NYPD Emerald Society pioneer leading Jamesport parade

Jack and John Cuddy. Jack will serve as grand marshal in the first ever Jamesport St. Patrick's Day Parade. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)
Jack and John Cuddy. Jack will serve as grand marshal in the first ever Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day Parade. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

When Riverhead Town hosts its first ever St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 22 — a parade in Jamesport organized by the East End Emerald Society — a founding member of the New York Police Department’s Emerald Society will be leading the way.

Jack Cuddy, who is just about to celebrate his 88th birthday this Saturday, was part of the original charter of the NYPD’s Emerald Society when it formed in 1953, the first of its kind in the nation. And come Saturday, March 22, he’ll be the grand marshal in the first ever Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The two-time war veteran and retired NYPD detective will lead the way when the inaugural parade kicks off, now leaving Shelter Island the only town on Long Island without a parade of its own each March.

“We’ve been drumming up support for the past few years,” said John Cuddy, Jack’s son, on Monday morning. “Whether it’s been at Cliff’s, Duffy’s, or wherever, people have been saying, ‘C’mon Cuddy. C’mon O’Neill. Do it. Do it.’ Now we finally did it.”

John Cuddy, along with Sean O’Neil, Walter Magee, Brandon Hewes and Richie Stephenson, formed the East End Emerald Society just over the past month to squeeze a parade in for this year. On Monday, John said they received an OK from police chief David Hegermiller to hold the parade at 1 p.m., running from Washington Avenue to South Jamesport Avenue on Main Road.

So far, organizations that have signed on include fire departments from Jamesport, Riverhead and Mattituck, Westhampton Beach Coast Guard, Mattituck Irish Step Dancers, the Riverhead American Legion, and others. (See a full list here) 

The grand marshal, Jack, was born in New York City and attended Brooklyn Technical High School. Upon graduating in 1943, he somehow found his way into the U.S. Merchant Marines as a 17-year-old and during his service in WWII, Mr. Cuddy served mostly on supply ships in the Mediterranean Sea, servicing the eastern coast of Italy. His ship was set to storm the coast of Normandy until superiors determined at the last moment it was too valuable to go to battle — it held refrigeration containers which, at the time, were a rarity.

Because World War II Merchant Marine vets did not receive veteran recognition from the federal government until the 1980s, Mr. Cuddy was later drafted into the Korean War after he returned home from his time abroad. Working as a training officer in the San Francisco area and earning the rank of Master Sgt., he was held from serving abroad.

Mr. Cuddy returned to New York and joined the New York City Police department. It wasn’t long before the department started an Emerald Society, which later spread through the country’s fire and police departments as cultural organizations to promote Irish heritage.

“Most of the guys were Irish,” recalled. Mr. Cuddy, who’s 100 percent Irish himself.

He later went on to serve in the Nassau County District Attorney’s office, and it was his former partner in the NYPD who got him out onto the North Fork.

“He used to spend his summers here in Jamesport in the 1950s,” he said. Jack Cuddy would bring his family out to the North Fork along with him, including his son John. It was a place the family grew to enjoy, and it wasn’t long before Mr. Cuddy bought a home of his own in Jamesport.

Now, Mr. Cuddy’s son, John, has helped organize the parade.

John said on Monday that he’s been speaking with organizers of other parades, and after paying for insurance for the parade and for an attorney to organize the EEES as a 501(c)3, funds for a pipe band might be tough to come by since they are in such high demand this time of year. But getting the first parade off the ground is step one.

“People tell me, get the ball rolling and it will get bigger and bigger,” John said. “Now it’s rolling.”

The East End Emerald Society will be holding a meet-and-greet about the parade, for individuals looking for more information and for prospective partners and sponsors. The meeting will be held on March 20 at Jason’s Vineyard at 6 p.m.

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