Wisdom Wednesday: Wise and Loving Matriarch

Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis:  (1858 – 1940)


Friends and sometimes complete strangers often dropped by Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis’ home during the 1920s and 30s, hungry for a meal or even advice.  Janie gave both quietly and generously, never asking for anything in return.  She was a fervent follower of the Golden Rule:  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Mary Jane (Gaffney) McGinnis, at Bluebird Cottage in Wisconsin, late 1930s.   I think this may have been in the town of Berlin, where she often visited her maternal cousins, Patrick and Mary McGoorty.  The blue silk dress with white polka-dots was her favorite.  She sewed it herself, as she had sewn all her clothes. 
Janie was not only the center of her immediate family but also was the darling of her sisters and brothers, who visited her often.  Other than she, the only other siblings who had married were Frances (“Frank”), who married James Cherry; and John Patrick, who married Elizabeth Cain. The others – Lyle, Maggie, Agnes, Delia “Di,” and Thomas “Tommy,” bought a home together at 17813 Woodbury Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.   Lyle went to live with Janie in Chicago after Tom McGinnis died, where she remained  until her own death in 1934.
My mother, Joan Schiavon, went to live with her grandmother Mary Jane McGinnis and Aunt Lyle as a young child, when the challenges of the Great Depression made it difficult for her parents to feed and clothe their two children.  Sleeping with her grandmother every night and following her around like a puppy dog by day, my mother felt immensely loved and protected.  Years later, she would call this the best time of her childhood.

Janie McGinnis lived a long and happy life, living with her daughters Benita and Alice as the years passed and she began to feel the strains of old age.  When she turned  79, she was diagnosed with kidney disease and pernicious anemia, and she died quietly on July 13, 1940, at Benita’s home, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.  She was 81 years old.

Though her death left a huge void in the McGinnis family, her children and grandchildren carried memories of Janie’s gentle love, selflessness, and wisdom with them through their own lives.  I would venture to say that many of her qualities have trickled down through them to their own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who may have been born too late to know her but who to this day continue to benefit from her legacy of love and good works. 

Copyright ©  2012  Linda Huesca Tully

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