If you need a talented seamstress to make up anything you can possibly imagine, Irma is the lady you need to know. Irma has done countless projects for me over the years. Simple things, like hemming pants and shortening curtain panels, to more complicated jobs like re-lining my favorite wool coat and making pillows out of an old chenille bathrobe of mine for my children.

Being a person that doesn’t have the ability to properly sew on a button, Irma’s talent in her trade is nothing short of miraculous to me. Irma has also made all of the formal gowns for the Grand Colleens and Court members in Holyoke for years, and all of the Holyoke Tartan scarves, neckties and corsages. She is an institution in the City of Holyoke. This year, Irma is the proud and very deserving recipient of the prestigious Citizenship Award from the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Committee.The Citizenship Award is presented to a person or organization that may be of non-Irish descent that has made substantial contributions to the Parade and/or the Parade Committee.

From the Holyoke St. Patrick’s Parade website, we learn more about Irma’s amazing background:

“Irma Ilia Perez Gourde is a self-made woman and an entrepreneur. She was raised on her family’s coffee plantation in Utuado, Puerto Rico, where she learned the survival skills that accompany rural life, including how to sew.
When her parents were at the hospital due to a complicated pregnancy, nine-year-old Irma realized that her brothers and sisters had nothing to wear to a school celebration the following day. She took the fabric her mother had purchased, and in one day made three jumpers and two pair of pants. She dressed the whole family so her parents could see the doctor and the children would look respectable at the school event.
Her family moved to Holyoke, Massachusetts, in 1957, and 12 years later (at age 31) Irma opened the Suffolk Tailor Shop in Holyoke.
In 1990, a fire at the Knights of Columbus above the shop forced her to move her business to Springfield, but not for long. Less than a year later, Irma and Gladys, her sister and partner, realized their loyal customers needed them, and they relocated to 358 High Street in Holyoke to return the loyalty they had enjoyed for so many years.
The Suffolk Tailor Shop has been working with the Irish Heritage Parade Committee since the late 1980s. It has been a privilege and an honor to serve this well-respected community.
In her spare time, Irma enjoys gardening, Bible study, traveling, and spending time with her family.”

I wish to congratulate my friend, Irma, on this honor. I am proud to share our last name (Irma’s late husband was my husband’s Uncle Albert). If you have been searching for someone that has expertise in the vanishing trade of tailoring, go see my friend, Irma and her sister Gladys, at the Suffolk Tailor Shop 358 High Street, Holyoke, (413)532-0731