The St. Patrick’s Day parade in Châteauguay is the brainchild of Ernie Presseau, who passed away in 2017 after leaving his mark on parades around Montreal.
People that knew him well say Presseau was proud of the 70-plus parades he worked on through his lifetime and put his heart into each one.
“Ernie co-founded Montreal’s Canada Day Parade in the late ’80s,” said Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade public relations officer Ken Doran.
Presseau helped with the Kahnawake Anniversary of the Hospital parade, St-Jean Baptiste Day parades in both Châteauguay and Ville de Mercier, Châteauguay’s Canada Day parade and Montreal’s St. Patrick’s Day parade among others.
“Ernie was an important piece of the St. Patrick’s Parade in Montreal for numerous years,” said Ken Quinn, historian for the United Irish Societies of Montreal (UIS).
As part of the UIS, Presseau served as chair of the entertainment committee in the late ’80s and chair for the pageant committee from 1990-1996.
In 2003 after moving to the suburb, Presseau became a member of the Chateauguay Irish Society which was renamed as the Chateauguay and Valley Irish Heritage Association (CVIHA) a year later.
As part of the organization’s re-branding, Presseau had an idea promoting inclusiveness to communities outside of the town, helping identify southern Quebec’s Irish families.
“It was in 2005 when Ernie said, ‘We should have a parade here,’ and everybody laughed at him,” said Eric Brophy, former public relations officer for the CVIHA.
“Sure enough, he organized one, very quickly. He had the last laugh, and we’ve been having it every year since.”
The inaugural St. Patrick’s Day parade in Châteauguay featured Robin Burns as grand marshall along with his brother and Hockey Hall of Fame coach Pat Burns as chief reviewing officer.
Châteauguay’s parade eventually became one of four St. Patrick’s Day parades recognized by the UIS along with the Hudson, Montreal and Quebec City editions.
The four parades happen annually over the two weekends surrounding St. Patrick’s Day on March 17, with the Châteauguay edition wrapping up the series.
The UIS presented Presseau with the Simon McDonaugh Humanitarian Award in 2012, an annual distinguishment presented to individuals who honour their Irish heritage.
“Thanks to them, the parade is still ongoing. He brought enough people on-board to make it happen for a long time.”
Presseau’s love of the parade kept him going over the years. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2011 but continued to organize the parade right up until his last one.
Presseau passed away from cancer on October 25, 2017, after a long courageous battle, but people close to him say that he really died from a broken heart.
“The doctor used to say, ‘Ernie you have nine lives — we just don’t know which one you’re on,'” said Brophy, who walked as grand marshal in 2015.
“Ernie was saying that it was his last one over a five-year span, but he kept going. It was soon after his wife passed away, that he died two months later.”
As destiny would have it, Ernie served as grand marshal of his final parade in 2017.
The 2018 edition of the Châteauguay parade was dedicated to Ernie, his wife of 41 years, Anne-Grace Angevine Presseau and the late Matthew Finnegan, half of CVIHA’S 2017 Irish Couple of the Year.
There was a banner near the front of the parade with their photos and a message stating that the parade was being held in their memory.
“Essentially, we are doing this parade specifically in memory of Ernie Presseau along with his late wife Anne Presseau,” said CVIHA public relations officer Amy Lynn Waugh.
“Their family will be in the parade in their own section which is also another way we are honouring the late ‘Parade Man.'”
WATCH: Details about the 2018 Châteauguay St. Patrick’s Parade route
The route went down D’Anjou Boulevard to Maple where it hung a right toward McLeod. The parade’s reviewing station was set up at the Howard S. Billings High School parking lot.
CVIHA post-parade celebrations took place at the Ye Olde Orchard Pub in Châteauguay.
Dignitaries for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Châteauguay 2018:
Queen – Shaunessa Boyle-Giuliani
Princesses – Kathleen Davidson, Emma-Rose Allie McGill, Michaela McGinn (junior princess)
Grand Marshall – Brendan Glenane
Chief Reviewing Officer: Shirley Deegan
Irish Couple of the Year: Gail Cooney and Glen Raimondo
President: Henry Gagnon
Vice-President: Michael McGinn
Parade Director: Marlene Demers
Public Relations: Amy Lynn Waugh
Secretary: Donna Walker
Past President: Tony Keenan