It is spring and that means it is time for our sustainer drive. This year we have the opportunity to tell you about Irene L. Healy, a sustainer extraordinaire.
Over the years, I have introduced many of my parents’ friends to our StreetLight readers. There was Ma, Auntie Freddie, Mary K, and now there is Irene Healy. Each of these individuals has had a profound effect on me personally, as well as on this ministry. Each of them was entertained by my mother’s and father’s stories about their wayward son who is doing these little acts of charity in a place called, “Wister,” wherever that is!
Irene and her husband, John, were travel companions of my mother and father to the Boston Carmen’s Union conventions, held every two years in different cities in the U.S. and Canada. When my folks came home from the conventions, they would always tell us about the wonderful times they had with the Healy’s and would leave us laughing about their adventures together.
It has to be over twenty years ago that we started receiving generous donations, on a regular basis, from Irene. I would call it our “just in time” donation because it always seemed that when the ministry had its back against the wall financially, Irene’s check would suddenly appear. Because of this, Kathy and I developed our own relationship with Irene and she even made the trip from the Cape to visit with her daughter, Joan. We gave her a tour of the store and described what programs we had going. She would patiently listen to us and at the end of the visit she would always offer us words of encouragement and the checks would keep on coming. Then all of a sudden we started receiving checks from Irene’s daughter, Joan, and we thought about the apple not falling far from the tree.
Irene passed away on December 12, 2017 at the age of 98. We have included the full text of the eulogy given by her daughter Kate simply because it describes well who Irene Healy was.
Celebration of Mom’s Life (Use by Permission)
Good morning everyone and thank you for joining us today to celebrate the life our Mom. She was Irene as well as Mom, Nana Healy, Aunt Irene, a sister and a treasured friend to many. She was also wonderful wife to John Crowley and John Healy. When we think of her, we think about her strong faith, her positive attitude, and her generosity towards others. Those three qualities are difficult to maintain throughout one’s life, but she was able to do that for 98 years.
Our Mom was born on December, 6, 1919 in North Cambridge and lived there for many years. She graduated from St. John’s High School and then began working full time in Boston as well as attending Burdett College at night for two years. In those days she was considered to have a flair for fashion making many of her own clothes, including her wedding dress, and she continued that way throughout her life. She met our Dad and they married on July 4, 1944 while he was in WWII and when he returned they began having many children, and more children, and more children. Eight of us in all. Our Mom didn’t have an easy life in those days raising all us kids with little money, but we always had what we needed. She taught us right from wrong and to try and get along with each other. She was a woman of strong faith and that is what got her through the ups and downs of her daily life. Her faith in God was unwavering no matter what happened. She instilled in all of us that we needed faith in order to get through life and that it was something to be respected. We went to Catholic schools, we went to church, and we prayed. That’s what we did at our house with our Mom.
In 1968, our parents were able to buy their first home and we moved to Arlington. In 1970, our Dad passed away suddenly and our mom had just turned 50, and had us eight kids at home. She had started working for the The New England Telephone Company in Boston, an with the help of older siblings taking care of us younger ones, she was able to work full-time to provide for us. And work she did. She worked so hard for so many years to make sure we had what we needed. Education was important to her for us to have, and she told us to work hard in school always, and then our education would help us to succeed in life. No matter what happened, she always remained positive about things and kept forging ahead and told us to do the same.
The next year in her life, 1971, she had two things happen, one good and one not so good. First the good, Our Aunt Marion and Uncle Jim and their friends Claire and Dave Maloney, introduced our Mom to their friend John Healy, who was a widower, and they began dating. John was the kindest, loving man to our Mom and all of us. Who goes on a second date with a woman who has eight kids?! Later the same year she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had her surgery and fought through it all and was a survivor. Again, her faith in Jesus and the Blessed Mother played an important role of her getting through that. Remaining positive and moving forward is what she did.
A few years later our Mom and John married and we gained a wonderful sister, Kate, as well. Our Mom and John had many wonderful years together and they worked hard, but travelled and enjoyed life when they could. They had many good friends who shared these good times with them. Then when she was 70, John passed away and she continued her life as a widow for a second time. She had retired to Harwich at that point, and began to be involved in this church, and joined the Association of Sacred Hearts group, and for the next almost thirty years was active volunteering with them. As she was gifted seamstress as well, she did a lot of sewing for the annual summer fair held here at church. At this time, she also joined an exercise group at the community center and continued with that up until this year as well. She never stopped. Even as she aged and became elderly, she kept busy all the time and fortunately she had her health so she could. Another favorite group that she joined was the Red Hats, and she enjoyed their social activities, She lived in her home alone, drove and attended daily Mass for many years into her 80’s.
