Oh, Denny Boy – You Make Us Proud!

Tybee’s Dennis Michael Herb, Sr. Chosen GRAND MARSHAL of SAVANNAH’S 2010 SAINT PATRICK’S DAY PARADE!

Babs & Denny at home on Miller Ave.

Ask anyone who knows Denny Herb and they’ll tell you there’s not a finer, more humble man on the planet, in fact his reputation follows him around like an old Irish blessing.  Denny will of course tell you the only reason he was given the honor of becoming this year’s Parade Grand Marshal is because he has a lot of good friends – a definite understatement from a man whose network of good will extends well into the community on Tybee and in Savannah.

Denny and wife Barbara (Babs) Dodd Herb of 29 years have been gearing up for the strenuous task – at last count, there were 43 events to attend from the day of the announcement until parade day, and there’s always the possibility of adding more. Denny shakes his head and laughs, “They told me, ‘Denny, just relax and get in the limo,’ so that’s what we plan to do! But it sure is amazing how much goes on – gonna have to pace myself.”

Denny says the parade committee made things simple for him this year when they changed the rules and stated that Grand Marshal’s would only be allowed six ‘aids.’ “I have two brothers – Leonard and Joseph Herb, and four sons – Dee, Stephen, Sean and Brent. There’s my six aids – a good thing! Don’t know what I’d of done if I’d had to pick more from between my friends.” The Herbs also have eight grandchildren, the latest, Christopher Gray Herb was born Sunday, March 7th, the morning Denny received the 2010 Grand Marshal sash.

Denny also chose Monsignor Costigan, whom he and Babs met 6 years ago while the Priest was at Saint Michaels on Tybee as his Chaplin. Denny says Costigan definitely had an impact on their lives. “He made us better people – better Catholics. We’re fortunate to have an Irish Priest and Bishop in our community!” Denny goes on to say, “The Saint Patty’s Day tradition really isn’t about all the revelry down on River Street. It’s about our Irish faith, our heritage, our traditions and the forefathers who have made this day possible. It’s not about Denny Herb or the Herb family either – it’s about honor, and respect and community.”

Dennis Michael Herb, Sr. was born in 1943 in the Old Fort Section of historic Savannah at 109 and 111 East Broad Street where he lived with his extended family. “I have a wonderful Irish heritage,” he says, “going back to my great-grandparents.” Their names were James Leonard and Catherine Riordan and they came over from County Cork in 1838. James was a Confederate veteran who participated in early Saint Patrick’s Day Parades in Savannah, and was one of the first presidents of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society. He and Catherine were married at the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist in 1866, and lived at the East Broad Street residence.

Denny says his Aunt Anna also lived there, and is most remembered for her kind, generous spirit. “Many days I’d come home from school to find she’d given away something – maybe my shoes, to someone less fortunate in our neighborhood. She’d always tell me not to worry – that I’d have another pair, and she was always right.”

Catherine and James Leonard had eight children. Only three survived, including Denny’s grandfather, Dennis Michael Leonard, who married Mary Ellen Buchannan. Their youngest child of six was Denny’s mother, Catherine, who in turn married Cuthbert “Cuck” Joseph Herb, Denny’s father.  The Herb family can trace their roots back to Ireland in 1819.

Denny attended Cathedral Kindergarten, Blessed Sacrament Parochial School and later Benedictine Military School. He played All City basketball and baseball, and during his senior year in 1961 was on the baseball team that won the first ever State Championship in any sport for BC.  “In those days,” Denny points out, “My classmates and I were a pretty close-knit group – we still are,” Denny says that both of his brothers, and all four of his sons also graduated from Benedictine. Denny Herb is the fourth “Irish lad” in his class at BC to be chosen and to serve as Grand Marshal. Jerry Hogan, Michael Ryan and Jim Forbes all went before, as a matter of fact, there were several times in recent years years when Denny might have thrown his name in the ring, but stepped aside for Past Marshals, John Burke and Reverend Patrick O’Brien.  Now, this is Denny’s year.

