Monday, May 29, 2023

Click here to sign up for our newsletter!

The premier publications for high-quality, hyperlocal news and announcements in Monmouth County, New Jersey

Mar 13, 2023

Meet Colts Neck’s Kathleen Crilly-Amatel

By Lori Draz

Kathleen Crilly-Amatel

This March, The Journal joins in the celebration of the proud, strong and lively Irish spirit. Our community is full of so many wonderful Irish folks. Let’s meet some together!

One of Colts Neck’s most beloved residents is the beautiful Kathleen Crilly-Amatel who, at 97 years young, is still making sure that her multi-generational family, including her loving daughter and son-in-law, Nancy and Steve Walton, never forgets their Irish heritage. Ms. Kay, as her friends and neighbors call her, is a shining light, greeting everyone with her blue eyes and bright smile. Despite her humble beginnings and life challenges, she finds goodness and love all around her.  

Kathleen Crilly-Amatel and her daughter, Nancy Walton

Nancy shares, “Ms. Kay was born in northern New Jersey in July 1925. Her paternal and maternal grandparents emigrated to America, making her a second-generation Irish American, something of which Ms. Kay is very proud. Her grandparents, the Crillys and the Cornells, hailed from counties Ulster and Connaught, Ireland. They arrived at Ellis Island in search of opportunity and a new adventure with dreams of an expanding and flourishing family life.

“Ms. Kay’s early memories are full of typical Irish whimsy and humor. One such memory is of her grandfather who had his own beer recipe which he brewed in the bathtub. Ms. Kay remembers carefully transporting that beer from Grandpa Crilly’s house to her parents’ home about a quarter mile away. She took that responsibility very seriously and was determined not to spill a drop of this precious beverage Grandpa spent so much time creating. In typical Irish style, this humorous tale was also her way of teaching her children the importance of responsibility with a bit of fun thrown in!”  

Inspired by her grandmother, Marissa Walton is an Irish step dancer.

With pride in her eyes, Ms. Kay tells of her father’s career with Standard Oil and how her parents bought a brand-new Chrysler every few years which they used for many family outings. Her mother, Mabel, was active in the community. In addition to raising five children, she belonged to the VFW, the American Legion, the Catholic War Veterans and the Marine Corps League. She truly believed in the power of sharing her blessings by giving back and paying it forward. With Kay and her four other children in tow, they marched in every St. Patrick’s Day parade together. Now daughter Nancy joyously honors Mabel Crilly’s enthusiasm by marching in the St. Patrick’s Day parade each year.  

Another of Ms. Kay’s memories is eating meat and mashed potatoes with a hot cup of tea every night for dinner. Ms. Kay four siblings are gone but not forgotten, and she speaks of them with adoration, in her “Fighting Irish” memories.

Nancy continued, “My mom’s Irish pride runs strong in her family of seven children and three grandchildren. It even spreads through the town, including our Irish neighbors like the Collins family and many others. Every St. Patrick’s Day was a holiday unto itself in our home. Ms. Kay would delight her grandchildren making a Leprechaun trap, complete with gold coins at the “end of the rainbow.” Inspired by Ms. Kay, her granddaughter, Marissa Walton, studied Irish step dancing and has also visited Ireland multiple times.

“We surprised Ms. Kay at her 95th birthday and brought a group of bagpipers in the backyard to celebrate her milestone birthday. Her favorite song is ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling.’ When people who know Ms. Kay hear this song in her presence, they see her smiling Irish eyes, hear the lilt of Irish laughter and know her Irish heart is happy. Cheers to our dear Ms. Kay – our Irish lass who always warms our hearts with her beautiful smile. Slainte!”