Mary Elizabeth SantoroJuly 31, 1942 ~ October 25, 2017 (age 75)
It’s the mid-1940’s. There is a girl, an adventurous girl, with an impish twinkle in her eyes.
Wherever excitement led, Mary followed. At the age of three, clad in only jammies, this little girl walked out of the house that she shared with her parents Joseph and Ruth (McCarthy) Santoro and her older brother, also Joseph, and made her way to St. Paul’s Church to join the Easter Parade she’d heard her family talk about so much. Alas, there was no parade, as it had not yet started at five o’clock in the morning! But Mary was always ready and eager to be part of life’s great pageantry.
Mary grew up in the city of Brockton MA, surrounded by members of her large Italian, and reasonably-sized Irish, families. A steady stream of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends laid the loving foundation for a lifelong connection to family, community and food. Mary never lacked for exciting things to do, and she did them with intention and enthusiasm.
Mary was a nurturer, a consummate care-giver with a strong sense of purpose. Her mother Ruth’s lengthy illnesses when Mary was young, plus her confident, compassionate nature, led her toward a career in the healing arts. She was a member of the class of 1963 Nursing Program at Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro MA, where she then worked for two decades in the Pediatric, ICU and Recovery units. Mary earned her Bachelor’s in Nursing, and began working in oncology and outpatient chemo care, with time spent at Goddard, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Most recently, she shifted to direct care-giving of the elderly at Marina Bay and Fenno House in Quincy. It was work that she loved done in a place that she also called home.
Caring for people was not only her vocation, it gave her a reason to BE. Her patients became friends, and frequently expressed--with sincere delight--that Mary took such great care of them. For her children, this continual celebration of her bedside manner was like living with a celebrity. She also brought great comfort to people through song, and with food. She enjoyed walks along the ocean, trips to Foxwoods, eating Chinese food, and reading scary novels.
Music was a lifelong friend! Mary shared her amazing soprano singing voice with her church choirs (most recently at St. Chrysostom’s in Quincy), and in performances with the Norton Singers and Chaminade Opera Group. You would often find her tuning her pitch pipe in Louise Petit’s Purple Passion Pit. Whether as Daisy Mae in L’il Abner or Grandma Tzeitel in Fiddler on the Roof, her spirit, and those of folks around her, rose in song.
Christmas carols started playing the moment the turkey platter was put in the cupboard. Mary loved the holiday season: the music, the splendor, the celebrations, the food! Those of us in her giving circle will certainly miss her scrumptious holiday fudge and ricotta squares…. although our waistlines will thank us later!
In 1964 she married Richard Paulson, also from Brockton, which added a large Swedish contingent to the family. Together they had a set of twins, Beth and Barbara, built a house in the country in Plainville, and had a set of Irish twins, Catherine and Eric. Though their marriage did end in divorce, Mary and Dick remained supportive of each other. As Mummy, she was an excellent provider who led by example. Her children learned resilience and responsibility: not everyone can say they could turn hospital corners at age five. The kids were brought in on her adventures, and, in turn, developed a love of travel, time outdoors, and a healthy sense of curiosity. The family spent weekends enjoying a swim and a picnic at Grandma and Grandpa’s cottage in Bourne, frolicking in the waves at Horseneck Beach, or spending an entire Sunday cooking a month’s worth of food.
Her bereaved family includes her sister-in-law Lynn, nieces Sarah and Felicia, Barb’s husband Dan and Beth’s partner Jamie, grandchildren Callan and Stellen, step-grandchildren Max and Henry, ten million cousins, and just as many friends. Mary always did find the right community of friends among which to be at home, with her ready smiles, hugs, and that twinkle in her eye.
Mary passed quietly and unexpectedly on an October night in her 76th year, a pot of meatballs on the stove and the Celtics on the TV; they won, of course. Her family gathered at her home at Fenno House and started to record this tribute to her life. Please share your stories and photos with us, we’d love to know much more about this delightful woman who was known and loved by so many. Pictures of her granddaughter were placed on almost every surface, and in every nook and cranny and duty bag. She so loved being a grandma.
A service for her local community will be held at Fenno House this week, and a memorial celebration of her life will be announced shortly. Mary’s cremains will be spread ‘round the world in the places she loved and hoped to visit.