Green-blooded Irishman puts faith in his lucky charms

News-DemocatMarch 16, 2014 

Irishman Skip Kernan of Swansea celebrates St. Pat's for 12 days.

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Did you see that guy wearing shamrocks pants well before St. Patrick's Day?

It was likely Skip Kernan, of Swansea, who celebrates for 12 days.

And why not?

He's 76 percent Irish, his birthday is March 15, and he likes everything about the day.

Skip, 54, who has a party and construction equipment rental business, grew up in East St. Louis. He attended the old St. Patrick's Grade School.

"Back then, they gave you off on St. Patrick's Day," he said.

The pants -- kelly green with white shamrocks -- are compliments of his wife, Kathy. They match his green tennis shoes, socks and underwear. He wears a spiral shamrock ring, a Celtic watch and his favorite beads, green with dangling steins of green beer. A shamrock decorates his phone cover. It rings to the tune, "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."

Kathy, whose maiden name is Fenoughty, shares Skip's fondness for all things Irish. They named their first son Patrick. He's 24. His siblings are Joey, 22, and Megan, 17. All three Kernan kids celebrate with their parents.

Drive along Warwick Place this time of year and you'll likely be able to pick out the Kernans' home.

"I have it lit up like Christmas," Skip said. "Lighted shamrocks hang in the front windows. I've got a pot-of-gold leprechaun guy that adorns my front yard. I have decorations throughout my home."

The inside has Irish touches, too.

"My pride and joy is a clock that sits behind my bar. It's a 365-day countdown clock to St. Patrick's Day that my sister Colleen got for me."

Is this the first time the green pants have been out this year? "I had this on Sunday (March 9). We do a family photo. We don't send Christmas cards. We send St. Patrick's Day cards. We just ordered them yesterday. 150 cards. Everyone loves them because of our crazy outfits. We're all in Irish garb. Our dog got painted green on Sunday. His name is Shamrock. He's a golden doodle. He has all types of Irish attire. My lucky leprechaun charm was not so lucky this year. I can't find it. I have a green shamrock coin I carry, too. Mom (Sue Ann Hyland Kernan-Frerking) gave me that years ago."

How often do you carry your lucky charms? "Any time I think I am going to be needing some luck."

Do they work? "I won my election last year. (Skip is St. Clair Township Highway Commissioner.) I had all my lucky charms with me. They had to do a recount. Still to this day, I think it's the luck of the Irish.

"The very first day as highway commissioner (before we started work), all of my new employees bought me green paint so I could paint the old lines on the garage floor green. They knew that green was my favorite color being the Irishman that I am.

"I got my first hole-in-one a year ago. My mother just passed 2 1/2 years ago. She had given me that (leprechaun charm) months before."

How will you celebrate your favorite holiday this year? "St. Pat's starts early for us. Saturday, we will meet downtown at 9 o'clock for a huge tailgate party. 100 to 150 people. We set up for that and go down to the parade route at 10. We have a new float this year. We were one of the first seven groups (in the Belleville parade's early days). We went around the circle. That was our parade. Today, more than 100 different families and politicians do the whole parade. When it's over, that's when we do the tailgating."

How will you work in your birthday? "My birthday takes a back seat. This year, my birthday happens to be on Belleville's parade day. I tell people, 'By the way, the city is throwing me a parade.' ... In between, we do a little corned beef and cabbage on Sunday, our day of rest."

What do you do on March 17? "Monday, I am the official flag raiser at the courthouse. I have had the honor of doing it the last seven years. People tease me, but it means everything in the world to me. It starts at 10. As soon as I'm done shaking everybody's hand, I jump in my vehicle and go to Dogtown (in St. Louis) and celebrate at the Dogtown parade."

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