ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – Former Rockford Police Chief Dan O’Shea made his way back to the Forest City to accept the title of ‘Irish Man of the Year.’
The Ethnic Heritage Museum in Rockford, located at 1129 S. Main St., honored O’Shea and his Irish roots at an event on July 11. He said he is “very blessed” by the recognition.
“It came out of nowhere, and I couldn’t thank the Ethnic Heritage Museum enough,” O’Shea said. “It’s very nice.”
Originally, O’Shea was supposed to receive the honor in 2020, but it was postponed because of the pandemic. Lynell Cannell, vice president of the Ethnic Heritage Museum, said it was still important to honor the former police chief’s career and heritage.
“We figured, since he’s retired now, we still want to honor him, because he’s very into his Irish culture,” Cannell said.
O’Shea had been in law enforcement for most of his life, but said his grandfather, an Irish immigrant, especially inspired him.
“My grandfather immigrated to the United States, to Chicago…and he became a Chicago police officer [and] rose to the rank of captain,” O’Shea said.
O’Shea said Irish culture is very important to him, and he’s kept up traditions such as dyeing milk green and attending St. Patrick’s Day parades with his family. He also made sure the Rockford Police Department took place in the annual festivities.
“We didn’t really have a presence in the parades, and I was like, that’s got to stop,” O’Shea said. “We’re the police. We’re supposed to be out in the public, and especially on the St. Patrick’s Day parade.”
O’Shea said he’s humbled by the honor and that Rockford will always hold a special place in his heart.
“Rockford was great,” O’Shea said. “The city and the people have been fantastic to me and my family…it’s been a wonderful experience living in Rockford.”