By Seth Daniel
When it comes to filling a room, Danny Noonan and his wife, Kathleen (Wrenn) Noonan, have no problem bringing a crowd – mostly family members to be certain – and when it comes to leading the Bunker Hill Day Parade, there is no doubt Noonan will fill the lines out for that too.
Noonan is a self-described quite, regular guy who grew up in the Town and left shortly after graduating Charlestown High School to join the Air Force, where he traveling the world with his family and had an extremely successful career as an IT computer expert for the military. Now retired from the Air Force and working for a private IT company, Noonan returned home and has become very active in the Town and routinely gives back to the community – albeit in a very quiet way.
“I’m just a quiet and regular guy and I am very excited to be the Chief Marshal this year,” said Noonan this week. “I’d like to say that I got it because the two people before me turned it down, but in reality Moe Gillen has been a family friend for years and they were nominating people and I was nominated by two people and the Parade Committee agreed I’d be a good choice. I’m humbled and excited to do it.”
Kathleen added, “It’s good they pick Danny because it’s different that usual. They usually pick a police officer or firefighter and he’s got the military service. We’re very active and Danny does things behind the scenes. All this participation we do is about our goal of giving back. We’re the lucky ones. We found success and Danny never forgot where he came from. Normally, we do things behind the scenes and help out where we can.”
To kick it all off, Noonan will host the Chief Marshal’s Banquet on Friday, May 20, at the Knights of Columbus at 7 p.m. That will include music, raffles, light refreshments and a cash bar. Tickets are $20 and can be had by calling Mimi Wrenn at (617) 515-1789.
Noonan grew up on Austin Street with his father and his grandmother, Millie Noonan, and was associated with St. Mary’s. That became controversial when he married Kathleen, his long-time sweetheart who attended St. Francis.
Noonan went to the Harvard School, then to Warren Prescott, the Edwards and finished his studies at Charlestown High in 1977. He played on the hockey, football and basketball teams and was into athletics – as well as activities at the Boys & Girls Club.
“The Boys & Girls Club was a great hangout for me,” he said. “I was there just about every day from the ages of 10-17. That was a big part of playing sports and participating in high school sports. There was always something to do there, whether playing pool, ping-pong, basketball or swimming.”
He said the Bunker Hill Day Parade always figured in big to his childhood growing up in the Town. He said it was the one day when everyone came back to Charlestown. He would always see cousins from New York and New Hampshire, and they would run all over the Town all week – whether it was the carnival, the numerous activities, the Battle at the Monument, and even observing the Doll Carriage Parade.
“That was probably the best week of the year every year,” he recalled. “The Parade was so big back then. When we were kids, it was two or three deep all along the route. I lived on Austin Street and we would set up chairs at 9 a.m. so my cousins and grandmother could get a seat. If you didn’t get down there early enough, you didn’t get a seat.”
He said one thing in particular he remembers were the numerous people he would see from Charlestown that participated in the Parade.
“One thing that sticks out was all our friends were a part of the Militia,” he said. “A lot of Charlestown people would participate and they would march in the parade and there would be 40 or 50 Charlestown Militia participating. For all of us kids, the Parade and the whole week were reasons to run around Town and have a ball.”
As much as he and his wife loved the Town, they decided to leave shortly after high school. Noonan said he was a good student and had a full-ride scholarship to college, but realized quickly it wasn’t for him.
“One day I decided I needed to do something with my life and it was really a fairly quick decision,” he said. “It turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”
Noonan was an Air Force Police Officer for the first four years, but quickly found out he was adept at computers and technology. Taking advantage of training made available, he studied to become an expert in computer software and computer mainframes for the Air Force.
That made him part of an all star group of guys that were picked to modernize Air Force bases. That took he and his family to Alabama, England and Hawaii – among other places. About every four years, they would move.
“It as a niche I found and I really loved it,” he said. “I never knew I like that because back in the 1980s, who would have known there would even be a niche for computers.
After retiring from the Air Force after 21 years in 1997, the Noonans moved back to Massachusetts. Currently living and working in Burlington, they both spend a majority of their free time in the Town and have scores of relatives still living in Charlestown.
“I’ve had more people I haven’t seen in 10, 15 or 20 y
ears come up and say they are so excited to see me as the Parade Marshal,” he said. “They’re all so happy about it and they also promised not to throw rotten tomatoes at me, which is a good thing.”