By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Everyone was Irish yesterday, when the Council on Aging hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day lunch and Taffe Award program at DiBurro’s function hall.
About 250 people showed up at one of the biggest events of the year to enjoy a corned beef and cabbage meal and dance to live music by fiddler EJ Ouellette and the Crazy Maggy band. It was a sea of green, as many attendees were dressed as though they had just arrived from the Emerald Isle.
They came for the festivities, but they also came to honor Russell Chaput, this year’s Taffe Award recipient.
One of Haverhill’s biggest annual awards, the D. Raymond Taffe Award memorializes a civic-minded man who was an active member of the Council on Aging for more than 30 years after taking part in its founding and serving as its chairman for 14 years.
Chaput, 86, past commander of the Disabled American Veterans, Hannah Dustin Chapter 20, was instrumental in erecting the Korean War Veterans Memorial at GAR Park and is dedicated to helping disabled veterans. Chaput sat at a table with other area veterans.
“We started it in 1996 and I’m still working on it,” Chaput said about the monument. “It’s always changing. We’re always adding to it.”
Whether it’s adding engraved memorial bricks, replacing worn flags or planting flowers, there’s always work to be done on the monument.
“This year we’re raising money to replace the lighting, some of which has been damaged, with energy efficient LED lights and we’re planning a tag day in June,” Chaput said.
Michael Ingham, the city’s veterans services director, presented the Taffe Award plaque to Chaput.
“I must have done something right somewhere along the way,” Chaput said, smiling.
Ingham said Chaput continues to be active with veterans groups, including the Veterans Council, Disabled American Veterans, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, AmVets, Jewish War Vets and the Marine Corps League.
“If there’s a veteran event taking place, Russ is the first one to arrive and the last to leave,” Ingham said. “He’s been the driving force for many projects and programs, too numerous to mention, and there couldn’t be a more deserving candidate that Russell Chaput to receive the Taffe Award.”
Chaput was also presented with citations from the offices of Congresswoman Niki Tsongas, state Rep. Brian Dempsey and from Mayor James Fiorentini.
It was Chaput’s first time attending the Council on Aging’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.
“It was an amazing and fun event,” Chaput said.