Meet the grand marshals: the Doddy sisters
BAY SHORE—The Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick’s Day Parade is scheduled for Saturday, March 9, and at the helm will be grand marshals Julia Costello, Catna Cronin and Mary Knapp, also known as The Doddy Sisters.
John Wahlberg, president of the Bay Shore-Brightwaters St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, described the sisters as being of “super-Irish descent.”
It all started with Thomas Doddy from County Sligo, in the northwestern region of the Republic of Ireland, and Julia Duffy from County Mayo in the western region. Both immigrated to New York City in the early 1900s, according to a biography supplied by the parade committee. The couple met at a church-sponsored dance and was married on St. Patrick’s Day (March 17, 1924).
The Doddys soon moved to the Bronx. That’s when the children started coming. Winifred and John were the first two. Then came The Doddy Sisters: Julia (Doodle), 92, Catherine (Catna), 91, and Mary, 87. The family had a summer home on Pine Acres Boulevard, and in 1938, moved to Bay Shore year round. All the Doddys attended St. Patrick’s School and graduated from Bay Shore High School.
Julia met her husband, Eugene, while attending St. Patrick’s. Eugene would go on to become a Navy veteran. Before the couple’s seven children came around, Julia worked split shifts at the New York Telephone Company, located on 4th Avenue. She walked from their apartment on Main Street, which was the original Newins Ford facility. After the building caught fire, the Costello family lost all of their belongings. This led to them building a house on Costello Avenue, where they moved in 1953. One of Julia’s daughters, Eileen Cummings, still lives there with her family.
Catna had eight children with her husband, William, another St. Patrick’s graduate and an Army veteran. Catna, like her older sister, worked for the New York Telephone Company, but eventually left to raise her children. Both Julia and Catna went on to work nightshifts as switchboard operators at Good Samaritan Hospital. They retired in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
Mary had 16 children with her husband, William, also a St. Patrick’s and Bay Shore HS graduate. Before raising her family, Mary worked at the First National Bank, located on Main Street. It has since become the Drew Patrick Salon.
Catna and Mary both built homes on either side of their parents’ home on Pine Acres Boulevard. The Doddy family’s two oldest children have since passed away. Winnie left for Ohio, her husband’s home state, while their only son, John, stayed in Bay Shore’s “Irish Town,” on Potters Boulevard, only a few blocks away from his sisters.
Annie Kane, who is related to Catna on her father’s side, describes the sisters as being the “epitome of the typical Irish women,” adding that they never held prestigious titles in life. “They were regular housewives that went back to work later in life,” she said.
The three sisters have a combined family of 31 children, 72 grandchildren and 51 great-grandchildren. The number of great-grandchildren is still growing. The sisters have also made several trips to Ireland. There was one notable trip in 2000 that involved 33 members of the extended Doddy family chartering a tour bus. The group visited the Duffy family homestead and several cousins.
St. Patrick’s Church has always played a significant role in the sisters’ lives. All three were married there, all the children received their sacraments there, and it’s where many family members received their final blessings. Kane can also attest to the fact that all three sisters never miss an 8 a.m. mass. Other churchgoers have multiple nicknames for them, including “the sisters,” “the triplets” and “the Three Musketeers.”
The parade committee noted that the one constant in the sisters’ lives has been their Catholic faith. “A better representation of our proud Bay Shore community and shared love for the Irish heritage cannot be found,” they added.
Kelly McCarthy, an officer of the parade, said there will be “something for everyone” on Main Street next month, including 10 pipe and drum bands, the Cycling Murrays (a unicycle and fife group), four fire department bands and the Bay Shore HS marching band. There will also be 11 floats (winner of the best float prize gets to donate $1,000 to its favorite charity), the Volkswagen car club and about 40 other groups.
The parade route starts on Saxon Avenue at 2 p.m., travels west along Main Street, and finishes at St. Patrick’s Church on Clinton Avenue. “Let’s just pray for a nice day,” Kane laughed. “[The sisters] deserve warm weather.”
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