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Letter to the Editor: Thank You from 2018 West Orange Parade Grand Marshal Donald Shauger

Donald R. Shauger, Sr., 2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal, waving to the crowd at the West Orange Parade on March 18, 2018 Credits: Alexandra Gakos
2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal Donald R. Shauger, Sr. Credits: Alexandra Gakos
Shauger family Credits: Alexandra Gakos
2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Honorees: Deputy Grand Marshal Sean McGinley; Grand Marshal Donald R. Shauger, Sr.; Deputy Grand Marshal Robert Lynch; and Deputy Grand Marshal Brad Squires Credits: Alexandra Gakos
Parade Committee and Honorees Credits: Alexandra Gakos
2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal Donald R. Shauger, Sr. with a group of employees of The Shauger Group at the parade Credits: Alexandra Gakos
Donald R. Shauger, Sr., 2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal, and his wife, Lisa Shauger, waving to the crowd at the West Orange Parade on March 18, 2018 Credits: Alexandra Gakos
2018 West Orange St. Patrick's Day Parade Grand Marshal Donald R. Shauger, Sr. Credits: Alexandra Gakos

Dear family, friends, colleagues, members of the West Orange community, and all those who gathered to celebrate this year's West Orange Parade,

Not a day goes by when I am not grateful to have been raised in the incredible, warm, and welcoming community of West Orange. Not only was I raised by an amazing mother, I was raised by the community of West Orange—a community that helped my family through our struggles and was there for us every step of the way. I will never forget what this community has done for my family, so it has been nothing short of an honor for me to be able to give back to a community that has given so much to me.

When my mother was stretched thin from working long hours, raising five kids on her own, and caring for my sister, who was terminally ill, the community of West Orange stepped up to help my family. There are many moments of kindness that stand out in my mind—moments when friends and strangers truly showed us what community, friendship, love, and West Orange are all about. The incredible thing about West Orange is that everyone always looks out for one another: they stick by your side, in both good times and bad. I am always proud to say I wasn’t just raised in West Orange, I was raised by West Orange.

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From the bottom of my heart, I am thankful to the West Orange community for embracing me throughout my entire life—and to the parade committee for humbling me with the honor of serving as 2018 Grand Marshal.

For the past 67 years, people from far and wide have flocked to West Orange to celebrate our town’s special St. Patrick’s Day tradition. Each year, the parade committee never fails to organize an amazing, unforgettable event—one that brings together friends to bond, reminisce, and share in their love of this special tradition.

The continued success of the parade is a testament to the dedication of the parade committee. The parade is an esteemed tradition—and one that wouldn’t be possible without the committee’s time, effort, and heartfelt devotion each year. Thank you to the parade committee for all they do to make this day a memorable one.

For all of you who joined us for the parade, I hope you enjoyed a wonderful day with your loved ones, while remembering those who were no longer here to celebrate the day with us. I know my mother and sister were with me in spirit at the parade, standing by my side and sharing in that special moment.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories center around the tradition of the West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Proud of my Irish heritage, I have always eagerly looked forward to St. Patrick's Day each year. We all have unforgettable memories from the parade—listening to the marching bands, watching the fire trucks, dressing head to toe in green, or marching down Main Street—but the community bonding on this day is what stands out most in my mind. The West Orange Parade has always been more than just a parade: it’s a symbol of friendship and unity. It brings people together in a celebration of faith, community, and Irish traditions, while both reuniting old friends and starting new friendships. The parade reminds us of what makes West Orange so special and lets us bond over our shared love of this town.

I can hardly believe this tradition I’ve loved since childhood is one I had the privilege of leading. I’d like to thank the parade committee and the entire West Orange community for this truly humbling honor. Congratulations to Deputy Grand Marshals Robert Lynch, Brad Squires, and Sean McGinley on their well-deserved honor and appointment; on behalf of my beloved hometown, I thank them for all they do for the community. It was an honor to stand alongside three individuals who truly embody the spirit of West Orange and what this great community represents.

Thank you to the West Orange Police Department, West Orange Fire Department, and West Orange Department of Public Works for all of their hard work in preparation for the parade and all year round. They had their work cut out for them in the aftermath of the recent storms, but they rose to the challenge and were tireless in their efforts to make sure the town was safe for everyone on parade day. 

Thank you to Lisa Elam and Alexandra Gakos for their hard work to ensure my involvement as Grand Marshal would be a success. Thank you to Lisa for helping make sure I was at every parade-related event when and where I needed to be. Thank you to Alexandra for helping me tell my story so eloquently—so that others could truly understand what West Orange means to me.

Thank you to my three parade aides, whom I chose symbolically to represent three very important facets of my life: religion, family, and friends. I am grateful that Father Jim Ferry, my priest at Our Lady of Lourdes Church; Therese Shauger, my sister-in-law; and Michael D’Aries, my lifelong friend since kindergarten, all were as enthusiastic about their roles in the parade as I was.

Thank you to my wife Lisa, my daughter Marisa, and my son Donnie, who’s also my chief of staff, for their unconditional love and support. I don’t know where I would be without them.

It was one of the greatest honors of my life to receive a call from the parade committee, telling me I had been chosen as Grand Marshal. It’s a moment I will never forget. Marching up Main Street with my family on the day of the parade, I got to relive a lifetime of memories in West Orange—from childhood on—and it was hard to hold back the tears.

It was especially moving to come to the end of the parade and hear the bells ringing at Our Lady of Lourdes Church for the first time in years—bells that Lisa and I just recently had refurbished as a donation to the church. As I stood listening to the bells, in front of the third-floor apartment I grew up in, it all came together and hit me hard. It was as if I were Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life: I felt like the richest person in the world. And I am—because I wasn’t raised in West Orange, I was raised by West Orange. My hometown. 

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for this honor.

God bless,

Donald R. Shauger, Sr., 2018 West Orange St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

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