Former Riverhead Town Police Chief Joseph Grattan Jr. in his official portrait. (Courtesy photo)

Former Riverhead Police chief Joseph Grattan will be honored as grand marshal of the 2019 St. Patrick’s Day parade in Jamesport.

Grattan, a 39-year veteran of the Riverhead Police Department, rose from the rank of patrolman to chief of the department, a position he held from 1993 until his retirement in 2002.

“I am totally honored and privileged to have been asked,” said Grattan, whose grandfather immigrated to the United States from Ireland as a young child in 1853.

Grattan will carry his great-grandfather’s shillelagh — a wooden walking stick — in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 30.

The family migrated from County Kildare in the wake of the Great Famine, Grattan said. They crossed the Atlantic aboard a ship called the Continental, lived in Brooklyn for a short time and then settled in Greenport. His grandfather, Daniel, married Catherine Malone and had a family of 13 children. The chief’s father Joseph Sr. was their 12th, he said.

Grattan is a 1958 graduate of Southold High School. After high school, he went to work at DeFriest Funeral Home in Southold — “as an assistant and grave-digger,” he said — and became a licensed funeral director in 1962. Grattan joined the Riverhead Town Police Department as a patrolman in January 1963 and 10 months later was drafted into the U.S. Army. He returned to the police force after his discharge in November 1965 and moved up through the ranks, serving as a detective, sergeant, lieutenant and — for just 21 days — captain, before being appointed to the top post.

After his retirement, he went directly to work for the funeral home where he began his working life, only this time he was working with his son, who had bought the business from DeFriest. Grattan, who turns 78 next month, works a full week.

He still lives in the charming Ostrander Avenue home he bought with his late wife Barbara in 1968, where they raised their children, Joseph and Lori. Barbara, who served many years as Riverhead Town Clerk, passed away in April 2009 after a brief illness.

The East End Emerald Society, founder and host of the Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day Parade, will honor Grattan at a grand marshal dinner on Saturday, March 2 at Vineyard Caterers in Aquebogue. The event takes place from 5 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $45 each and include a buffet dinner, DJ, Irish step dancers and the Suffolk County Emerald Society Pipe Band. The grand marshal event dinner is a fundraiser to support the parade, now in its sixth year.

The inaugural Jamesport St. Patrick’s Day parade took place in 2014. It is the first and only St. Patrick’s Day parade in the Town of Riverhead.

The parade steps off on Saturday, March 30 at 1 p.m. on Washington Avenue and Main Road and proceeds east on Main Road to Manor Lane. Fire departments and community groups from around the region participate in the parade each year.

Past grand marshals were: Jack Cuddy (2014); Allen Smith (2015); Sean McCabe (2016); James Wooten (2017); and Sean Walter (2018).

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.