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Saint Patricks Day Parade Magazine

Jerry Counihan Elected 2019 Grand Marshal

Each year it is our distinct privilege to select an exemplary Irishman to lead the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in celebration of the life and faith of Ireland’s patron saint. This grand feast day is not only a testament to the power and joy of St. Patrick’s faith embedded in the hearts and minds of the Irish people, but has evolved into one of this nation’s greatest celebrations of God, Family and Country.

On Sunday, February 24, 2019, the members of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee elected Gerald “Jerry” Patrick Counihan as Grand Marshal to lead Savannah’s 195th St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Having Irish ancestry through and through, the branches of the Counihan family are laden with Irish surnames. On the paternal side, John J. Counihan hailed from County Kerry in 1846. Also, Felix McKenna, a great-great grandfather is traced to Monaghan County Ireland, circa 1827. McKenna married Margaret Welsh, County Tipparary, Ireland, in South Boston, Massachusetts in 1852 and arrived in Savannah in 1857. Confederate war records find McKenna enlisted in Captain Reid’s Company of The First Georgia Olmstead’s Infantry Regiment. On the maternal side, Maurice Rahilly, espoused to Harriett Keilly, both native to County Limerick, Ireland, arrived in New England in 1825 and made their way to Savannah in 1857.

Jerry was born October 30, 1946, in Savannah to Michael J. Counihan, Sr. and Sarah DeBorde-Rahilly Counihan. Both Mike and Sarah were raised in the “Old Fort” Irish neighborhood of Savannah and attended Benedictine Military School and St. Vincent’s Academy, respectively. Mike Counihan was a prominent labor leader in Georgia, Mayor of Tybee for 14 years, and honorably served as Grand Marshal of the 1988 St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Jerry and his brothers, Michael, Dennis and Brian served as aides.

Jerry attended the Nativity of Our Lord School and Benedictine Military School before graduating from Carlisle Military School as Lt. Colonel, Battalion Commander. In athletics, Jerry lettered 3 years in track, cross country and football, serving as team captain his senior year. Seeking higher education, Jerry entered business school at Baptist College/Charleston Southern prior to graduating from the University of Chicago School of Respiratory Therapy. He subsequently managed the departments of respiratory and pulmonary function, electroencephalogram and electro cardio at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

In 1975, Jerry changed career paths, followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the electrical field successfully obtaining his Journeymen Classification and Masters License. In 1984, Jerry was elected business manager for the IBEW Local 508, a position Mike Counihan held for 36 years. In 1986 he was appointed to the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee to develop and standardize training to educate the members of the IBEW and the National Electrical Contractors Association.

In 1988, Jerry was elevated to the International Office of the IBEW as International Representative, beginning a 21-year career in Labor Management and Human Resources. He is credited with providing job and career opportunities for many young men and women not only in the Coastal Empire but throughout the State of Georgia. Although he retired on August 1, 2009, he has continued to assist and guide individuals with career paths and has engaged in IBEW and NECA humanitarian projects supported by the Catholic Church in Haiti and Puerto Rico following Hurricanes Matthew and Maria.

Jerry’s military service includes 8 years with the 118th HHB Group (Chatham Artillery) of the ARNG, serving as Staff Sergeant (E-6), Medical Specialist.

Jerry and Lisa Harrison (SVA ’75) were wed December 16, 1978, and blessed with 3 children, Michael (BC ’98), Jeremy (BC ’00) and Shannon (SVA ’07). The Counihan Clan is loving and supportive, displaying those family values we all admire. Jerry and Lisa are active communicants of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church.

For over 23 years Jerry served the youth in our community by organizing and coaching football, basketball, and track and field for the Tybee Island Jaycees, St. Michael’s School, St. Peter the Apostle School, and St. Vincent’s Academy.

Jerry’s organizational activities in the community include the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee (1965), Irish Heritage Society (past President), Catholic War Veterans (past Commander), 4th degree Assembly #173 and Honorary Life member of Knights of Columbus 631, currently serving as Deputy Grand Knight, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick (President), Police Emerald Society (communications), Ancient Order of Hibernians, American Legion Post 36, Hibernian Society, BC Alumni and Athletic Associations, Tybee Marine Rescue Squadron (past Skipper), and Chatham Artillery (life member). In addition, Jerry participated in Georgia Southern University research projects, conducted by William L. Smith and Barbara Hendry, focusing on the social, cultural, and religious ethnicity of Savannah’s Irish Americans.

Jerry Counihan is not only representative of Savannah’s unique Irish history, but is a man of good character, displaying qualities of trustworthiness and loyalty and is always ready to lend a helping hand. Thus, it is our honor to elect Jerry to lead our parade on Saturday, March 16, 2019.