• Interview of Maureen Richetelli

    Interviewer: This interview is with Maureen Richetelli. She’s one of our original members and we’re going to ask her some questions. Are you ready, Maureen?

    Maureen Richetelli: Yes!

    Interviewer: OK. Maureen. How and why did you first get involved with the Irish Heritage Society of Milford?

    Maureen: Well, I have always wanted an Irish club. My mother always said that I was more Irish than the people that got off the boat and she could never figure it out, and quite frankly, I just had it in my heart. I just felt I was special. I was an Irish girl and I always acted that way, and that’s who I am.

    Interviewer: Sounds great. Proud to be Irish.

    Maureen: Very proud to be Irish!

    Interviewer: What was the biggest challenge in the beginning for the club when getting the club started?

    Maureen: Well, we had our first meeting at the West River Convalescent Home. There was an ad in the paper that said that anybody who was interested in joining an Irish club should please show up at this West River Convalescent Home. I was like getting so excited, and I could not wait to go. When I got there, I was so shocked! I saw all these people that were just as excited as I was. As far as the difficulties, I don’t think we had that many difficulties, because everybody was so open to getting this thing started. I guess the biggest problem was that we really no clubhouse, so we jumped around to different bars in town, and we kept outgrowing them, but as far as difficulties, I don’t really think we had difficulties, because everybody was so happy to start this club and to be involved in it. So, I just don’t think we had a lot of difficulties, no matter what some people say.

    Interviewer: What are some of your early memories?

    Maureen: Early memories…I remember so many people being so happy and going to meetings. In the beginning, we had board meetings at different houses. One was the McCabes, and they were always so gracious. Tracey would cook up all these wonderful things, and we would sit around and have a lot of laughs and plan what we were going to do next. It was just a wonderful thing. I still remember meetings at my house that went on until midnight. We had great discussions that went back and forth. We didn’t always agree, but we loved each other. We loved our Irish club, and we always worked it out. We just enjoyed the whole idea of creating an Irish club, no matter what.

    Interviewer: Wonderful. Was there always an Irish menu?

    Maureen: An Irish menu? No, not always. We would make baked brie or brownies, you know. It was just great. Everything we did was great. I mean I just love this club so much.

    Interviewer: Well, it loves you back!

    Maureen: Well, I hope so.

    Interviewer: As far as your personal experience and involvement with the club, what would you say that’s been like such as the different titles you’ve held or personal triumphs for you?

    Maureen: I was very involved in just about every committee that there was. I was one of the first trustees and did that for three years. I was pretty much on every committee such as membership, social, scholarship. I also helped out with the corn beef dinners and the festival. Everything there was, I was involved in. I even used to pick up the mail every day at an office we had. Marty started out picking up the mail, and somehow, I ended up with the key. I used to walk down to this office where we had a mailbox. I can’t tell you how many times I set the alarm off at that place! This guy would come running out and say, “Oh, no, not you again!” Oh, my gosh! I used to be terrified, you know, because I worked at the police department and I didn’t want them to think it was me setting off the alarm. The next thing you know this guy would come over and shut it off. So I’d go out and walk home like nothing ever happened.

    Interviewer: What else did I do?

    Maureen: The festival was a big thing…getting that started. Myself and Maureen Moore were in charge of the food vendors and getting the people to sign up was hard; trying to find people to sell their wares because we didn’t know people that sold Irish clothes and things like that. I even had my cousin Peggy O’Neill down from Yonkers working on it for me. She found a vendor from the Bronx that came up. I actually have the cutest little beaded pocketbook with a shamrock on it from that vendor. I still have it to this day, and people always comment on how adorable it is. The next time there is a function I’m going to wear it so everyone can see it. Anyway, so we ended up getting a few vendors. We had a couple within the club, too. Pat Francis was a vendor. Mary Neshtke showed her pictures and Rosemary Markham – she’s still in the club – showed her paintings. We didn’t have many people within the club, but we managed to get enough to look like we were professionals. And we were! I’m telling you that first festival was unbelievable! It was fabulous. It was small, like a big wedding party. That’s why I love our festival to this day, because it was small. It’s not like what Fairfield puts on with those big grounds. It’s not good. By the time you get your sandwich and your beer, and then find a place to sit, you’re spilling your beer, and your sandwich is cold. They just don’t have a nice set up like we do. We have a great set up, and I think that’s why people like it so much too. It’s intimate. It’s like a big old house party in your backyard.

