrant sentiment, she said. They followed the immigration laws of the time, which required having a sponsor and working for the sponsor for several years, but legal status didn’t spare them from ridicule. They persevered so they could have a better life for themselves and their 11 children.
In addition to riding in the parade, Phelan Shaw will be introduced at the Gathering of the Clan Luncheon at the RiverCenter in Davenport on March 17.
In those moments, she will be thinking most about her mother, Dorothy. “I accept this great honor in her memory.”