The Ancient Order of Hibernians is the oldest Irish Catholic fraternal organization in the country, and its Louisville chapter is known for hosting the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, among many other charitable contributions.
With the St. Patrick’s Parade being held once again in the Highlands on Saturday, March 10 (starting at 3 p.m.), we wanted to find out who would be leading the event that attracts more than 100,000 folks each year.
Turns out this year’s Grand Marshal is Louisvillian Chuck Mattingly, who was named Irish Person of the Year by the Hibernians. Mattingly not only runs Horner Novelty in Jeffersonville, but also serves as executive director of the Franciscan Kitchen in downtown Louisville.
Mattingly, who is a proud graduate of St. X High School, began working with Alex Horner, founder of Horner Novelty, in 1980. Six years later, Horner sold the business to Mattingly, and he’s been running it ever since. After a fire burned down the retail party center in 2004, he regrouped and rebuilt the facility, which opened back up in 2005.
It was around that time Mattingly began to search for opportunities to give back to the community and help others. In 2008, he began volunteering at the Franciscan Kitchen, a soup kitchen that feeds more than 500 people weekly. Two years later, he jumped at the chance to become the operations director for the facility.
“Taking on both the kitchen and Horner Novelty is definitely a daily challenge, but the rewards have been so worth the extra long days,” Mattingly tells Insider. “Having time for both careers is a challenge, but the rewards outweigh the time it takes to accomplish both.”
He says he starts most days with mass at 8 a.m. and then heads to the Franciscan Kitchen, except on the days when he cooks and has to be there at 6 a.m. He admits he doesn’t have much time for relaxing, but when he does get a few extra moments, he enjoys spending them with his family, friends — and getting in a few games of Texas Hold ’em with buddies.
Mattingly is looking forward to leading the parade on Saturday and also will be present at Thursday’s Blessing of the Keg. Being named Irish Person of the Year is a big deal, and he his honored to receive the title.
“I am so overwhelmed with joy,” he says. “It is a huge surprise to be recognized for doing something I love to do on a day-to-day basis.”
He hopes the platform will help him spread the word of the Franciscan Kitchen, and possibly even snag some volunteers, which the facility is in desperate need of. After all, by helping others, you help yourself, he says.
He recalls how he felt after his first day volunteering at the kitchen:
“You will realize that all those worries, all those concerns, all those aches you have in your heart will start to be healed as you start helping others. There is nothing more important than helping your fellow man. I know that goes against our ‘me’ culture, but if you’re looking for peace and happiness in your life, start putting others first and not ‘me’ first.”
Before Mattingly leads the St. Patrick’s Parade on Saturday — rain or shine — we asked him some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
My Bucket List consists of overseeing the building of mini houses to house the poor within the city, getting the Franciscan Kitchen financially sound for the future, visiting Rome and meeting the Pope.
The most surprising I guess for me is touring the United States in a mobile home for a month and getting a dog some day.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
I honestly don’t remember having a poster of anyone on my wall in high school. The only memory I have is of a cobalt blue crucifix that belonged to my grandmother that hung on my wall then and is still hanging in my bedroom to this day.
I guess the cross is a reminder of the blessings I have in my life and the blessings of a great family that came before me.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
If I were mayor of the city, I would give a key to the city to every homeless person who calls Louisville home. They need to be lifted up and treated with the dignity that all of us deserve in this life. Any one of us could be in their position if it were not for the gifts from our family, friends and our maker.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Now to my favorite food … pizza! My preferred toppings are sausage, pepperoni and sauerkraut. The three of those toppings together make for one delicious pizza. Everyone always says “yuck” when they first hear of it, but when they try it they change their tune quickly.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
If I could be any age right now, I think I’d like to be right here where I’m at — at 56 — except I would like to have all my dear friends who have passed away here with me. My age has given me a better understanding of what life is about and why we are all here — to care for each other no matter their status in this world, no matter their sex, color, race or orientation.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
I don’t have any knowledge of looking like any famous person. We’re all unique, and I guess it’s better that way.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
Well, that’s an interesting question, and I can only answer it by saying Archbishop (of Louisville) Joseph Kurtz or the Pope. I am so afraid of being in an elevator if it stops, it’s the worst feeling in the world for me.
I would want someone who would be able to calm me down and assure me that everything would be all right.