After high school, Denny attended Georgia Southern College on a baseball scholarship. Though he’s now a contractor by trade, he’s always been involved in sports – spending 32 years as a basketball official and was also a softball coach for the Knights of Columbus. (He says he loves to play bocce ball on Tybee – over on 7th Street!)  A charter 3rd degree member of Holy Family Council #5588, and current member of Council #631, Denny also serves as a lector of the Saint Michael’s Men’s Club on Tybee, and he’s a communicant of Saint Michael’s Catholic Church. Recently at a fundraiser for Saint Michael’s School in Memorial Park, Denny was one of the ones manning the oyster roasters.

The Herb family usually gathers across from Six Pence Pub to watch the Savannah parade.  Denny says he’s very excited to be going to the Cathedral Mass, and particularly enjoyed the Greening of the Fountain on March 12th. And he’s not the first in the family to wear the honorable sash of the Grand Marshal. Denny’s uncle, John Joseph Leonard was Grand Marshal in 1975; cousin, Robert James McGrath in 2001, and uncle Dennis Michael Leonard (his namesake) was Grand Marshal of Augusta, Georgia’s third Saint Patty’s Parade.

At age 66, this Irish Catholic husband, father and grandfather takes great pride in knowing that his boyhood dream of one day leading the parade is coming true.  “I’m very thankful for my life – for my family and friends – and the things we hold dear. You know,” he smiles, “There wasn’t a single young Irish man in Savannah who didn’t dream about leading the parade when I was growing up – this is one of the greatest honors of my life, and I’m so proud to have a turn!”  Tybee’s proud, too — God bless the 2010 Grand Marshall and his Irish family!

Saint Michael’s Student, Alec Fanning Chosen as Tybee’s Parade Grand Marshal

Heading up the whole shindig will be this year’s winner of the Saint Michael’s School poster contest, young Alec Fanning, our own Tybee Grand Marshal!  Alec is 13 years old, attends St. Michael’s, and is in 7th grade. He and his mother, Deanna Fanning (Kindergarten teacher at St. Michael’s), moved to Tybee last August, and now claim Tybee as their very beloved home. Alec’s very excited and honored to be chosen as this year’s parade Grand Marshal.  He wanted to do something unusual for his poster, and chose to do a sunrise in Ireland/ sunset on Tybee with featured Lighthouses.  The “Irish” Lighthouse is the Fastnet Light on the Southwestern coast.  To tie the two islands together with the abounding Irish Heritage prevalent here on Tybee, he chose a Celtic circle, shamrocks and the Irish Heritage symbols to accompany the two light houses.  The wording at the top of the poster reads, “Our Heritage flourishes from the Emerald Isle across the wide Atlantic…  to Tybee Island, and not withstanding wind or sail the luck o’ the Irish always prevails!”

Alec Fanning with Joey Burel and Jay Burke, (Tybee’s Parade Chair), at Official City Sashing.

Many Irish families on Tybee will be marching in the island’s Irish Heritage Festival on Saturday, March 13th at 3:00pm, along with other regulars including the amazing Shriners,  the “Junanoos,” Barabbas and the Tribe all the way from Nassau.  The Justice for Children Foundation, Inc. will also have a presence in this year’s Tybee parade. Since 1999 this

organization has promoted community awareness of child safety through classes, events, sponsorships and fundraisers. The Foundation has fitted and provided thousands of local children with safety helmets at no cost to the child or the parents.  Board member, The Crab Shack’s Virginia Ward will be riding alongside Howard Spiva of the Spiva Law Group, and other organization volunteers, handing out materials. Tybee’s “Tommy Chrenshaw” (Councilman Paul Wolff) will also be leading the “I Don’t Recycle” cycle brigade, others will be walking, pedaling, and stickering the spectators. A group of mutts will also strut their stuff along with their owners in support of dogs on the beach.

Erin go Braugh!

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