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Friends and Neighbors: Not just ‘wearin’ the green,’ but living it

When Catherine Foley marches through New London at the head of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 15, marching with her, in a sense, will be her four Irish-born grandparents and all her Irish ancestors from the counties of Galway, Roscommonn, Kilkenny.

You won’t seem them, of course, but you just might see members of the Rotary Club of New London.

For the first time in anyone’s memory and maybe the first time in the club’s 103-year history, Rotarians will be marching to recognize one of their own, their past president Foley.

The parade steps off from the Bank Street connector at 1 p.m. near Pearl Street. It proceeds to State Street past City Hall and ends at Washington Street.

Past Rotary club president Victoria Mueller, who organized the show of support, said it was important to show up for Foley because she has been a tireless worker for Rotary and in many groups that serve the city and its people.

“We wanted to recognize the accomplishments of this great Rotarian who has given so much to our club and to the city as a whole,” she said.

Barbara J. Neff, who organizes the annual observance, sounded a similar note.

“Our St. Patrick’s Day Committee is thrilled to have Catherine as the 2020 grand marshal,” Neff said. “We selected her, not only because of her strong Irish heritage, but in recognition of all the time she gives back to the community.”

And she gives back plenty. A commissioned lay minister and certified spiritual director and yoga instructor, Foley’s deepest passion is living out the Celtic spirituality of her roots – to find the sacred in the everyday. Her greatest pride and joy are her beautiful (inside and out) daughters, Corinne and Kate Wargo.

In addition to her long history with the Rotary Club of New London, where she has received the Paul Harris Distinguished Service and Carl Weiss awards, she has been an assistant governor, conference chair and visioning chair of Rotary District 7980.

She is a founder of the New London Parks Conservancy, a founding member of the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut’s Southeast Women and Girls Fund and past secretary of the New London Beautification Committee, Ethics Commission, Democratic Town Committee and the New London Rotary Foundation. She currently serves as secretary of City Center District Commission and on the Salvation Army advisory board and the Soft Landing board of directors.

A graduate of the College of New Jersey, she owns and operates MeetingWorks, a consulting firm that specializes in organizing meetings and conferences for corporate and non-profit organizations.

Bruce MacDonald, a Rotary Club member, lives in New London.

Friends and Neighbors is a regular feature in The Times. To contribute, email times@theday.com.

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