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Getting Ready For St. Patrick’s Celebration

By Staff | Mar 3, 2011

Dorothy Gilman of Emmetsburg has been named Grand Marshal of the 2011 St.?Patrick’s Parade. She is pictured above (left) with St. Patrick’s Association Chair Darlene Joyce. Dorothy will reign over the 2011 St. Patrick’s 50th Anniversary March 17-19. --Jane Whitmore photo

Dorothy Gilman of Emmetsburg will reign as Grand Marshal of the 2011 St. Patrick’s Parade.

John Higgins and Andy Joyce went to Dorothy’s house one evening on the premise of selling her a St. Pat’s fundraising ticket. They asked her, “Would you help us out?”

“I asked them, what do you want me to do?” Dorothy said.

“Be Grand Marshal,” said Higgins.

“I was so surprised,” Dorothy said with a smile.

Dorothy was nominated for Grand Marshal by members of her family.

“We feel that she is deserving of this honor for a number of reasons,” the letter reads. “Known as ‘Grandma Dort’ to our family, she is proud of her dual Irish ancestry as both her mother and father Molly and John Donohue descended from Ireland. In fact, Grandma Dort still keeps in touch with her extended family residing yet in Ireland today, having been fortunate to meet and visit them in the mid 1980s.”

When the Donohue family came to the United States, some settled in Illinois. That family eventually moved to Emmetsburg and lived by the river near Emmetsburg. Family members still live in Ireland, too.

Dorothy joined a group from Emmetsburg that took a bus tour in Ireland in 1989.

“We toured Ireland by bus and then rented a car,” said Dorothy. “We visited some of the members of Revels that had been in Emmetsburg to perform a few years before that. Some of them stayed at our home.”

When Dorothy learned she would be Grand Marshal, she wrote to her Irish relatives to see if they would be able to come to this year’s celebration. She hasn’t heard back yet.

“I have a lot of cousins in Ireland and I talk to them on the internet,” says Dorothy. “It would be so much fun to have them come over for the celebration.”

St. Pat’s weekend brings back many memories for Dorothy.

“When my mother was alive, she got a fresh shamrock from her cousins in Ireland every year,” she remembers. “My parents celebrated St. Pat’s, too. All my sisters would come home (all five of them) and we always had a fun time. It’s always nice meeting all the people that used to live here and it’s fun seeing all the people.”

“Grandma Dort celebrates her heritage 365 days a year,” her family wrote. “To her, the 17th of March is bigger than Christmas. She loves all of the St. Patrick’s Day festivities and activities and loves attending each and every one of them. On St. Patrick’s Day (and every day of the week leading up to it) you will catch her wearing her green proudly from head to toe.”

Green is Dorothy’s favorite color. In fact, her eyes are nearly as green as the Kelly green sweater she frequently wears. She decorates with shamrocks and green lights outside her home at the corner of Main and Madison.

The nomination continues, “She loves to take part in everything and anything, from singing at the Ceili, entertaining dignitaries, to walking in the annual parade with the Shady Ladies. All of which give her great joy. Friends and family know that you can always stop in at Dort’s for a warm Irish welcome, shamrocks galore, a toddy or two and the lilt of Irish music playing in the background. She is immensely proud of both her Irish heritage and her community. To us, she is the epitome of a true Irish woman.”

Dorothy and her husband, the late Leo Gilman, served on the St. Pat’s board. They went to Des Moines when Sean McCarthy was the visiting dignitary from Ireland.

Her children are Kathy and husband Leo Goeders of Emmetsburg, Joel and wife Lori Gilman of Spencer, Kevin Gilman of Arlington, TX, and Jan and husband Don McCombs of Graettinger. The family includes 11 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

“All of my grandkids are so Irish,” Dorothy says. “My children will all be home for the celebration, but probably not all of my grandchildren.”

Dorothy is now retired. She had been employed at Berkley Company until the company closed. She then worked in the Food Service Program at Emmetsburg Public Schools for 25 or 26 years.

She spends her time volunteering at the Senior Citizen Center, Palo Alto County Fair, at various Catholic Church dinners and serving Irish stew. Her love for volunteering carries over into the hospital auxiliary, RSVP and for the nursing department at Iowa Lakes Community College.

She is a member of Catholic Daughters of America, Garden Club and the Scarlett O’Hatta Red Hat Society.

The 2011 St. Patrick’s Celebration will be held Thursday, March 17, through Sunday,?March 20, with the famous St. Pat’s Parade on Saturday, March 19.