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PHOTO — Mayor Edward M. O’Brien helps Irishwoman of the Year Kelly Canning Ruickoldt pull off the shroud revealing the green street sign designating the Campbell Avenue side of City Hall “Kelly Canning Ruickoldt Square” for the next year at West Haven’s 26th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration Friday, March 17. Looking on are, from left, Canning Ruickoldt’s son, Michael Enright, her husband, Doug “the Rake” Ruickoldt, and O’Brien’s administrative assistant, Erin Sweeney. (City Photo/Michael P. Walsh)
WEST HAVEN, March 17, 2017 — Mayor Edward M. O’Brien presented Kelly Canning Ruickoldt, an ambassador of all things Irish, with a jacket embroidered with her new distinction, Irishwoman of the Year, as part of festivities marking West Haven’s 26th annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration outside City Hall’s Campbell Avenue entrance Friday, March 17.
Canning Ruickoldt, a second-generation Irish-American, received other gifts of appreciation and words of praise from O’Brien for “devoting her time, talents and energy to the Irish-American community.”
In addition to O’Brien reading a mayoral proclamation citing Canning Ruickoldt’s “character and principle … (in) shaping the narrative of West Haven’s Irish-American society,” the ceremony featured the unveiling of a green street sign designating the Campbell Avenue side of City Hall “Kelly Canning Ruickoldt Square” until next year’s celebration, when she will pass her title to a fellow person of Irish ancestry.
At the start of the half-hour event, last year’s recipient, Board of Education and Democratic Town Committee Chairman James W. Morrissey, received his rectangular sign to take home.
The West Haven St. Patrick’s Day Committee recognizes an Irish resident, or couple, each year who epitomizes service in the city’s ardent Irish-American community.
“I love being Irish, and this recognition is such an honor … and truly a blessing for me,” said Canning Ruickoldt, grand marshal of the 2014 Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade, who also received a General Assembly citation from state Rep. Michael A. DiMassa, D-West Haven, on behalf of the city’s delegation.
As the sound of Celtic music played by a bagpiper filled the bitter cold air during the midday cultural event in honor of Ireland’s patron saint, Canning Ruickoldt toasted her Irish lineage with more than 200 of her closest friends and relatives, including her husband, children and siblings, along with a sea of shamrock-clad dignitaries and descendants of folks from Erin.
“Thank you for supporting me in everything I do for the Irish,” she told the crowd. “Love and peace!”
Canning Ruickoldt, a 1976 graduate of West Haven High School, is the granddaughter of immigrant grandparents from the town of Mohill in County Leitrim, Ireland.
In 1906, at the ages of 18 and 21, respectively, Francis Joseph Canning and the former Catherine Louise O’Brien left their homeland in search of a better life in the United States, eventually marrying in 1912 and finding their way to New Haven’s Bishop Street eight years later.
O’Brien also presented an Irish flag to Canning Ruickoldt, who was accompanied onstage by her husband of eight years, Doug “the Rake” Ruickoldt, and her son, Michael Enright, who sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the Irish national anthem, “Soldier’s Song.” A short distance away, flanking City Hall’s snow-covered grounds, her daughters, Rebecca Enright and 2005 Parade Queen Melinda Enright Cinolauro, and her two sisters and two brothers looked on with great pride as their mother and sister was feted.
Canning Ruickoldt was also joined by her step “bonus sons,” Douglas J. Ruickoldt and Councilman Nicholas W. Ruickoldt, D-2, as well as her son-in-law, Anthony Cinolauro, her 9-month-old grandson, Benjamin Cinolauro, and her 10-year-old step “bonus grandson,” Salvatore Cinolauro.
The opening procession was led by bagpiper Jason Hall of the New Haven County Firefighters Emerald Society Pipes and Drums and members of the Police Department and West Shore Fire Department emerald societies. It was followed by remarks from master of ceremonies David Coyle, who welcomed the capacity gathering.
After an Irish blessing from the Rev. Mark R. Jette, who serves St. Lawrence and St. Paul churches, O’Brien delivered heartwarming remarks about Canning Ruickoldt.
“Her propensity to give back to West Haven and our deep-rooted Irish-American community is a testament that the American dream is big enough for everybody,” O’Brien said.
Canning Ruickoldt is a dedicated member of the West Haven Irish-American Club and served as president from 2008 to 2010, vice president from 2006 to 2008 and secretary from 2004 to 2006.
She also wears many hats on the Greater New Haven St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee, sitting on the executive board and the general and ball committees and serving as chairwoman of the committee’s annual “Tip a Past Grand Marshal” benefit.
Canning Ruickoldt was born in New Haven in 1957 to Francis “Buddy” Canning, a telephone company worker, and the former Joan Hines, a homemaker.
After the Cannings moved to West Haven in 1960, Canning Ruickoldt and her siblings were raised in a single-family home on Prospect Avenue in West Shore.
The Irish Catholic clan “enjoyed all that West Haven offered and spent many wonderful years at Savin Rock and the West Shore beach,” she said.
For the past 27 years, Canning Ruickoldt has been employed by the West Haven Community House as Head Start’s office manager, where she enjoys interacting with children, especially dressing as the Cat in the Hat while reading to kids of the school readiness program.
To view the photo gallery, click on Scenes from the 2017 St. Patrick’s Day Celebration.
To watch the video on the official West Haven YouTube channel, click on Irishwoman of the Year 2017.
— MICHAEL P. WALSH, Public Relations Information Coordinator