    Interviewer: I know you had talked in the past about the weather that day. Do you want to expound upon that?

    Maureen: Oh, yes. That weather! It rained the day before and it poured! When we went down there in the morning, it was still raining. The ground was mush. I mean you sank into that grass! All I did was pray and pray. I’m in charge of prayers at the club. I was in charge of the weather for the festival and for the golf tournament. That’s my job because I have a connection (to God). I do! (laughter) I prayed for good weather. As far as the golf tournament, I was sick for it, but I still prayed while I was up in bed! So, on the day of the first festival, I’m telling you, the sun broke through, and the people came, and all I could think of was how the good the Lord was for saving the day. We were so happy as the people were coming in. We were just shocked and thrilled. We were like little kids on Christmas morning, so ecstatic. And we did so well that day. That’s just how we were about our club, and I hope we still are. I mean, we had our differences and own opinions and things like that, but in the end we all loved each other and we loved this club. I remember, I went to the planning and zoning meeting when they were going to bring us up to become a club, and I was sitting there like a little scared little person until they passed it. I got so excited. Tears were running down my face because I was so happy and so thrilled, and it still makes me cry to think that we finally have a wonderful place that we worked so hard to get. I mean, it took us ten years to do it, and I honestly and truly thought I would not live to see the day. Now, I’m hanging there with many club years ahead! Anyway, it’s been wonderful thing.

    Interviewer: That’s great. Now we’ve just passed the ten-year anniversary of the club. Do you want to talk about the growth that you’ve seen thus far, and where you see the club going over the next ten years?

    Maureen: Well, I finally have seen some young people joining the club, and I have felt very strongly that in order for this club to go on we had to have young people come in because us older people can’t do as much as we’d like to anymore. I have always felt that we needed the younger people and now I see yourself (Sheila Danehy) and Amanda and Mike who’s going to be our Sergeant at Arms and Lisa Aliberti who is not on the board but is doing a great job with the activities committee. It was time for some young people with different ideas to take over. I do think that the older people are getting up there. You know, we worked really hard to get this club started – we really did – and we enjoyed every minute of it; I’m telling you, we worked very hard. We worked our tails off to get it started, and that’s why we appreciate it so much. And we hope that the younger people coming in will love it as much as we did and treat it the way it should be treated. The one thing I worry about is that people will get the idea that it’s just a drinking club. I just don’t want people to come in and think that the bar is all there is to do when they come here, because some people always think the Irish drink so much. Of course, people like to have a little drink now and again but the Irish don’t drink the way people think, and I want people to get involved and participate in the activities and do the work that the older people started. Because that’s the only way the club is going to thrive. We have to have the young people come in and work as hard as we did. It’s a wonderful place, but as far as the club house, I think we’ve already outgrown it. I always thought that before we even moved in. But we had to start someplace and with the help of the young people and with their ideas and with their strength we will be able to expand or get a bigger place. I have visions of a place with our own property where we can have our own festival on site, or our own big picnics, so we don’t have to rent another spot. So, we’ll see. I’m sure that with the young people who seem to be very interested in our Irish culture that it will survive and do just that. I mean, I’m sure it will survive, but I want it to get bigger and better. I really do.

    Interviewer: That sounds like a good plan.

    Maureen: I’ll be there watching even if it’s from upstairs because I know I’m not going down. God wouldn’t do that to me!

    Interviewer: Well if you’re going down, then I don’t know where I’m going! Thank you very much, Maureen. We greatly appreciate it!