Two days after the founder of Metairie’s popular annual St. Patrick parade died, Jefferson Parish officials on Wednesday honored him for spending more than four decades organizing what was described as “no bigger gathering.”

Johnny Marchese, who died at his home Monday at age 97, got the first St. Patrick parade rolling through Old Metairie in 1970, and he captained it until 2012, according to his obituary posted online by The New Orleans Advocate. He was the Grand Marshall of the 2013 parade and sat on the event’s organizing committee for the last 45 years of his life.

The parade is always “a huge event” each March; and when the weather is good, there is “no bigger gathering,” Jefferson Parish Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng said at a public meeting Wednesday.

“He was an incredible force for us,” said Lee-Sheng, whose district encompasses Metairie. “It is a huge loss.”

State Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, will be the Grand Marshall for this year’s St. Patrick parade on March 15. Martiny on Wednesday said he’ll never forget he was sitting next to Metairie resident Marchese when he was informed he’d be honored as the Grand Marshall this year.

“He promised he’d be there with me,” Martiny said. “I’m convinced he will be there with us (still).”

Marchese throughout the years worked at the L + N Railroad, the Great Southern Box Factory, USI chemical plant and for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office as a process server. Aside from the St. Patrick parade, he and his late wife, Dorothy, mainly loved Tulane University football.

Marchese had two sons — John J. Marchese and Ralph J. Marchese — and a daughter, Kathy Marchese Spadoni. He also leaves behind eight grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren and one great-great grandson, his obituary said.

According to the obituary, visitation for Marchese is from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Thursday and continues on Friday morning at 9 a.m. at Leitz-Eagan Funeral Home, 4747 Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Metairie. His funeral service will be at Leitz-Eagan on Friday at 1 p.m. He will be interred at Metairie Cemetery following the funeral service.