The St. Patrick’s Parade Committee of Chicopee hosted its annual President’s Dinner at the Portuguese American Club, 149 Exchange Street, Chicopee on Saturday February 3, beginning at 6:00 PM.
Special guest of honor will be 2024 President Meghan Balakier. As Committee President, Balakier is responsible for overseeing a number of events leading up to the city’s participation in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The daughter of George Balakier (Chicopee Ward 4 City Councilor) and Kathleen Ryan Balakier (2017 Chicopee Parade Marshal), she was a member of the 2008 Colleen’s Court, and joined the committee in 2019. Since then she has served as Vice President, Co-Chair of the Colleen Contestants’ Tea, and in various capacities on other subcommittees.
In addition to her work on the Parade Committee, Balakier’s resume includes a long list of community and civic activities. She is a member of the Young Professionals of Springfield, Springfield Elks Lodge #61, and is currently a Commissioner on the Chicopee Conservation Commission. A member and past president of the Chicopee Democratic Committee, she is a volunteer for political campaigns on the local, state and national level.
Balakier is a graduate of Cathedral High School and Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, and has worked in retail pharmacy and as a pharmacy consultant and analyst. In her leisure time, she is an indoor garden enthusiast and enjoys exploring new vineyards and wineries. Proud of her Irish heritage, she looks forward to the St. Patrick’s Day Parade every year, especially in 2024 when she will lead the committee as its president.
In addition to Balakier, other honorees who will be recognized during the evening include:
Parade Marshal, Fr. William Tourigny
A native of Springfield, William Alphonse Tourigny was raised in a devout Catholic family, son of Hector and Norma (Goodrow) Tourigny, and the third of six children. He attended St. Joseph Catholic Church and School. He graduated from Cathedral High School, then Westfield State College (now University). While attending college, he also worked in the A&P Food Store corporate office. During that time, he was entertaining the idea of entering the seminary. He was accepted as a seminarian for the Diocese of Springfield and chose to attend Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He was ordained in 1980, having successfully earned a master’s degree in sacred theology.
Tourigny’s first assignments took him to North Adams, where he also served as chaplain to the Newman Association at North Adams State College. Later he was reassigned as parochial vicar to the following parishes: Our Lady of Hope, Springfield, Ste. Rose de Lima, Chicopee, Holy Cross and St. Catherine of Siena in Springfield. He then became pastor of St. Joseph and then Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Springfield. He returned to Ste. Rose de Lima as pastor in 2005. For the last several years, Tourigny and the parish have graciously hosted the Chicopee Parade Committee, Colleen and Court for their annual Mass.
Tourigny (“Fr. Bill”, as he is affectionately known) will officially retire from his full time duties on March 1, 2024. He will continue to perform priestly ministries on a part time basis, while enjoying more time with family, friends, and his favorite leisure activities of hiking, skiing and traveling. He was delighted to be chosen as this year’s Parade Marshal, and looks forward to leading the Chicopee contingent as Parade Marshal in the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 17!
Woods Award Recipient, Mary O’Brien Rodowicz
A native of Peabody, Mary O’Brien Rodowicz is the daughter of Rosemary and the late Leo O’Brien. After graduating from Simmons College (now University), she moved to western Massachusetts to attend the University of Massachusetts. In 1983, she married Joel Rodowicz, a native of Chicopee, and has lived in the city ever since. Shortly after settling in the area, she began going to the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Day Parade, eagerly looking forward to seeing the famous “CHICOPEE” banner pass by each year
Rodowicz and her husband have two children: Brian, of Enfield, CT, and Kate, who with her husband Seth Mastrocola, and children Daniella and Evan, resides in Cromwell, CT. In 2008, Rodowicz joined the Chicopee St. Patrick’s Parade Committee. Since then, she has served on the subcommittees that organize the Colleen Ball, Candidates’ Tea, annual committee Mass and Scholarships. She is currently on the Board of Directors, and has coordinated the publicity since 2011. She was Vice President in 2018, and President in 2019.
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Rodowicz retired in 2018 from the Department of Veterans Affairs after 39 years of service. She has studied
the Irish Language, and enjoys traveling, especially to Ireland. Her hobbies include genealogy and writing. She is a weekly volunteer at the Gray House Food Pantry in Springfield.
The Woods Award is given to a committee member for exemplary service. When notified that she was this year’s recipient, Rodowicz reflected: “I am overwhelmed and most appreciative. For several years, I had the pleasure of marching with the late Jack Woods, for whom this award was named. I will think of him when we step off once again on March 17, and I am honored to follow in the footsteps of the many previous recipients. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, and I look forward to a beautiful parade day!”
Atkinson Award Recipient, Bernardino’s Bakery
Bernardino’s Bakery has been a well-known establishment in Chicopee, baking fresh goods for Western Massachusetts since 1918. For decades, Bernardino’s has consistently supported and donated to community events ranging from High School scholarships, banquets, fundraisers, and Chicopee’s very own Parade Committee.
This year, the Chicopee Parade Committee recognized Bernardino’s Bakery with the 2024 George and Buddy Atkinson Award, given to a person or persons who are non-committee members and who have supported the committee through hard work, sponsorship or other contributions. This recognition would have never been possible without Manny Silva and Fernando Goncalves to lead Bernardino’s Bakery to where it’s at today, both being with Bernardino’s Bakery and members of the Chicopee’s Portuguese-American Club for over 30 years. With retirement just around the corner, the torch is being passed to their sons, Steven Silva and Sergio Goncalves, to forever keep Bernardino’s a local staple in Chicopee, promoting heritage, and community for years to come. All four will proudly represent Bernardinos in the Parade on March 17: “We love how Chicopee’s Parade Committee shares the same values as our business, support for our local
community, and a love for heritage. We truly appreciate the recognition the Parade Committee shows us by presenting us with the George and Buddy Atkinson Award.”
The President’s Dinner is the first event in 2024. Other upcoming events and fundraisers to which the public is invited are listed below, and ticket information will be posted on the group’s website at www.chicopeespc.com or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/chicopeespc/ .
Colleen Coronation Ball on Saturday February 24 at the Portuguese American Club.
Irish Night on Friday March 8 at the Portuguese American Club.
March Money Madness Calendars are available for $10 each. Raffle will be held each day during the month of March; prizes range from $50 to $300.
Sponsorship opportunities are also available.
Applications for the Colleen Contest are available on the website at www.chicopeespc.com or by contacting any committee member. The contest is open to young ladies ages 17 through 20 who live in Chicopee. Deadline to apply is February 6, 2024.