REILLY, RAYMOND J. (October 22, 1935 - February 20, 2003) was the “guiding force” of Cleveland’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade for decades. The grandson of Irish immigrants, Raymond Reilly was born in Cleveland to John and Mary (Gibbons) Reilly. He was given the nickname “Rip” by his sister due to his unruly behavior as a child; the name stuck for the rest of his life.

Reilly was a graduate of Cathedral Latin High School. He attended JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY, working his way through school as a tree trimmer.  After getting a start  in public relations at John Carroll University and Ohio Bell Telephone Company, Reilly joined the international accounting firm ERNST & YOUNG. Serving as an editorial manager in communications services for 24 years, he retired in 1992.

“Rip” Reilly was especially known for his involvement with Cleveland’s Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which he helped to plan and promote for 37 years.  With Reilly as a co-founder, the United Irish Societies of Greater Cleveland was formed in 1958 to facilitate parade planning. Reilly served as the Society’s second Executive Director from 1963-1968, but he continued after stepping down to contribute his expertise, knowledge, and political savvy to make the parade one of the city’s largest annual outdoor events. As parade spokesman for several decades, he vigorously promoted it to the media as a family event.  Reilly received the WALKS OF LIFE AWARD from the Irish American Archives Society in 1998 and was selected a year later as Parade Grand Marshal. The 2003 parade was dedicated to him after he died a month earlier of Alzheimer’s disease at the Westminster Thurber nursing home in Columbus, OH.

Reilly, a long-time North Olmsted, OH, resident, was married to his wife Mary (O’Neill) Reilly until her death in 1999.  They had one son, John. He is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in BROOK PARK, OH.  

Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan


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