For nearly 50 years, since he was a city councilman, Edward I. Koch proudly marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, typically in his Aran Islands fisherman’s sweater. Now, the story can be told of how that tradition began.
Rewind to 1978. Mr. Koch, who died last month, was returning from a trip to Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul I when his plane stopped to refuel in Shannon, Ireland. He and Dennis Martin, a member of his security detail, stopped at the airport’s duty-free shop and each bought a traditional cable-knit sweater.
The following St. Patrick’s Day, Mr. Koch asked Mr. Martin to drive him downtown from Gracie Mansion to his Greenwich Village apartment to find something green to wear to the parade. Mr. Martin, instead, suggested the cream-colored cable sweater bought at the airport.
“Can I?” Mr. Koch asked.
“Here I’m 32 and the chief executive of New York City is asking me if he can do something,” Mr. Martin recalled on Thursday.
Mr. Koch’s informality startled some of the parade organizers (the grand marshals wear top hats, tails and ceremonial sashes), but the sweater became an instant hit with spectators.