When it comes to the Shamrock Club of Columbus, Jim Fath has always considered himself a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

When it comes to the Shamrock Club of Columbus, Jim Fath has always considered himself a behind-the-scenes kind of guy.

On March 17, he'll be front and center.

Fath, of Merion Village, has been chosen as grand marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade. He has been involved with the organization since 1963, a year after he graduated from Bishop Watterson High School.

"I'll see so many people I know on the parade route, I'll wear my arm out waving," he said, noting that the Irishman of the Year is Tommy Byrne, a relative.

The honor is especially pleasing because Francis Doyle, president of the Shamrock Club, made the selection, Fath said.

"We've been buddies forever and ever," said Fath, a sales coordinator for Diocesan Publications in Dublin. "I was so surprised when he announced that. I just couldn't believe it."

"He's been in the involved in the Irish community as long as I've known him," Doyle said. "He's done it all."

Their friendship goes back to the first grade, when they were students at the Holy Name Catholic Church elementary school in the University District.

"Our friendship goes farther than that. My father used to date his mom before he married my mother," said Doyle, who named his late father, Dr. Francis J. Doyle, as honorary grand marshal of the parade.

Fath got Doyle to join the Shamrock Club in 1969. For years, the two ran the Irish Family Reunion, held at Franklin County Veterans Memorial in concert with St. Patrick's Day festivities. It now draws about 6,000 people.

Fath is an Irish enthusiast, even though he has a touch of German. He also belongs to the local chapter of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, of which he also served as president.

"I've always enjoyed it, the music especially, and the dance," he said. "I even took the Irish step-dancing (classes)."

Both men trace their lineage to County Longford. One might say they were attached at the hip before they even knew each other.

"That's exactly right," Doyle said.