By Dave Rogers
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Decades of public service and longstanding ties to the community are among the traits shared by Salisbury resident Larry Quinn and Joyce Cejka of Newburyport. The duo were recently named this year’s Senior King and Queen of Yankee Homecoming, the weeklong celebration highlighting the best of the Clipper City. This year’s festivities are scheduled from July 28 to Aug. 4.
Per the longstanding tradition, longtime Newburyport senior citizens are crowned during every Yankee Homecoming in a ceremony organized by the Newburyport Council on Aging. A dinner recognizing the ascension of Quinn and Cejka to the throne will be held Wednesday, July 31, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Hope Community Church, 11 Hale St., Newburyport. Tickets are $10 each.
Diann May, chairwoman of the Senior King and Queen Celebration, said candidates must be 60 years or older, nominated by someone else and have performed community service in the Greater Newburyport area. Recently, past kings and queen gathered together to hear biographies of all the candidates without knowing their identities, and then voted.
“Both of them are very qualified,” May said, adding that past kings and queens take the process very seriously.
A native of Newburyport, Quinn has been married to his wife, Mary, for 48 years. For the last 20 years, they have lived on Beach Road in Salisbury. Quinn co-founded the Link House, a residential program that helps men and women overcome drug and alcohol abuse, and served as its first executive director in 1973. Last year, Quinn was honored at the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Roast as the recipient of the Irishman of the Year Award.
“I was really shocked,” Quinn said when told he was named this year’s Yankee Homecoming king.
Since being informed of the honor, Quinn said friends and family have treated him a little different.
“I’ve had people present me with a crown, and bowing to me and stuff like that. It’s all in fun,” Quinn said, who jokingly added that he told Essex County Sheriff Frank Cousins he’d like a police escort during his reign as king.
Cejka moved to Newburyport from Columbus, Ohio, in 1992, and volunteers with the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society as a foster parent for cats. She supports the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center where she was a past board member and each year participates in their Walk Against Domestic Violence. She currently participates in the Massachusetts Adult Foster Care of the North Shore, taking in adults with special needs.
“Oh I was very surprised, she had to keep telling me over and over again,” Cejka said, recalling the phone call she received from Yankee Homecoming general chairwoman Tammy Jennings.
Like Quinn, Cejka’s appointment as Yankee Homecoming queen has brought some perks.
“They call me ‘Your Majesty.’ I’m enjoying it very much. I think it’s going to be a whole lot of fun,” Cejka said.
Both Quinn and Cejka said they were thrilled to play a part in what has become a cherished summer tradition for many locals. Cejka said she regularly attends the fireworks show, the nightly waterfront concerts and the parade. Living in the downtown area, she said, makes a big difference.
For Quinn, Yankee Homecoming, which is celebrating its 56th year, brings back a flood of happy memories including his younger days in Newburyport schools, when Yankee Homecoming was still new.
“It takes me back to right they first started,” Quinn said.
For more information or to order tickets the Senior King and Queen Coronation at Hope Community Church, 11 Hale St., Newburyport, call May at 978-807-8918. Tickets are also available at the Newburyport Council on Aging, 40 Water St., Newburyport.