Morris County St. Patrick's Day Parade

Parade Starter

Patrick Tillyer

2024 Parade Starter

Patrick Tillyer

Patrick Tillyer of Allamuchy Township has been named Parade Starter for the 2024 Morris County St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

At noon on Saturday, March 9, Tillyer will cut a green ribbon spanning South Street, officially launching the march through downtown Morristown.

The honor of Parade Starter is bestowed on a long-time volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional service to the parade and local community.

Event organizers said Tillyer was a natural choice.

“Pat Tillyer is a great friend, a great man, and a great Irishman,” said Kevin Langan, co-chair of the Parade Starter Selection Committee. “He volunteers for the parade every year, many times driving participants in golf carts when they can’t walk the entire route.”

“This honor is well deserved,” said co-chair Mike Bannon. “Pat has been very supportive of the parade since the beginning. And he has done a lot for the Irish community in Morris County to make it stronger and more vibrant.”

Born in Morristown, Tillyer grew up on Atno Avenue and attended St. Margaret’s School and Bayley-Ellard High School. He was a letter carrier in Morristown for 12 years and a supervisor at the regional mail facility in Whippany for 30 years. He also worked for the Daily Record under legendary sports editors Raymond Goin and Raymond DeGraw.

Tillyer said he was floored when he learned he would be the Parade Starter.

“This is the greatest honor of my life,” he said. “I’m as excited as anything. Parade Day is always the best day of the year. I can’t wait to cut the ribbon and start the celebration.”

In addition to volunteering with the parade, Tillyer is a founding member and former president of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick of Morris County. He marveled that the group, which began in 1982 with a handful of friends, now has a roster of more than 400 members.

“We have older guys and younger guys, and everybody is involved, which I love,” he said. “In some organizations, people don’t get involved, or only a few people do everything. I’m thankful we have a lot of people who contribute and stay active.”

Tillyer is also a member of Knights of Columbus Council 359 in Morristown and a trustee at St. Therese Parish in Succasunna. He was a referee and umpire for more than 50 years with the School and College Officials Association (SCOA) and the New Jersey State Baseball Umpires Association. He led both groups as president and later received Man of the Year honors.

His community engagement also includes 55 years as a volunteer firefighter in Morristown, including 12 years as president of Humane Engine Company No. 2 and service as a trustee of the Morristown Firemen’s Relief Association.

Now retired, he has more time to spend with his family: daughter Kara Lynn, son-in-law Jeffrey, and their children Connor and Kayleigh.

Family and heritage have played an important role in Tillyer’s life. His mother, Kathleen Jennings, immigrated to the United States in 1928 from Ballinrobe, County Mayo. He knows she would be thrilled over his selection.

“She would kid me and say I don’t deserve it. But she would love it,” said Tillyer, who has crossed the Atlantic to visit his cousins in Ireland.

Parade Grand Marshal Jack Haren is likewise thrilled. The pair have been friends for three decades and share a deep appreciation for the history and culture of Ireland and the United States.

“To say I am delighted would be an understatement,” Haren said. “Pat and I have a very, very strong bond. There are many individuals who are worthy, but I can’t think of anyone who means as much to me in terms of Irish heritage and friendship. To share my Grand Marshal year with him, to have him at my side, I am truly blessed.”

In fact, when Haren was selected as Grand Marshal, the first person he told outside his immediate family was Tillyer.

“Pat told me for years that I could be Grand Marshal, but I never considered it a serious possibility,” he said. “So after I was chosen, I made a call to Pat. He saw it coming when I didn’t.”

Amidst the mutual esteem shared by the honorees, there is also a good-natured rivalry over their favorite baseball teams.

“I can’t believe I’m a die-hard Dodgers fan and I’ll be cutting the ribbon for a Giants fan,” Tillyer quipped.

With the Parade Starter chosen, the pieces are in place to elevate the parade to a new level of enjoyment for its 50,000 to 70,000 spectators.

“I know we’ll have a great day because I’m sure the sun will shine on Jack,” Tillyer said. “I’m very grateful, and I really couldn’t be happier with how this year has turned out.”