My mom at age 95 dancing at her grandson's wedding.

Mary Frances Moran McLaughlin

 June 24, 1909 - February 8, 2009

 

Mary Frances Moran McLaughlin was born June 24, 1909, the third of eleven children born to Catherine Nash Moran and James Moran. Her parents called her Mae.

Two of the Moran children died in infancy, and Mae and her eight brothers and sisters grew up in a large house at 539 East Fourth Street, South Boston. The house was heated by coal, and lights came from gas jets on the walls.

Mae’s job was to sweep the front stairs every Saturday and polish the “Moran” name plate on the front door. She adored her mother, and loved the homemade bread and baked beans that she made for the family every Saturday night. She loved to brush her mother’s hair and braid and style it before going to bed.

Mae remembered the Red Sox winning the World Series in 1918, though her father and most people they knew were really fans of the Boston Braves. She also remembered standing at G Street and Broadway with her father as they watched “the boys” march off to fight in World War I.  Even though she described herself as a shy child, Mae played Priscilla Alden in a 5th grade Thanksgiving play at the Gaston School.

Mae’s father was a Boston fireman, who drove the four-horse hitch to fires. They carried their own water tanks on the engines. James Moran’s best friend was a fellow fireman, Thomas McLaughlin, who lived just up the street at 525 East Fourth, with his wife, Ellen, and their eleven children. Their Moran and McLaughlin children were all friends.

During the winter, the streets were not plowed.  Instead, horse-drawn wagons called “pungs” would drag big logs behind them to flatten the snow on the street. The neighborhood children would coast on their sleds, the braver ones sliding down the huge hill from G Street to Carson Beach below.

James Moran had the first automobile on Fourth Street. On Sunday afternoons, the whole family would pile into the “flivver” and drive to the country, sometimes as far as Quincy or Milton. If it rained, the children would attach curtains to the car’s open windows. Mae also remembered several summer vacations at a cottage at Hough’s Neck.

After graduating from South Boston High School, Mae went to work as a bookkeeper for the Boston Towel Company, which provided bars of soap and towels to office workers across the country. After work, Mae and her friends would sometimes go to see a vaudeville show and a movie double feature at the Metropolitan Theater (now the Wang Center) on Tremont Street.

The family attended the Gate of Heaven Church, but Mae often took the bus to St. Brigid’s Church for Friday night novenas. When she walked past the McLaughlin house on Fourth Street, she’d stop to talk with Joe McLaughlin and his brothers as they sat on the front steps. One night, Joe said he’d pick her up after the novena service, and the two started dating.

Mae remembered hearing the news of the Pearl Harbor bombing on the wireless radio set in the “back parlor,” and loved to tell of the time when she and Joe were walking along the beach on Day Boulevard one hot Friday night. World War II was on, and blackouts were in effect. When the air raid sirens sounded, Mae and Joe ran up G Street Hill to get home before the air raid wardens reprimanded them.

Mae and Joe were married on September 2, 1945, the day the Allies signed the peace treaty with Japan. Mae wore a long sleeved ivory satin dress that buttoned up the back with 20 tiny buttons. She said that all the church bells in Boston rang on her wedding day.

The couple moved to Third Street, where their daughters Cathy and Eileen were born. They later moved to Dorchester Street, where they lived for 20 years.

Joe worked for the Gillette Company, and in the late 1950s, Mae went to work for the First National Bank of Boston. She trained as a keypunch operator, and was one of the first women to work on the computers newly installed at the bank.

The family vacationed every summer at York Beach Maine, renting the same cottage every year from the Kilham family. Joe’s sister Marguerite drove them to and from Maine.

They swam in the frigid ocean every day, flew kites on the abandoned airstrip behind the cottage, and picked wild blueberries in the woods. Mae made blueberry muffins and blueberry pies, and Joe roasted hot dogs on the grill outside the cottage. They loved to eat at the Goldenrod restaurant downtown, where they made homemade salt water taffy, and Mae loved to play Bingo upstairs at the firemen’s hall.

When she was in her mid-fifties, Mae decided to learn how to drive. She took lessons, got her driver’s license on a Tuesday, bought a car on Thursday, and drove the whole family to Maine that Saturday. She said she was too nervous to take her eyes off the road, even to look at the speedometer. Everyone else was looking at the speedometer and the family made that trip in record time.

 

After Cathy and Eileen married, Mae and Joe moved to Quincy, where they lived on South Walnut Street. They continued to vacation in York Beach, but began staying at the Katahdin Inn in the early 1970s.

When the grandchildren were small, they couldn’t pronounce “McLaughlin,” so they called her “Nana Boplin,” or “Nana Bop.”

Joe died in 1978, and Mae took a part time job with the Massa Company of Hingham, where she worked for several years. She moved to Senior Housing in Hanover in the early 1980s, where she lived for 20 years. She loved to plant flowers in the window boxes on her balcony, and decorated with greens and lights at Christmastime.

She baked pies for Thanksgiving and Christmas until she was well into her nineties. Her specialties also included deviled eggs, Orange Kiss-Me Cake and sour cream coffee cake.

Mae was a lifelong knitter and crotchetier who made beautiful sweaters for her children and grandchildren, Tim, Dan, Jeff and Colleen. She also sewed handmade quilts for her daughters, and knit afghans for all her grandchildren. She knit a lovely sweater with an elephant motif for her great granddaughter, Lindsay, for Christmas, 2008.

Mae stayed every summer through 2007 at the Katahdin Inn with Cathy and her daughter Colleen, and visited York Beach on day trips through the fall of 2008. She loved to watch the waves break at Nubble Light, and continued to enjoy breakfast at the Goldenrod restaurant. Their blueberry strudel was her favorite.

When Cathy lost her keys on the beach one summer day, Mae said her special prayer to Saint Anthony, and the keys were found. Mae was religious throughout her life, and loved praying the rosary on beads that Cathy brought her from Ireland.

After 20 years in Hanover, Mae moved in with her daughter Eileen in Weymouth, and reluctantly gave up driving at the age of 94. She lived in Weymouth for four years until moving to the Norwell Knoll Nursing Home in 2007. There she made many friends among the staff, and enjoyed staying up late to watch Red Sox games.

Mae loved her family with all her heart. On Thursday, January 29, Mae’s great grandson, Ryan Hall was born to her grandson Tim and his wife Ellen. Mae spent the day with the new baby and the whole family on Saturday, January 31. She was knitting a tiny hat for baby Ryan.

The following day, she was hospitalized with pneumonia. She died on February 8.

Mae, Mama, Nana, Bop - with all her names, she was the center of our family, our source of love and devotion.

 

She's been gone eleven years now.  Never stop missing her.