Irma Perez Gourde, Holyoke Seamstress and Business-Owner, Named Citizenship Award Recipient for the 66th Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade

The St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke has announced that the 52nd recipient of the Citizenship Award is local seamstress and owner of Suffolk Tailor Shop, Irma Perez Gourde. The Citizenship Award is presented to a person or organization that may be of non-Irish descent that has made substantial contributions to the Parade and/or the Parade Committee.

Raised on her family’s coffee plantation in Utuado, Puerto Rico, Irma learned early on the survival skills that accompany rural life, including how to sew. These skills proved fortuitous as she put them to good use when her family moved to Holyoke. In 1969 Irma opened the Suffolk Tailor Shop in Holyoke.

In 1990, a fire at the Knights of Columbus above the shop forced her to move her business to Springfield. Less than a year later, Irma and her sister and business partner, Gladys, realized their loyal customers missed them so they relocated to 358 High Street in Holyoke where they have provided their services ever since.

Irma’s husband, Albert, passed away in 1998, and they have three children Robert, Bruce (deceased) and Vanessa. In her spare time, Irma enjoys gardening, bible study, traveling, and spending time with her family.

The Suffolk Tailor Shop has been working with the St. Patrick’s Committee of Holyoke for over 15 years – tailoring the Colleen’s Gowns, dressing Award recipients, and helping to create beautiful and unique creations using the Committee’s Tartan. Designed in 2002 and registered with the Register of Tartans, the Tartan is a stunning fabric that incorporates colors found in the flags of the United States and Ireland, the colors of the Parade Committee, and the colors of Holyoke’s educational institutions. Irma has brought the Tartan “to life, creating hundreds of pants, dresses, skirts, vests, purses, pins and other designs she has made for Parade Committee members and Tartan fans.

Gerry Healy, Chair of the Citizenship Award Selection Committee said, “it has been my distinct honor to work with Irma for the past fifteen years. Whatever we have asked her to do with the Tartan was accomplished beautifully. She is very deserving of this Award.”

“There are so many things that make Irma Gourde an exemplary Citizenship Award winner,” said Parade President, Michael Moriarty. “Creatively and dependably, she has been the exclusive producer of Tartan products for many years. Irma’s work is a perfect example of how, behind the scenes, Holyoke’s Latino community has been a part of what we do. Small business owners are the backbone of our economy, and the Parade Committee hires locally whenever we can. Like the Irish ancestors we celebrate every year, Irma represents the best of Holyoke; a place where in a single generation, with hard work, people can come, start a business, raise a family and make our community a great place to live. We are thrilled to present Irma Perez Gourde with this Award”.

Upon receiving this prestigious award, Irma says “it has been a privilege and an honor to serve this well-respected community and I look forward to marching in this year’s Parade.” Coincidentally, the Parade will march by Suffolk Tailor Shop that is located along the Parade route.

Irma Perez Gourde and other Award recipients will be recognized at the St. Patrick’s Committee Awards Dinner on Saturday, February 4 at Wyckoff Country Club. To purchase tickets, please contact Katy Brunelle at kbrunelle128@gmail.com.

The 66th St. Patrick’s Parade will be held on Sunday, March 19, 2017 and the 42nd St. Patrick’s Road Race will be held on Saturday March 18, 2017.

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