Dr. G. Neil Love has been named this year's Hilton Head Island St. Patrick's Day Parade grand marshal.
"Every year this parade gives us an opportunity to celebrate one individual who stands out in our community. There is probably no single person who has brought more life to this community than Dr. Love," parade co-chairman Alan Perry said, referring to the estimated 4,000 deliveries Love has performed since he began practicing obstetrics on Hilton Head in 1976.
Love helped establish the island's first obstetrics ward in 1983, the same year local businessman Tom Reilley and some friends and relatives began what has become a beloved annual island event. More than 25,000 revelers are expected to attend the parade March 16.
Love continues to treat some of his earliest patients while serving as medical staff director and a board member of Hilton Head Hospital. He also practices at Genesis Prenatal Clinic in Bluffton, which provides prenatal care to Hispanic women, regardless of their legal or insurance status.
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Love also was instrumental in founding the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry in 1994. The nonprofit has awarded more than $50 million in grants and scholarships from more than 260 philanthropic funds under its umbrella.
"I remember some of those early parades," Love said in a news release. "It's always been such a fun thing for families. The greatest thing about this is that it lets me reflect on all the people and the times that I've spent here."
An attempt to reach him Tuesday was unsuccessful.
Over the years, the parade has featured the Budweiser Clydesdales, military jet flyovers, Nashville, Tenn., recording star Michelle Murray and other attractions.
Parade officials have been tight-lipped about what to expect at this year's parade.
"We hope Michelle Murray will return this year," Perry said Tuesday. "But other than that, we don't want to reveal too much. We don't want to spoil the surprise for people."
Last year, the parade received a commendation from Hilton Head Island Town Council in honor of its 30th anniversary.
"Since the 1983 inaugural St. Patrick's Day Parade on Hilton Head Island the parade has grown to over 28,000 spectators," Mayor Drew Laughlin said in a statement. "This is an amazing feat for a small island with just over 37,000 permanent residents. The success of the parade shows what can be accomplished when residents work together and volunteer their time, talent and resources."
Follow reporter Tom Barton at twitter.com/IPBG_Tom.
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