Boro athletic club should receive commemorative plaque

As the great-grandson of Irish immigrants to Dutch Kills, who once enjoyed the spectacle and competition that was Celtic Park, I take great pride in preserving the history of the times and places in which my ancestors and their neighbors lived.

Establishing a plaque, honoring the history of Celtic Park and the multi-ethnic athletes who created the organization, represented by the Winged Fist, should be done for the following reasons:

1. You would be commemorating the diversity and the strength of a group who together were more than the individuals that contributed to its success.

2. Long before political correctness was a concept, these men banded together on the site of the Celtic Park housing complex to hone their individual athletic skills into a team that was the most prolific contender ever competing in the arena of track and field.

3. It was because they celebrated their common values and not their differences that they were successful in amassing more Olympic medals, as a group, than any American team before or since.

4. It was they who set the ground rules for Olympic competition as we know it today. They set the standard for competition at such a high level that many of their records stood for decades beyond their passing.

Let us hope that the diversity of those living today, within the boundaries of the original Celtic Park, will convince its board of directors to celebrate not only the spirit but the foresight that enabled a band of immigrants, who collectively were known as the Irish-American Athletic Club, to plan and purchase the land from the Thompson family and pass it on intact to those who developed the Celtic Park Housing Project.

Without them preserving this parcel, the homes of those living in Celtic Park housing today would never have been constructed or developed as you appreciate it today.

Honor the members of the Irish-American Athletic Club and all they stood for with the proposed plaque that displays their emblem. This emblem consists of two American flags protecting the upright hand of strength, supported by a pair of wings sprinkled with shamrocks to suggest the descent of the founding members of the organization — all this resting on a cloud encircling the Irish Motto “Liam Adair Abu,” which translates to “Strong hand forever.”

One cannot celebrate the history of Celtic Park without the symbols that represented it to the athletes and the tens of thousands of spectators who once cheered them on from the grandstand, where your housing now stands.

As the IAAC was inclusive, the plaque representing their accomplishments cannot be any less encompassing. Vote to have the plaque, as thoughtfully presented by Ian McGowan, placed in a location of prominence, in Celtic Park housing, for present and future generations to cherish.

As the families that represent the current residents of Celtic Park, members of my family have grown past their Irish roots to welcome native American, Italian, German, French, Hispanic, African American, English, Scottish, Welsh, Polish and Russian plus a wide variety of religious beliefs to match the nationalities represented into our extended family.

What all of us have become are Americans and as such we celebrate our past while treasuring our future. We cannot have one without the other.

Please support the tireless efforts mounted, on your behalf, to preserve the historical heritage of your homes with a plaque preserving it.

Walter Kehoe

Syosset, L.I.

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