Peacefully, at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance-Sydenham Campus, Wallaceburg on Saturday, March 30, 2013 of Lucan, recently of Chatham, in her 100th year. Beloved wife of the late Joseph Whelihan (1993). Dearly missed by her son Patrick (Donna) and their children Carol and Andy Gates, Sharon and Scott Jordan, and Brian Rouble and Kate Latimer, as well as their six grandchildren. Fondly remembered by many nieces and nephews, especially Gordon Mitchell (Joanne), Mary Anne Forrest and Stephen Mitchell as well as many friends and relatives too numerous to mention, including Meintje Ferwerda (Peter) and Lauretta Blake. Predeceased by her brother, Frank Mitchell (1980) and his wife Edith (2007).
Mary was born in Biddulph Township. She grew up surrounded by cousins by the dozens and lived most of her life on the farm and in Lucan, ON. Her door was always open and her witty sense of humour delighted all who knew her. In 1934 Mary graduated as a nurse from St. Joseph’s Hospital, London and served as a private nurse for many years. She was a sixty year member and past president of the St. Patrick’s Catholic Women’s League, Lucan.
The family would like to thank the wonderful staff at Maple City Retirement Home, Chatham, especially Deanna Hansor, for making Mary’s last years so comfortable. Special thanks to Dr. Don Hastings and the staff at Chatham-Kent Alliance and to Father Frank Leslie, Chaplain, for taking such good care of her in her last days.
Friends may call at the Haskett Funeral Home, 223 Main Street, Lucan on Tuesday 2-4 and 7-9 PM and on Wednesday from 10- 10:30 AM. The Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Patrick’s Church, 32922 Richmond Street, Lucan on Wednesday, April 3rd at 11AM with Father Dariusz Lewandowski presiding. Interment St. Patrick’s Cemetery. Parish prayers will be said in the funeral home on Tuesday evening at 8:30 PM.
Donations to St. Patrick’s Parish would be appreciated by the family.
Eulogy written by Gordon Mitchell
Aunt Mary is back home in Lucan at last St. Patrick’s Parish and the Lucan community was her home for over 90 years. She was baptized, confirmed, married and now, buried here. For over 70 years she lived on the Roman Line and the rest of the time she lived in Lucan.
Faith, family and community were very important to her. She was blessed with an engaging personality and the innate ability to talk and communicate with anyone. She could meet a total stranger and somewhere in the conversation she would come up with a name or event that they would have in common and she’d be off and running. She had an amazing memory for family lineage and could remember names and dates pertaining to Irish families all over the country. After all, she was related to most of them. It wasn’t uncommon for local writers and historians to stop by Mary’s house for clarification of one fact or another. As a matter of fact she was pretty good with the early Dutch settlers as well. Her special skills also included a mental picture of all the farms in the area, who owned what, as well as the roster of merchants in Lucan. She was annsestory.com before anncestory.com existed.
Mary has a very strong faith and was active in the church. She was heavily involved with the Catholic Women’s League and served as president in some of its founding years. The Sisters of the Precious Blood has a special place in her heart and I’ll bet many of you have received one of Mary’s special spiritual bouquets from one of them.
Although her own family was small by the standards of the day. Mary had only one brother, Frank, whom she idolized – she was part and parcel of a huge extended family of first cousins on the Mitchell side who maintained closeness throughout their lives. This included the whole McIlhargey clan as well. After frank died, it was Harvey Mitchell who took on the responsibility of being big brother to Mary, sometimes a challenging task. There were fewer first cousins on the O’Keefe side but they were think as thieves as well. As a matter of fact it was because of her aunt Flannery that she was able to go to high school in London and eventually become a nurse because her parents would not be able to afford to send her to board in Lucan for high school. Remember it would have been impossible to ride into Lucan everyday in a horse and buggy. When Frank married Edith Armstrong (my mother) Edith and her six sisters readily accepted Mary and she became a regular participant in all their family celebrations. And of course, Franks own children, Stephen, Gordon, Jodi, and Mary Anne, have treated Mary as their own right till her final days. Finally in 1949 Mary married Joe Whelihan and became part of another wonderful family. How proud she was of Father Jim Wheliham, a humble but accomplished teacher and football coach who often spent his summers with Joe and Mary. Once, in a fit of cleaning frenzy Mary threw out all of Father Jim’s clothes forgetting who they belonged to. Although she enjoyed visits from Uncle John and the Alberta relatives the ones who cared for Mary the most were the Tooheys – Joe’s sister Laura and her family. Right until she moved to Chatham Patricia and Joe Grace took excellent care of her, John Toohey took care of her Garden, Celia was always close and Paul’s daughter Anne even looked after her in her home. From beginning to end, Mary has been truly blessed with a wonderful family.
Mary has lived through the most remarkable changes in her lifetime. She went to the Donnelly school, a one room schoolhouse with 8 grades. At that time there was no electricity, no phones, no running water, no indoor bathroom, no cars, and no airplanes. Her family was as poor as church mice. In spite of that, she managed to go to high school and graduate as a registered nurse with a three year degree from St. Joseph Hospital, forming life long friendships with her classmates. She was a successful private duty nurse often moving into the homes of her patients for the duration of their illness. She bought her own car and a mink coat. There was once a chimney fire in a farmhouse where she was working. Before rescuing her patient, she grabbed her fur coat and hung it on the line outside. She didn’t want it to have smoke damage since she still hadn’t finished making the payments on it.
When Mary married Joe Whelihan she only had to move two miles down the road to Joe’s farm. She easily fit in with her new neighbor-the Herns, the Morleys and the Frenches among others. Here she touched the lives of many people – Meintje Ferwerda and her family, and many others. They operated a very successful farm until 1985, when they retired to Lucan, where she enjoyed the company of all her friends and neighbors.
In conclusion, we would like to extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to the people who allowed Mary to maintain her independence and live in her own home until she was 93. Some of these fine people were Mert and Muriel Culbert, Don and Bonnie Froats, Lauretta Blake, Anee Queenan (a super home care worker) and the Market Street Neighbours who kept a close eye on her – Lorne and Marjorie Hodgins, Bob and Mary Latta, Pete and Joyce Soverign, Darrell and Johanna Shaule, Brad Hutchinson and Brenda Mitchell and Cora Vandebourne.
Mary lived a long and full life. Now she is truly home. Because, for Mary, home is where the heart is and her heart is safely in the care of those she help most near and dear. I suspect there has already been a lot of reconnecting going on in heaven and there might be a little euchre too.