Chief Marshal of the 234th Celebration
James "Jim" Farley
March 25th, at the Burnside Building next to the Bristol Town Hall, Fran O’Donnell announced the Chief Marshal for the 234th consecutive celebration.
Please extend congratulations to Jim, and welcome him to the Fourth of July Chief Marshal family.
“This was totally unexpected,” said James “Jim” Farley, of the announcement that he was selected to serve as the chief marshal of Bristol’s biggest day. “In my wildest dreams, I didn’t think it was in the cards.”
Mr. Farley is no stranger to Bristol’s storied Fourth of July celebration. In fact, he has served on the Bristol Fourth of July Committee in one capacity or another since 1976 — including as general chairman, when he oversaw the selection of Joan Roth and Seraphin “Fee” DaPonte as chief marshals. He currently serves on the commit- tee’s executive committee.
As a Fourth of July Committee member, Mr. Farley has been instrumental in establishing many of the traditions around thatcelebration, including the Hattie Brown Award, the Interfaith Service, nightly con- certs during the celebration, the Flag Day kickoff, and the installation of banners along the parade route.
“He’s very deserving,” said Fran O’Donnell, general chairwoman of the celebration. “Many people don’t realize that the selection of the chief marshal is entirely the general chairman’s — even the vice chairman doesn’t know.
“Every general chairman looks for something different, and I look for someone who, through volunteerism, has had a significant impact on the community.
“So much of what the July Fourth in Bristol is today, is because of Jim,” said Ms.O’Donnell. “His contributions have colored almost every aspect of the celebration.”
A lifelong Rhode Islander, Mr. Farley was born shortly before the Hurricane of ’38, when an aunt lost her life trying to protect him from a collapsing chimney. Educated locally, he attended New England College and later continued his studies at University of Rhode Island and Providence College. Mr. Farley spent his career in public administration in Rhode Island, Boston and Washington, D.C., with most of it spent with the Rhode Island Department of Employment Security (since renamed the Department of Labor & Training.)
A longtime member of the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish, he serves there as an Extraordinary Minister and in the same capacity at Rhode Island Hospital. Mr. Far- ley also served as chairman of the New England Liturgical Committee and served on the Diocesan Office of Religious Education and various sub-committees for the Diocese.
He has also served as chairman of St. Mary’s Liturgical Committee, on the East Bay CYO Board, and sang in several choirs over the years, including St. Mary’s, St. Michael’s, Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s, and the East Bay Interfaith Choir.
Mr. Farley is a life member of the Inter- national and Protective Order of Elks, 1408; past president of the Chief Marshals Association; and an original member (Alpha Class) of Leadership Rhode Island 1981 and a sponsor of the Jeffersonian Dinners. He served as a member and chairman of the Bristol Planning Board for 30 years, as chairman of the Comprehensive Plan, and on the Capitol Budget Committee, the Zoning Revision Committee, Explore Bristol and the East Bay Tourism Council, and was involved in merging East Bay with The Newport Convention & Visitors Bureau (now called Bristol and Newport Counties Convention and Visitors Bureau). He is a member of Friends of Linden Place, Blithewold, Bristol Art Museum, Bristol Historical Society, Audubon Society, and the Newport County Historic and Preservation Society. He was instrumental in establishing the Mount Hope Trust in Bristol and raising $3.5 million for the purchase of Mount Hope Farm.
He is a member of several national organizations, including the Army-Navy Club, Washington, DC; U.S. Naval Institute; Sur- face Navy Association; Naval War College Foundation (Life Member); Military Order of the Carabao; and the U.S. Navy Memorial.
In his free time he enjoys keeping an eye open for opportunities to appear on- screen, and has been in a number of locally-filmed box office productions, including “The Great Gatsby,” “Wind,” “Mr. North,” “Amistad,” “True Lies,” and “Good Will Hunting,” among others.
Married 55 years to his wife Pierrette (Pat) Farley, they are parents of three daughters, Judith, Elizabeth, and Sara; with six grandchildren, Neil, Joshua, Dmitry, Ivan, Jordan, and Cloe; and Bailey, their dog. Avid world travelers, the Farleys recently enjoyed trips to Ireland and Bulgaria, though they will be focused on their July Fourth obligations in 2019.
Mr. Farley has also enjoyed many sailing adventures with Halsey Herreshoff over the years, from Norway, to the Mediterranean, to the Adriatic. “I’m not a sailor,” admits Mr. Farley. “But I feel very safe with Halsey because he knows what he’s doing.” He added that it’s fun to travel to far-flung ports of call and see how Mr. Herreshoff is received. “They think he walks on water,” laughed Mr. Farley. “Here in Bristol, he’s just Halsey.”
Mr. Farley has actually known of his selection for several weeks, and he’s been mulling over the decision a bit — few people know as well as he does what a significant commitment one makes when signing on as chief marshal. But considering his history with the committee, his selection was an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It was a real honor to be considered, never mind selected,” said Mr. Farley. “Now let’s hope it’s 70 degrees on the big day,” he said, about the one element of the celebration nobody can control. “I think 70 would be ideal.”