2024 Parade Marshal
Those close to Gary understand that while he may enjoy being the life of the party, he is reluctant to accept personal recognition and accolades. Gary declined the parade marshal nomination in the past, as he felt other town members, rather than himself, should be highlighted for their contributions.
However, given his extensive ongoing contributions to the town, he has once again been nominated and—at the insistence of his friends and family—he has graciously accepted.
Gary is the owner and operator of Red’s Towing on Riverdale Street. His parents, Bernard “Red” and Shirley, opened the business in 1958, and Gary began working at Red’s at the age of 16. After graduating from Chicopee High School in 1969, he enlisted in the US Navy.
Stationed at Naval Station Mayport, Jacksonville, Fla., Gary was deployed to the Mediterranean twice. He served as a shipboard electrician on the Franklin D. Rosevelt aircraft carrier. After skiing in the Alps, sunbathing in Greece, running with the bulls in Spain, and fixing the occasional electrical issue on the ship, he was honorably discharged in 1973.
Upon Gary’s return home, Red asked him to watch over the business so he could take Gary’s mother on a much-needed vacation. Fifty years later, Gary is still fulfilling his father’s wishes and overseeing the family business.
In the mid-1990s, Gerry Healy approached Gary with the idea for the first drivable parade float. Always up for a project, Gary went to work converting a vehicle for the parade committee. This novel float design was a hit and the committee was eager to use this model moving forward. As there was a need for a larger vehicle, Gary secured an old school bus for the committee the following year. Gary later learned that the very school bus he had secured and converted was donated to the Boys and Girls Club years prior by none other than his own father.
It was also at this time that Gary opened the bays of Red’s Towing to the parade committee so a handful of members could construct the annual award-winning floats while the rest of the committee had a warm place to socialize. Whether they had a hammer, paint brush, or beer in hand, the committee spent many seasons in those bays and shared countless memories there.
“One of the best memories was when the Philadelphia Mummers surprised the committee with their own private performance at Red’s,” said parade committee member Anita Stewart, referring to the parade band.
“Don’t forget about all the times Father Michael Toohey held a mass for the committee right there in the bay,” added Patty Lagodich.“He even blessed the float!”
And as for Gary’s favorite memory? “Building the float my daughter, Tricia, rode on as a part of 2000 Colleen Court,” he said.
Gary’s commitment to the town and the surrounding local communities has endured for decades. West Springfield High School, Park and Recreation Department, and St. Patrick’s Day committee have all depended on the service of Red’s Towing year after year.
The West Springfield and Holyoke fire departments undergo routine training on the Jaws of Life using vehicles donated by Red’s Towing. Multiple police departments and police associations, community youth leagues, and annual golf tournaments count on Red’s to lend support to charity drives and events throughout the year.
Gary and his team at Red’s have contributed to Brightside’s Hope for the Holidays Toy Run, WSPFLD Boys and Girls Club, I.B.E.W. Local #455 and the Massachusetts Special Olympics.
Though perhaps Gary’s single greatest contribution to the town was his work toward influencing the West Springfield’s Conservation Commission’s purchase of 53 acres of land for passive recreation and wildlife habitat preservation. His commitment to this effort has directly resulted in the protection of this land for generations to come.
As an expression of gratitude for the continued service to the community, the West Springfield Parade Committee named Red’s Towing as the inaugural recipient of The Olde Mittineague Award in 1996. Gary received the Melha Shriners Award of Gratitude on behalf of Red’s Towing and was also honored as an Irish Elk of the Year.
Patty, Tricia, and son-in-law Brett look forward to joining Gary at the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day events.
Friends, family and community members are encouraged to come out and cheer for Gary as he leads the Town of West Springfield during the 71st annual Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday, Mar. 17, 2024. Congratulations and thank you for all that you do, Gary!