Photo © Katharine Gilbert
Havertown resident Elizabeth Spellman, the Philadelphia Rose of Tralee, a 27-year-old social worker at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia will return to Ireland in August to compete in the finals of The Rose of Tralee International Festival, one of Ireland’s longest running and most prestigious festivals, for the coveted title of The Rose of Tralee.
Spellman whose maternal grandfather is from Coney Island in County Sligo, Ireland and whose paternal relatives have roots in County Mayo, Galway and Cork has been service oriented since she was a teenager volunteering in the Office of Youth and Adults in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
A graduate of Merion Mercy Academy in Merion, PA, she has a B.S. degree in Social Work from Catholic University in Washington, D, C. where she was a member of the University’s campus ministry staff.
Following graduation from Catholic University she joined a volunteer program, Amigos de Jesus, based in Malvern, PA which sent her to work and live in an orphanage for boys in Honduras for two years. There she taught English, learned Spanish and became the home’s social worker and “very attached to her second family.”
Following her stint in Honduras, Elizabeth pursued a master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Texas at Austin. It was while there that her classmate and best friend, Adrienne Hussey, the 2010 Texas Rose of Tralee, urged Elizabeth to enter the international Rose of Tralee competition—something she had been unaware of until then.
Spellman was at first reluctant, but when Adrienne Hussey, her best friend and the 2010 Texas Rose of Tralee died suddenly and unexpectedly last January of a brain aneurysm, Elizabeth made her decision to enter the competition and feels “humbled” to be representing Philadelphia in Ireland.
Every year for the past 53 years, women of Irish descent from around the world including the United States. United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the Middle East who have been chosen from the Regional Finals in May, come to Tralee in August to vie for the title.
The Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Center in Villanova was founded in 2002 by Sarah Conaghan. Commenting on why she founded the Centre, Sarah Conaghan said, “Philadelphia has the largest Irish population of all the cities in the United States, so I felt it was important that our city be represented. Also, it is a great way to connect Philadelphians to the Irish diaspora around the world.”