WEST SPRINGFIELD — Vehicles from Red’s Towing, Recovery and Transport have been a staple of West Springfield’s Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade contingent for decades, and this year the company’s owner will lead the way.

Committed to promoting the rich history of the Irish culture, the St. Patrick’s Committee of West Springfield has bestowed its highest honor on Gary Sheehan, owner and operator of Red’s Towing on Riverdale Street, naming him its 2024 parade marshal. Sheehan will lead the town’s contingent at the 71st annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17.

“It has been an honor to accept this award on behalf of the Sheehan family,” he said.

Gary Sheehan, West Springfield parade marshal, stands with Mary “Patty” Lagodich.
Reminder Publishing submitted photo

Sheehan’s parents, Benard “Red” and Shirley Sheehan, opened Red’s Towing in 1958, and Gary started working there when he was 16. Red’s was awarded the inaugural Olde Mittineague Award by the St. Patrick’s Committee of West Springfield in 1996.

Following his graduation from Chicopee High School, Sheehan enlisted in the U.S. Navy. Stationed at Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Florida, he was deployed to the Mediterranean twice. He served as a shipboard electrician on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was honorably discharged in 1973.

In the mid-1990s, Sheehan was approached with the idea for the first drivable parade float for West Side’s contingent in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade. Always up for a project, he went to work converting a vehicle for the parade committee. The design was a hit, and the committee continued to use this model for years. Sheehan secured and converted an old school bus for the committee the following year. He later learned that the bus had been donated to the West Springfield Boys & Girls Club years prior by his father.

It was around this same time that Sheehan opened the bays at Red’s Towing so members of the St. Patrick’s Committee could build their award-winning floats. His participation in the creative process has resulted in the making of lifelong friends and a slew of memories, most notably “building the float my daughter, Tricia, rode on when she was a member of the Colleen Court in 2000,” he said.

Sheehan’s commitment to the town and surrounding communities has endured for decades. He and his team at Red’s have contributed to Brightside’s Hope for the Holidays toy run, the Boys & Girls Club, IBEW Local 455 and the Massachusetts Special Olympics. Sheehan received the Melha Shriners Award of Gratitude on behalf of Red’s Towing, and was also honored as an Irish Elk of the Year. He can trace his Irish lineage back to County Kerry in the mid-1700s.

Looking ahead to parade day, Sheehan said he will be joined in the march by a “special person” in his life, Mary “Patty” (O’Connor) Lagodich, whose late mother, Peggy Poremby, was the first woman to be chosen as West Springfield’s parade marshal in 1992.

The committee also named winners for three annual awards. The Dante Club was given the Ray DiStefano Citizenship Award; John R. Sweeney Insurance Agency was given the Olde Mittineague Award; and Karen Demers won the “Jinx” Powers Award, given to a St. Patrick’s Committee member by his or her peers. This year’s float designer is Isha Suleiman of West Springfield Middle School.

The parade steps off at about 11:10 a.m. on March 17 on Northampton Street (Route 5) in Holyoke. It will be televised live on WWLP, Channel 22, and wwlp.com. For more information, visit holyokestpatricksparade.com.

Rich J. Wirth
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