Former police chief to serve as St. Patrick’s Day grand marshal

Former Riverhead police chief Joe Grattan will serve as grand marshal for the sixth annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Jamesport.

The parade, sponsored by the East End Emerald Society, will take place Saturday, March 30, at 1 p.m. and will run from Washington Street up to Main Road, then east toward Manor Lane.

“Naturally, I’m honored and humbled to have been asked,” Mr. Grattan said. 

Originally from Southold, Mr. Grattan moved to Riverhead as a condition of his employment when he became a police officer in 1963. He served as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant and captain and finally — for the last nine years of his career — as chief of the department. 

His late wife, Barbara, who died in 2009, was from Cutchogue and they met in school. She went on to serve for many years as Riverhead’s town clerk for many years. Unlike her husband, she was Polish. 

Thanks to a cousin who diligently researched the family history, Mr. Grattan can recite much of his Irish roots. 

“We go back, as far as I can trace, to 1821, with my great-grandfather,” he said. “Prior to that, there was little or no record keeping. It seems all of my ancestors came from County Kildare, just west of Dublin. My great-grandfather came over with his parents in 1853. They boarded a ship called the Continental that landed in Brooklyn.”

They lived in Greenport, although Mr. Grattan says that “how or why they got to Greenport is kind of an unknown.”

His grandfather worked as a laborer in Greenport and Shelter Island, married and had 13 children, the youngest male being Mr. Grattan’s father. 

Mr. Grattan graduated from Southold High School in 1958 and then graduated from the American Academy of Funeral Service in New York. He became a licensed New York State funeral director and went to work for DeFriest Funeral Homes. But he left that business and instead became a police officer, a job he held for 39 years.

After retiring from the police in 2002, Mr. Grattan returned to the funeral home business — only this time, he was working for his son, Joe Jr., who bought the business, now called DeFriest-Grattan Funeral Homes. He works three or four days a week, he said. 

In addition to being a member of numerous police organizations, Mr. Grattan also belonged to the Loyal Order of the Moose, Polish Town Civic Association, Salvation Army, March of Dimes and American Heart Association for many years.

In addition to the parade, a special Grand Marshal event will be held this Saturday, March 2, from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Vineyards on Main Road in Aquebogue. The evening, a fundraiser to support the parade, will feature the Suffolk County Police Emerald Society Pipe Band as well as Irish step dancers. Admission is $45 per person at the door. Checks can also be mailed to East End Emerald Society, P.O. Box 327, Jamesport, NY 11947. The admission fee includes your first wine or beer, a buffet dinner, entertainment, a 50-50 raffle and a chinese auction, according to the society. 

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Photo caption: Former Riverhead police chief Joe Grattan will lead the sixth annual Jamesport parade. (Courtesy photo)