Mickey Valcich, who has been named the grand marshal of the Montauk Friends of Erin 50th anniversary St. Patrick’s Day parade, has played Santa Claus in more ways than the obvious. For 24 years he has donned the red suit at the Montauk Fire Department’s holiday event and listened to the wishes of children who wait in long lines to whisper in his ear that they would like a pony, a puppy, or a computer for Christmas.
For the last eight years, he has submitted the same low bid to the Montauk School for garbage pickup, which was noted at a board meeting just last week. “No wonder he’s the grand marshal,” Lisa Ward, a board member, said.
Every year at the end of the parade, a crew from Mickey’s Carting sweeps in to clean the downtown area and parade route, free of charge. “Mickey embodies all of the ideals of the Montauk Friends of Erin,” Joe Bloecker, the group’s president, said. “He quietly does community service, he never says no, and he never looks for a thank-you.”
Asked what else he does in the community, Mr. Valcich said he’d rather not say. “I like to fly under the radar. I just try to give monetary support and service support wherever I can,” he said on Tuesday from his newly renovated digs on South Erie Avenue in the hamlet.
Mr. Valcich moved with his family to Montauk when he was 3 years old. “I don’t remember living anyplace else.” His family owned several Montauk businesses, including the Four Oaks deli and cottages, where many a newcomer rented a place to live when they first arrived. He worked for his parents, Ray and Margaret Valcich, before opening Mickey’s Mowing in 1983. That venture expanded into Mickey’s Carting in 1986, and he now supervises 50 employees, some at desks but most out in the field mowing lawns and offering garbage pickup and landscaping services.
He can often be seen driving around Montauk in his hefty pickup truck with a cellphone crooked in his neck, and a Montauk Fire Department sticker plastered to the truck’s rear window. When a crew is short, he jumps in and does whatever needs to be done, he said.
As a child, he said, he always loved garbage. Since part of his job entails providing and picking up fully loaded Dumpsters, he was asked if he ever did any Dumpster diving. “I was always the biggest garbage-picker. I found a $5 bill, a $1 bill, and a quarter, but I don’t do it anymore. If I did, I’d wind up dumping the truck at home instead of bringing it to the dump,” he said, adding that when his son was younger he took over the Dumpster diving and found really good stuff, such as a nearly new skateboard.
While on the subject of garbage, he recalled what he defined as a comical incident when a roll-off truck literally rolled off a Shelter Island ferry several years ago. “It took us four hours to fish it out, but nobody got hurt,” he said.
A member of the Montauk Fire Department for 30 years, Mr. Valcich has been a lieutenant and first and second assistant chief. He never sought out the chief’s position because, he said, it is too time-consuming. “If I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right.”
He is the chairman of the Montauk Fire Department’s junior fire department, which was formed in 2006 and has 12 members. He’s with the future firefighters, who range in age from 12 to 18, at meetings, drills, department functions, and training sessions, some of which take place once a real fire is put out. “At a fire, I don’t participate with the fire department, I participate with the juniors.” Once they turn 18 most of them make the transition into the regular department, he said.
Mr. Valcich has also been a member of the Montauk Lions Club for 30 years.
He has been married to Valinda Valcich for 24 years, and they have two children, Carin, 22, and Tyler, 18. They keep a slew of animals, including 10 dogs, various cats, and a few horses, the number of which Mr. Valcich couldn’t come up with. “They keep me on a need-to-know basis. What I don’t need to know, I don’t know,” he said with a laugh.
In addition to having the distinction of being the 50th grand marshal, Mr. Valcich is also one who learned of his honor earlier than the others. The big news is usually released in early February, although the honoree’s name is often leaked before then. But on Sept. 17, a verdigris monument etched with all the names of the past grand marshals, as well as Mr. Valcich’s, was unveiled at a halfway to St. Patrick’s Day celebration on a warm, sunny day that drew several grand marshals of the past, among them family members of the very first grand marshal, and local politicians.
On Saturday, he joined about 35 others, including his wife and Richard Valcich, his brother, in traveling with the Friends of Erin on a Hampton Jitney to participate in the New York City parade, which he called awesome. “Everybody yelled out to Montauk; everybody knows Montauk. It was unbelievable,” he said.
He’s a walker, so the grand marshal is not worried about the long route he must travel by foot on Sunday — close to three miles. But when told rain was in the forecast, he said with mock horror, “You mean it’s going to rain on my parade?”