John “Moe” Maloney may not seem like an American hero; his achievements probably won’t make any history books, but his everyday example of fidelity to faith, family and country is remarkable.
Maloney served as the grand marshal of the Knights of Columbus’ 110th annual Independence Day Parade last Saturday, June 27.
“Being a brother Knight over the last 27 years has been a pleasure,” the 75-year-old told his colleagues following the parade.
Sponsored by the Long Island Assembly No. 703, the parade stepped off around noon from 71st Street in Dyker Heights and ran along 13th Avenue to the Archbishop John Hughes Council No. 481 on 86th Street. An award ceremony and performance by the USO Show Troupe followed.
Cloudy skies and drizzling rain didn’t dampen the spirits of participants and observers. Flags waved as residents lined the sidewalks to see this year’s parade of honorees, council banners, pipers, dance and karate schools, classic cars, the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians and the Dyker Heights Civic Association.
Called “the mayor of Windsor Terrace,” Maloney looked like a mayor, waving his flag and smiling at bystanders as he rode in a vintage car.
An active parishioner at Holy Name of Jesus Church, he belongs to Holy Name of Jesus Council No. 4783 and is a fourth-degree member of the Long Island Assembly No. 703. He’s a past grand knight, former district deputy and former color corp guardsman and commander for 24 years.
He retired from the color corp last year, he said, only because he suffers from double vision. “Sometimes it pays to see double. Sometimes it doesn’t,” he said, laughing.
A first-generation Irish-American, Maloney served in the U.S. Army before working as a bottled water distributor. He and his late wife Catherine raised two children and have five grandchildren.
Guided by the philosophy of “do whatever you can for others,” he’s devoted much of his life to serving meals to the less fortunate at his church, working with the local police precinct on community events and dressing as Santa Claus for children in the burn unit at Weill Cornell Medical Center, Manhattan.
“Moe’s done everything that the Knights of Columbus has asked of him,” said Knight Vincent “Jimmy” Geritano, parade chairman. “He’s done it with a smile. He’s done it proudly.”
He says he’ll spend Independence Day at St. Charles Cemetery, Farmingdale, L.I., placing flags on the graves of his fellow veterans.
Honored alongside Maloney were two of his brother Knights: Richard Oakes, recipient of the Father Brogan Meritorious Service Award, and Kenneth Latham Jr., the Pro Patria Award recipient. They received plaques from the Knights as well as recognition from Brooklyn Congressman Dan Donovan and State Sen. Marty Golden.
A past grand knight and former district deputy, Oakes has been a member of the Long Island Council No. 197 at his parish of Blessed Sacrament, Cypress Hills, for 28 years. A fourth-degree member of the Long Island Assembly No. 703, he is also a past faithful navigator.
He and his wife of 48 years, Yvonne, have six children, 10 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He retired as a superintendent for the N.Y.C. Transit Authority in 2001.
His volunteer work has involved serving on his parish council, belonging to the parish Holy Name Society and sitting on the board of the Cypress Hills Senior Center.
Oakes said he’s “met a lot of great men through the Knights,” including the late Father John Brogan, whom he considered a great priest and a good friend.
“It’s rewarding to receive an award named for a man I knew personally, a man who stood for God and country,” he said.
And the Pro Patria Award was given to current state secretary-elect Latham, who also sits as chief of staff to the state deputy. A former squire, he joined St. Pius X Council No. 4541 of Canarsie in 1975. He rose through the ranks and served as a past grand knight, former district deputy and past conference chairman.
Outside of the Knights, he enjoys time with his wife of 30 years, Carol, and their two children.
Latham has also been active in the parishes of Our Lady of Miracles and St. Jude, Canarsie; serves on the board of Our Lady of Trust Catholic Academy, Canarsie, and volunteers with parish youth organizations and his local precinct’s community council.
Calling the Knights of Columbus “the greatest organization on the face of the Earth,” he said, “I am truly honored to be a Knight of Columbus.
“I love helping people and doing acts of charity,” he added.
He was particularly proud, following Superstorm Sandy, to volunteer with his fellow Knights on a Sandy Relief Program, which distributed needed financial aid to 430 brother Knights and their families in Brooklyn and Queens.
‘That is the true meaning of what being a Knight of Columbus is,” he said.