Photo by SHARON YANISH, Special to the Eagle // Buy this photo
A year and a half ago, Kathleen Reynolds decided the Irish-Americans on Marco Island needed a club of their own. And being a self-described “take-charge woman,” she didn’t waste any time getting the word out.
Reynolds has been in business on the island for 18 years and she thought what better way to broadcast her intentions than through her salon, Kathleen’s Hair Studio.
She passed the word to customers and to her Irish friends and acquaintances, and it wasn’t long before this 31-year Marco resident had organized an Irish dinner dance. Two-hundred people attended. Through her efforts, the Southwest Sons and Daughters of Erin was born.
“You don’t realize how many Irish people live on Marco Island.”
Today the group has 170 members with Reynolds serving as president. Local restaurant owner, Cathy O’Clarke holds the VP position, and Maureen Marcoux is secretary. Karen Urbanik takes care of the club treasury. Three gentlemen complete the board — Harry Kennedy, who is membership chairman, and Dan Moll and Frank Carr offer their support in any way necessary.
“You don’t have to be Irish to join,” said Reynolds with a laugh. “You know how friendly the Irish people are. Anybody who likes the sound of the fiddle and Irish music can belong.”
The members meet every third Wednesday of the month and not only do they socialize and have fun when they get together, but the club takes an active role in community charitable deeds, as well, said Reynolds. They’ve donated money to the YMCA and The Charter School. Their Second Annual Dinner Dance raised $3,500 for the San Marco Parish.
And the Southwest Sons and Daughters of Erin aren’t stopping there. On St. Patrick’s Day, Cathy O’Clarke has offered her restaurant’s customer cover charge to the group. Reynolds has always had a special place in heart for children, so the club plans to split the proceeds between The Charter School and a scholarship for students on Marco Island. Besides being a member of the Kiwanis Club, she is a Columbiette and a Eucharistic Minister at San Marco Church. Every two years, Reynold’s accompanies Father Pat to Peru to do mission work.
The club’s social activities only get bigger and better, too. Her husband, Bill, reports that the First Annual Golf Tournament for March 30 at Eagles Lake has had a tremendous turnout. Already 72 golfers have registered and he expects it to be at 100 soon. Watch for something special in 2009 from the group on the St. Patrick’s Day holiday.
“Next year we’re having our first ever St. Patrick’s Day parade on Marco Island,” said Kathleen.
At their annual Shamrock Dinner Dance March 1 in the San Marco Parish Hall, 176 members celebrated the wearing of the green. Noel Kingston, a one-man band from the east coast, entertained on the keyboard, and Gorman’s Celtic Dancers performed an Irish Step Dance to the delight of the crowd.
Kathleen and Bill Reynolds celebrate each St. Patrick’s Day by inviting special friends, sometimes 100 in all, to dinner and dancing at their home. Corned beef and cabbage tops the choices — what else? — but she bakes shepherd pie, and chicken wings, too.
“I do all the cooking,” she said. “I even make lasagna and sausage and peppers for my Italian friends!”
Born in Kildare, Ireland (husband, Bill, is from Tipperary), Kathleen moved to Marco in 1977, and loves living here.
“This is my community. I’ve been here for 31 years and this is my home. I think Marco Island is wonderful,” she said.
And, she is proud of her Irish heritage and happy that she can keep the culture and customs that are so dear to her alive through the Southwest Sons and Daughters of Erin.
Sounds like Kathleen Reynolds has the best of both worlds.
To join Southwest Sons and Daughters of Erin or for more information, call Kathleen Reynolds at 394-2442, or e-mail SDofErin@aol.com