Mary McGee Regan, 84, died Saturday morning at home. Beside her, as he had been for the last 57 inseparable years of their life together, was the love of her life, Frank Regan. And throughout the two-day vigil there under hospice care, she was surrounded by the people she loved most — her daughters and sons, their spouses, her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings, nephews, nieces, in-laws, out-laws, neighbors and friends — until she drew her last breath in the arms of her husband, a moment of incredible grief and infinite beauty.
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Mary was born in Pittston in 1927, the second of five daughters and two sons of the late Frank and Helene Hallock McGee. She was raised in the Nativity section of Scranton before her family moved to their home on Vine Street in the Hill. She graduated from Scranton Central High School, class of 1945. She was working for Acme Fast Freight until that night in 1954, when she walked into Bonnadio's Plantation Room and Frank Regan's life. What ensued was, inarguably, one of the greatest love stories of the past century. They were married on July 2, 1955, in the Chapel Church by Father J. Clifford Timlin, and soon began their family of six children.
Knowing full well that a large family required additional income to make ends meet, Mary graduated from Empire Beauty School and operated, for nearly 40 years, Mary C. Regan Hair Fashions in her home's basement, a beauty shop expertly constructed by her husband, where, along with the perms and dye jobs, the problems of the world were solved daily, accompanied by the "occasional" gossip, rumors and chit chat.
Upstairs, Mary defined "homemaker." The kitchen table at the homestead on Linden Street became the absolute center of the universe, where everyone was welcome and everything delicious was served, along with this family's core values -- kindness, honesty, respect, responsibility, self-reliance, and a rock solid work ethic. She was a mother to all of the countless kids in that idyllic neighborhood, and there was always room for one or more of them at the kitchen table. Her recipes are legendary, as was her uncanny ability to get gravy from a hot dog. She was constantly making homemade soup, canning vegetables, making extra food for take home, filling innumerable Mason jars and Tupperware, all to be shared with family and friends, as long as the containers were returned for refilling.
Mary was tireless, productive and thrifty, a multitasker, long before the phrase was conceived. A self-taught, expert seamstress, she could sew anything, made many of her childrens' clothes and wedding attire, as well as outfits for ornamental Irish dolls, all the while doing a load of laundry, warming the baby formula, peeling potatoes, and listening to Englebert Humperdinck on the phonograph.
Mary was a great listener, very patient, a calm and steadying influence to all who sought her wisdom. She was not one to raise her voice, she instilled "The Golden Rule" in her children, and taught that lessons could be learned from both failure and success. She never forgot anyone's birthday and made every holiday special.
She was a regular at casinos with her gambling partners — daughter Erin, sisters and friends; she enjoyed the occasional good, stiff Manhattan and she was really, really funny. Few knew that Mary held a valid Pa. motorcycle license at the time of her death.
Mary was a devoted parishioner of Immaculate Conception Church, where her children were taught the value of religion in their lives. Together with her husband and other parishoners, they raised thousands yearly with Big Band dances. A giver her whole life, she actively participated in ICC's Giving Tree Program, shopping yearlong to provide less fortunate families with Christmas gifts, anonymously.
In her later years, Mary endured countless surgeries and medical procedures, suffering tremendously without complaint. It was her ironclad will that enabled her to get well and resume the central role in taking care of her family.
Simply, Mary was goodness.
Also surviving are six children, Judi Graybeal and husband, Glen, Milford, Del.; Frank Regan and wife, Lynne Opsasnick, Scranton; Mariclare Lavelle and husband, Mark, Hershey; Tim Regan and wife, Lisa, Archbald; Erin Cadden and husband, Jim, Clarks Summit; Megan Mathewson, Hershey; a brother, Jack McGee and wife, Mary Lou, Thousand Oaks, Calif.; five sisters, Doris Costello, Scranton; Patricia Regan, her best friend, and husband, Bob, Mechanicsburg; Rita Canavan and husband, Paul, Syracuse, N.Y.; Audrey Griffiths, Baltimore, Md.; 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren; a very special godson, Tom Costello, East Brunswick, N.J.; many nieces, nephews and cousins.
She was preceded in death by a brother, Frank McGee.
The funeral will be conducted on Thursday from the Frank M. Regan Funeral Home, 715 Linden St., Scranton, with Mass of Christian Burial to be celebrated by Father Joseph Sica at 10 a.m. in Immaculate Conception Church, 801 Taylor Ave., Scranton. Friends may call at the funeral home on Wednesday from 4-9 p.m. Those attending the funeral are asked to go directly to the church. Mary will be laid to rest in Cathedral Cemetery under the tender, loving care and direction of her husband, son and daughter, all funeral directors, with the assistance and support of her entire family.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Giving Tree, c/o Immaculate Conception Church, 801 Taylor Avenue, Scranton, PA 18510.
Published in Scranton Times on Apr. 16, 2012