Friday, 8 November 2019

Lighting the Mourning Candle again

Saturday November 9, 2019, 2:00  p.m.

My silence and prayers at that time will be for Mary Holmes, another one of those great women who have strengthened my christian faith, and called forth my better angels. I was privileged to be her student, pastor and rector for six years.

Memorial service for Mary Holmes:
Saturday November 9, 2019, 2 pm
St James’s Episcopal Church
1991 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02140

Mary and her daughter Michelle

 Mary as remembered by Michelle.

Mary Holmes was born Sept. 25, 1931, the 5th and last child of John Beresford Marshall and Ruth Etta (Woods) Marshall. Her older siblings were Charles, Richard, Ruth, and Lillian. She also had older half-brothers from her father: John, Stanley, and Andrew.

They lived on the 2nd floor of the family homestead at 194 Franklin St. in the Central Square area of Cambridge MA.  On the first floor lived her mother’s sister Grace (Woods) Sato and her husband and children. Another sister, Esther (Woods) Henry, and her family lived in the house in the back, at 192 Franklin St.

Mary’s father John sadly died when she was 5 years old. As this was the Great Depression, the family was quite poor, but resourceful.  Mary remembers that she and her siblings would follow the coal delivery truck and pick up the pieces of coal that blew off to take home to burn in their furnace.

One summer, Mary’s older siblings got the chance to attend a summer sleep-away camp for underprivileged black children. They felt that since they were all going, Mary should get out of the city too, even at the age of 5. This was quite a formative experience as she later encouraged her own children, and some of her grandchildren to experience the independence of summer camp. It probably also influenced her later work with camps and youth.

When Mary was 12, she received a pen-pal through her Girl Scout troop.  She was an English Girl Guide named Gerda Styles. This led to a life-long friendship and visits to each other’s country.

Mary graduated from what is now called Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School. Both her mother and her grandson Tano graduated from the same school. After high school, Mary had several jobs as a youth worker, continuing even after her marriage to Kenneth Holmes in 1954.

She worked for the Charlestown Boys and Girls Club, Camp Lapham in Ashby, MA, and The Red Barn Camp in Marshfield, MA.  The Red Barn was a summer camp for at-risk teenage girls. In 1958, she brought along her 3-year-old daughter Michelle and newborn son David to The Red Barn. Michelle remembers having many loving babysitters from among those teenage girls!

In 2010, the tables were turned as Mary was staff aide to Michelle as her daughter ran a regional Wood Badge, the highest-level training course for adult leaders in the Boy Scouts of America, at Camp Sayre in Milton, MA.

After the birth of her third child Philip, Mary worked as a school crossing guard near their home in West Medford MA.  She later worked as an assistant to the head coach of the Buckingham Browne and Nichols School, which allowed her grandson Omar to attend day camp there at a very reduced rate.

Mary always loved knitting and crocheting hats, sweaters, mittens, and afghans for her family members, often in their school or favorite sports team colors.  She also made these items for charity.  She was a life-long Episcopalian, and sang for years in the choir. She was one of the founding members of the Watoto Club, a social networking club for mostly black women, long before Facebook was invented.  The Watotos still meet.

Mary’s grandchildren are Omar, Tano, Johnathan, Leianne, Steven, Lauren, Lucy, and Henry.  Her great-grandchildren are Taylor, Jackson, and Fiona.

"Bet you wish you'd known Mary". (jmp)

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