Throughout her life she maintained a balance between her family, work and friends and she seemed to do it with ease, but I’m sure it wasn’t easy at all for her. Her generosity extended to many including her family, her co-workers, and her friends. If you needed help, she was there for you. She enjoyed her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and did her best to keep in touch with all that each of them was doing. She was so proud of all us and if you needed any wisdom or experience passed on, she was there for you.
I would like to close with an example of how our Mom lived, as this memory has stayed with me all these years. When I was a child probably 10 or 11 years old, our Mom worked for the phone company on Franklin St. in Boston. She had a lunch hour from 12-1 each day and just before noon, she would leave her office and walk down to the Arch Street Chapel for the daily Mass. And I remember when I found out that she did this, I said to her, ”Don’t you ever just want to eat your lunch, relax and then do your errands for us?” And she replied, “Well, the daily Mass there is short, only 15-18 minutes so I go to that, and then I stop at the store If I need to, and I eat my lunch last. And this is how our Mom lived. God and family before herself.
On April 19, 2018 Kathy and I had a visit from Joan and Kate. When Joan emailed us that she would like to stop by we thought that she and Kate were on their way to someplace else and decided to see if we were available. It was like meeting old friends after a long time, hugs and greeting all around. Joan had only seen the outside of the building on a prior visit with Irene. We were not tenants at that time, but knew that the building would be available to us once the closing took place. So when Joan walked in and saw what we had done to the place she was truly pleased and commented on how nice the store looked. We then took Joan and and Kate on a tour of the upstairs where we do Christmas Giving program and our meditation room. They were both surprised to see how big upstairs is and how we were using it for our Christmas Giving program.
As we were coming down stairs Kate asked if we could go to where the meeting room was. I lead us into our conference area and we all sat down. Joan said, “Irene has left you something in her will and we wanted to give it to you today. Kate is the executor of the estate.” This is when I noticed Kate fumbling through her pocketbook trying to pull out her checkbook and pen all the while talking to us. She told us that Irene had left us some money and then quickly wrote out a check and slid it across the table upside down. I took the check and turn it over rolled my eyes at Kate and immediately put it back down on the table and slide it over to Kathy. When she picked up the check I saw her rock in her chair. At this both Joan and Kate started to laugh. Kathy immediately slid the check back to me and I started to laugh. The check was for $10,000.
Joan then told us this story about her mother. One year Joan decided to give her mother a goat via Habitat of Humanity for a Christmas present. She made sure that all the materials that explained the gift and how it would be used were included in the card so Irene would understand the gift. After a few months when Joan and Irene were alone Irene said to Joan, “I want to thank you for the gift of the goat, but you know those big charities have lots of money and I would prefer that if you make a donation in my name send it to Kathy and Walter’s Urban Missionaries, they don’t have lots of money and they can use it.” When Joan said this a light in my head immediately went on, so that’s why we started receiving regular donations from Joan!
Joan went on to tell us that she did the very same thing to her daughter when her daughter bought her a Christmas gift along the lines of the goat Joan purchased for her mother. And Joan, after a few months, took her daughter aside and said to her, “Thank you very much for the Christmas gift, but you know those big companies have lots of money and I would prefer that if you make a gift in my name that you make a donation to Kathy and Walter’s Urban Missionaries, they don’t have lots of money and they can use it.” By now were were all laughing and we spent the next hour sharing stories about our parents and how they taught us to be generous with the gifts God has given us. And then it was time to say good-bye and we agreed that Joan and Kate would come back with more family members and we would do lunch and continue on with the sharing of our parents lives and what the ministry was up to.
After Kate and Joan left Kathy and I just looked at each other. We were shaken. I spent the remainder of the day pondering the question, “Why does God continue to bless us so? Why?”
To become a sustainer please visit our website at https://secure.etransfer.com/EFT/BlockCode/donation1.cfm?d2org=UMOLH&d2tool=donation
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