The next three days are going to be full of parties and celebration for Joanne Walsh Beine.
Today and Saturday, she will be honored by the St. Patrick Society Quad-Cities, USA, as the Irish Mother of the Year.
And on Sunday she’s throwing a party herself at her Bettendorf home for at least 30 family members, friends and friends of family.
“We just become a conglomerate of all kinds of people,” the 77-year-old said while in the middle of baking and frosting cookies Thursday morning.
Born and raised in Burlington, Iowa, her family moved to the Quad-Cities in 1967. She and her husband, who died in 1990, raised six children — three girls, three boys. Four of them live in the Quad-City area, working as a police officer, for Modern Woodmen of America and the Rock Island Arsenal, among other employers. The other two children live in Chicago and Memphis. This year, “they’ll all be in their 50s,” she said, with birthdays 50 to 57 years to be celebrated. There are nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren as well.
Her daughters collaborated on the entry letter that won her the honor.
Beine said she thought it was a prank when she took the call telling her she had won the Irish Mother of the Year award.
“I said, ‘Yeah, right,” she recalled. “I thought it was a joke. I never in my wildest dreams thought it would be an honor I would get.”
Through the years, she’s worked as a school bus driver (ideal for keeping the same hours as her children, she said), real estate agent and at various banking jobs. She’s now a Bettendorf Parks Ambassador, making sure the city parks are clean and answering any questions visitors might have.
Beine’s great-grandparents on both sides of the family, Mahaffey and Walsh, emigrated from Ireland to the U.S.
She’s already asked for advice from a previous Irish Mother of the Year winner and knows she has to give a speech — the shorter the better, she’s been told — during today’s Gathering of the Clan luncheon at the Davenport RiverCenter, a new location this year.
“I’m getting nervous, but once I get up there I’m sure it will all be fine,” Beine said.
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On Saturday morning, she will be joined by her
12-year-old granddaughter and 7- and 12-year-old grandsons to ride through the downtown streets of Rock Island and Davenport in the Grand Parade XXVIII. The St. Patrick Society event, the only bistate parade to celebrate the Irish holiday, begins at 11:30 a.m. at the corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street in Rock Island and concludes at 2nd and Harrison streets in Davenport. The parade route crosses the Centennial Bridge, which is closed from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the safety of the parade participants. The parade is preceded by a special Mass beginning at 10 a.m. at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown Rock Island.
The Post-Parade Bash follows, also at the RiverCenter, from 1-4:30 p.m. Admission is $15, which also provides an annual membership to the St. Patrick Society. Youth 15 years and younger are admitted for free.
Beine said she’s ready for a memorable weekend.
“I’m looking forward to meeting people,” she said. “I like people, and it’ll be nice to put faces with names that I’ve been hearing on the phone for the past few weeks.”