John “Johnny” Marchese, who founded the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Old Metairie, died Monday at his home. He was 97.
Marchese started the parade in 1970 and was its captain for 42 years. He served as grand marshal in 2013 and also was a member of the event’s organizing committee.
“Besides his family, that (parade) was his life,” said his daughter, Kathy Spadoni. “I think that kept him going for so many years. Even though he’s Italian, he bled a little (Irish) green.”
Spadoni said her father inspected every float as they lined up before the parade. He was known to eject any floats or riders that intended to express or throw anything that offended his family values.
“He always wanted that parade to be family-oriented,” Spadoni said. “He was a tough cookie. He had a little temper — but it was a good temper.”
Once the parade began to roll, there was no happier time for Marchese, who would either walk or ride the route before grabbing a seat at the end, Spadoni said. Then, he would smile and greet each marching group and float in the parade.
“They’d all wave and throw beaucoup stuff at him,” Spadoni said. “They’re going to miss him sitting at the end of the route, looking up and smiling. Now, he’ll be looking down and smiling at them.”
Government officials honored Marchese at the Jefferson Parish Council’s meeting Wednesday, saying there was “no bigger gathering” than the parade he founded.
“He was an incredible force for us,” said Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng, whose district encompasses Metairie. “It is a huge loss.”
State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, will be the grand marshal for this year’s parade on March 15. Martiny said he was sitting next to Marchese when he learned he’d been chosen as grand marshal.
“He promised he’d be there with me,” Martiny said before a moment of silence for Marchese at the meeting. “I’m convinced he will be there with us (still).”
Marchese throughout the years worked for the L&N Railroad, Great Southern Box Factory, USI chemical plant and the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office as a process server. He was a member of the Good Old Boys Club, the Batt Club and the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 12.
He and his late wife, Dorothy Bellott Marchese, loved Tulane University football.
In addition to his daughter, survivors include two sons, John and Ralph; eight grandchildren; 28 great-grandchildren; and a great-great-grandchild.
Visitation for Marchese will be at 9 a.m. Friday at Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 4747 Veterans Memorial Blvd., Metairie, followed by a funeral service at 1 p.m. He will be interred — wearing his green St. Patrick’s coat — at Metairie Cemetery following the service.