2016 Irish Mother of the Year - Beth McAleer

Beth McAleer, a 73-year-old mother of five and a world-class sweetheart, says if we modeled life's daily dealings after the Claddagh ring, our world would be a better place.

The ring, an Irish tradition, represents love, loyalty and friendship.

"Pretty simple," said the woman who recently was named the 2016 Irish Mother of the Year by the St. Patrick Society, Quad Cities, U.S.A. "Follow it and we would have a better world."

McAleer, a grandmother of nine, taught elementary school in Davenport for more than a quarter century. She will preside over Friday's Gathering of the Clan luncheon and Saturday's Grand Parade XXXI, billed as the only bi-state St. Patrick's parade in the nation. The parade will start at 11:30 a.m. in downtown Rock Island and end in downtown Davenport.

Humbled and honored at her selection, McAleer says her instincts told her something was brewing at her family's Christmas celebration.

It's a (Christmas) tradition at our house that the boys smoke cigars, drink Irish Mist and talk about how grateful they are to have what they have," she said. "And they get loud. This year things were hushed for an extended period, and that meant they were up to something. They're sneaky, but I'm a mother.

"I realized after the call came to tell me I was selected they had been conspiring to write letters on my behalf. I am one of 11 children, so I also know they had some help. I'm just so honored and touched. This is amazing."

If McAleer were not presiding over this weekend's St. Patrick Society festivities as Irish Mother of the Year, she still would be knee-deep in the local celebration.

"We have a float in the parade, and I would be part of that with all the family," she said. "It's a huge celebration, and by huge, I mean huge. We have been a part of the parade since the first day and think it's such a great thing for the community. I used to take my students from Washington (Elementary School) to the parade. It's a day of celebration for all cultures in the Quad-Cities."

Michael and Beth McAleer have been married for 51 years. He served as grand marshal of the Grand Parade in 2004. Beth McAleer, one of 11 children of the late Bob and Betty Duax, is the first second-generation selection as Irish Mother of the Year. Her mother nabbed the honor in 2000.

"Tough to keep pace," McAleer said. "We pretty much have the family surrounded with me getting selected this year. How great is it, though, to have all three of us get a chance at something so special?"

Try as they might, it is tough for all four of McAleer's living children to make Grand Parade each year. That will change in 2016.

"Sean, Jeff, Casey and Thom will be there," she said. "Jeff's coming in from Ankeny (Iowa), and Thom from Anchorage, Alaska. It will be great to have them, their families and the rest of our family share the day. Excited would be putting it mildly."