Francis B. Doyle is not only a legacy member of the Shamrock Club of Columbus; he also has a legacy hat.
This year's grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day parade, to be held Monday, March 17, will don a black beaver top hat, left to him by his late father.
Doyle said the hat, imported from London in 1926, is in "mint condition," having survived numerous parades over the decades. In inclement weather, Doyle covers it with form-fitting plastic.
The parade, part of a full day of activities sponsored by the Shamrock Club of Columbus, starts at 11:30 a.m. at Neil Avenue and Nationwide Boulevard in the Arena District. The parade will travel east on Nationwide to High Street, south on High to Broad Street and west on Broad to Veterans Memorial.
Doyle's father, Francis J. Doyle, the second-oldest of eight boys, was from the small town of Willard, north of Mansfield. Born in 1900, he moved to Columbus in 1918 and became a dentist. He was involved in a number of Irish heritage clubs throughout his lifetime. He died in 1985.
The torch was unexpectedly passed in 1969, when the younger Doyle first joined the Shamrock Club.
"As he gave me the hat, he said, 'Here, put it on,' " Doyle said, noting he has worn it at every parade ever since.
Doyle, 70, is a 1962 graduate of Bishop Watterson High School who retired from Columbia Gas of Ohio. He lives in Dublin.
The 2014 St. Patrick's Day celebration begins at 9:15 a.m. with a procession from Rich Street and Grant Avenue downtown to Mass, which starts at 9:30 a.m. at Holy Cross Catholic Church, 204 S. Fifth St.
The day also has significance for longtime club member Tim Feeney, who has been named Irishman of the Year. Feeney, 65, has been past president of the club and has served on its board. He has family members who have been with the club since its founding in 1936.
"I've just enjoyed the club over the years," said Feeney, 65, of the Northland area.
For many years he was co-chairman of the Irish Family Reunion with club member Mike Dundon.
Mike Murphy, president of the Shamrock Club, said both Doyle and Feeney are well-deserving of their titles.
"Both of them are longtime members of the club and have done a tremendous amount of work over the years," Murphy said.
Murphy, who joined the club in 2001 with his wife, Nancy, said he was impressed with Doyle's dedication to the organization.
"He helps at every event," he said. "He's just a great person personalitywise, a nice guy to know. He'd do anything for you."
Feeney also was praised for his friendly demeanor and commitment to the club.
"He was very friendly to my wife and me when I joined the club," Murphy said. "That made an impression on me."
For the last time in more than 20 years, the Irish Family Reunion will be held from noon to 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial, 300 W. Broad St. Franklin County will raze the facility to make way for a new memorial that will not have banquet-sized accommodations when it opens.
Admission to the reunion is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Tickets can be purchased at club headquarters, 60 W. Castle Road on the South Side.