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Shamrock Club names Irish Man, Irish Rose

Deb and Dave Sarna selected

By Emily Conroy

Deb and Dave Sarna are this year’s Irish Rose and Irish Man in New Dublin. Photo Courtesy of Shamrock Club

A Manawa couple have been named this year’s Irish Man and Irish Rose for the St. Patrick’s Day celebration in New London, or New Dublin as it is known during Irish.

Deb and Dave Sarna take the titles this year, on the 40th anniversary of the Shamrock Club of New London.

According to Joan Malliet, a Shamrock Club trustee, Irish Man and Irish Rose are nominated and voted on by New London Shamrock Club members.

The nominees are generally of Irish heritage, club members, have a connection to the club or have volunteered for or helped promote the clubs activities, Malliet said.

Dave has been a member of the Shamrock Club from the start in 1984, participating in and helping to plan the St. Patrick’s Day activities.

“A lot of what I brought to the Shamrock Club was shenanigans,” Dave said.

Dave is best known for his Irish Wake, or Finnegan’s Wake, as he and his crew call it. Finnegan’s Wake is named after the James Joyce novel, he said.

“In the true sense of an Irish Wake, it’s always the same guy, Michael Patrick Finnegan. He dies every year about this time,” Dave said. “So there is always a story behind how he died, the circumstances, we incorporate the family members of Finnegan.”

Dave and his long-time friend, Mike Coyle, started doing the wake long before the Shamrock Club came to New London, he said. The idea really took shape when they were able to purchase and fix up a 1959 Pontiac Superior hearse from a local body shop for $300.

While showing off the power of the hearse, they found that they could get the coffin to fly out of the back of the hearse. This original idea was elaborated on from there, Dave said.

Every year Dave takes Finnegan’s wake around to local bars in Waupaca County as well as through the New Dublin parade, even winning the Chicago parade one year.

Deb is not a member of the Shamrock Club. However, she has spent many years volunteering and helping at events throughout the celebration week.

“It is important to me to volunteer as I know, all too well, how important staff is at a community event. I am in awe at how the event has grown,” Deb said. “The event has become more family oriented and I love that.”

Among the duties required of the Irish Man and Irish Rose include judging parade entries, riding in this year’s and next year’s parade, as well as participating in as many activities as they can during the week, most notably the family program on Thursday, March 14, Malliet said.

“I am most looking forward to Thursday night which is the family night with all entertainment coming from local folks, ranging from kids to the elderly,” Deb said.

The Sarnas have been together for about 45 years and have two children, Mike and Dawn. Mike is an engineer for John Deere in Iowa and Dawn is a baker, being recognized in Wedding magazine for best wedding cake designers in the United States, Dave said.

The Sarnas both agree that the Shamrock Club has organized and created an amazing event that continues to grow.

“I have always been known as an ideas person, I know a lot of my ideas are off the wall. But I brought a lot of ideas to the Shamrock Club and a lot of them really took off,” Dave said. “It really makes me very proud of things that I brought forward that flourished.”

One of the ideas Dave brought to the club was a large meeting place for the event, which led to the large tent that now sits in the Festival Foods parking lot for Saturday’s events every year.

“I am very flattered, unquestionably,” he said. “I was lucky to be around a lot of people that appreciated my input and what I brought, even if it was crazy ideas and a lot of them flourished and I am very proud of that.”

Deb agrees and said she is honored to be named Irish Rose for 2024, and notes that her grandmother is of Irish dissent with the name McHenry.

The New Dublin Grand Parade is at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 16.

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