Mary McCarthy
Mary McCarthy

Obituary of Mary Frances McCarthy

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In August, 1925, Mary Frances Nicoll opened her eyes in Valley Stream, Long Island. She lived the rest of her life with eyes and heart wide open, embracing life's adventures with joy and laughter. As a young woman, she cherished her relationship with her sister and mother surrogate, Mickey, relished her job at a NYC law office and enjoyed riding horses on her days off. In 1946 she embarked on a 42 year marriage to Justin McCarthy. Her roles as wife, mother, and volunteer kept her on the go, as she managed a busy social life, raised three children and volunteered extensively at her church and in her community. At 52 Mary moved to Sarasota, Florida with her now-retired husband, Justin. She now added "career woman" to her resume of life, as she began a 20 year stint as a travel agent. She entertained and enjoyed her colleagues at Gulf Coast Travel, and she flew, sailed, and "trained" around the world. Her boundless energy and warm, always giving spirit were evident in everything she did, whether volunteering as an "Early Bird" in the pre-dawn hours at Sarasota Hospital, creating action-packed summer vacations for her grandchildren, hosting laughter-filled parties with her many friends at the Park East Club Adult Community, setting off on cruises with family and friends, playing drums on the Siesta Key beach, or holding fund-raisers for St. Thomas Moore Church. Mary left a smile with everyone she met. At 81 years young Mary moved from the gulf hurricanes to Hillsborough, North Carolina. She lived near her daughter and son-in-law, Kathleen and Gerald Ponder in a cottage converted from a garage. She stayed very busy, sharing 'wine time' with family and friends on the front porch, serving as factotum for the household, volunteering with the Democratic party and the Senior Center in Hillsborough, advocating for maintaining green space in her historic neighborhood, working for social justice, and attending United Church of Christ in Chapel Hill. She even became a published author at 85. Mary knew how to love and laugh. She enjoyed a very special relationship with her grandson, Dave. 'Grandma Mary' and Dave stayed very close through the years and in 2005 Mary flew to San Diego to welcome him home from an overseas deployment with the US Navy and years later flew to Spain to visit Dave at his assignment in Rota. She loved playing cards with her other grandson, Tay, especially beating him at "500 Rummy'! Mary treasured being with her 'family of choice' - her beloved neighbors and friends with whom she shared many wonderful times. Diagnosed with cancer in 2009, Mary kept her positive attitude, saying "Hey, how can I feel sad after living such a wonderful life!" She leaves an enormous void in the lives of her daughter, son-in-law, friends, and grandsons Dave and Tay. Her sister Elizabeth (Mickey) Mulholland of Iowa, and two sons, Richard McCarthy of Florida and William McCarthy of Pennsylvania also will miss her smile and warmth, as well her 12 grandchildren and three nieces. Mary appreciated the many skilled and caring doctors who cared for her at NC Lineberger Cancer Hospital, especially Drs. Bernard and Kim and the many wonderful, dedicated hospital and Hospice nurses who 'infused' and cared for her with a smile. If you'd like to remember Mary and her life, she asks that you make a donation to the United Church of Chapel Hill, 1321 Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd., Chapel Hill, NC, 27514-6605, the PFRC Trust Fund #186, c/o Tina Shaban, NC Cancer Hospital CB#7218, 101 Manning Dr., Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-7218, or to UNC Hospice, P.O. Box 1077, Pittsboro, NC, 27312. Online Condolences may be sent to
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