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Chilled on the Hill

“Late lies the wintry sun-a-bed,
A frosty, fiery sleepy-head,
Blinks but an hour or two,
And then
A blood-red orange sets again.”
By Robert Louis Stevenson

With the temps hovering around zero, Hubby and I have not been outside to see the sunsets. We did notice, however, that there was still light when we came out of the 4 p.m. Mass last weekend. On Monday morning, when the Boston temp. was 4 below zero at 5 a.m., the temp atop Mount Washington was 34 below zero, with a wind chill of minus 84. God help those workers who man the weather station at the top of the mountain. Around our house, we have opened all the cabinet doors under the kitchen and bathroom sinks. We have scatter rugs rolled up against the outside doors. Hubby put the heat up a little in the back cellar room so that it stays just about 50 degrees. Hubby brought out his lined pants to wear in the cold. We left part of a bottle of water in the car Sat. evening. By Sunday morning the water was frozen solid. On Sunday evening, Tim Caputo, a reporter on WLVI-TV, Ch. 56/Ch. 10 on Boston Cable, cracked open an egg and let it fall on the pavement. Within a half hour, the egg was completely frozen.

I want to thank Louise Tardif for having the 4 p.m. Mass on Sat., Jan. 16, at St. Christopher’s Church, celebrated in memory of my cousins Bob and Nancy (Horgan) Cooley. They died two years ago; Nancy was 61; Bob, 62. When Nancy died, just eight weeks before Bob, I had a Mass said for her at St. Christopher’s. Louise remembered how upset I especially was at Nancy’s untimely death. (I used to babysit for her when I was in junior high.) Because the Jan. 15th Mass had not yet been booked, Louise had the Mass said for Nancy and Bob. I thanked Louise after the Mass and told her that it was very kind of her to remember both Nancy and Bob. (Our family is still reeling from their deaths.)

Our family also has suffered another untimely death, that of my cousin James Roger “J.R.” Harty on Jan. 15. “J.R.” was just 30 years old. He was the son of cousins Carolyn (Horgan) and Leonard “Rock” Harty. He also leaves his sister Katherine “Katie” Harty. “J.R.” was the nephew of Lorraine (Harty) Buonopane, Jean (Harty) Hayward, and the late Stephen Harty. He was also the nephew of Richard Horgan and the late Jim “Seamus” Horgan and Nancy (Horgan) Cooley. He was the grandson of the late Roger and Lucille Harty and Jim and Ethel Horgan. A lovely service was held on Jan.22, at the MacKinnon Funeral Home in Whitman for “J.R.,” with the immediate family present.

The MacKinnon Funeral Home has quite a history. The 18-room house, on Washington St. in Whitman, was built by the late Francis Cardinal Spellman for his parents in 1933 and 1934 when he was an auxiliary bishop of Boston. Cardinal Spellman patterned the house after homes he had visited while in Europe. The house has seven baths, and a former built-in pool and a two-car garage. A red-upholstered chair on which the Cardinal sat is on display beneath a framed picture in one of the sitting rooms. His miter, a hat with peaks worn by bishops and cardinals, is also there. In 1936, while still a bishop, Cardinal Spellman paid several visits to the house and was accompanied by Italian Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, who later became Pope Pius XII.

The house remained in the Spellman family until after the Cardinal’s death, passing from his sister Marian to her daughter, Frances McCarthy. In 1974, the house was purchased by Robert Johnston of the Johnston Funeral Home and then by Paul O’Connor of the John J. O’Connor and Son Funeral Home in 1993. Richard MacKinnon Sr. managed the funeral home under O’Connor’s and later, in 1999, purchased the home.

The MacKinnon family continues to own and operate the funeral home, currently under Thomas J. MacKinnon as owner, director, as well as in residence. I am sorry that I did not have a chance to look through the funeral home the morning of the service. It is a beautiful home, with quite an interesting history.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, Hubby and I, along with our friend Eileen Burke, attended the Irish Pastoral Centre’s monthly luncheon at the Irish Cultural Centre in Canton. There was no construction on Route 128 where we had to travel so we arrived fairly quickly. Just after we sat down, our friend Tess came around and made name tags for us. Very soon, our friends from Quincy, Eleanor, Claire, Ronnie, Celia, and Ann, came in and sat with us. Also with them was our friend Lucy from South Boston. Our pal Kathy, a retired Boston teacher, said one of the day’s readings.

Irish chaplain Fr. John McCarthy, who lives at St. Brendan’s Rectory, told us he had a wonderful time when he was at home in Limerick for Christmas. He mentioned that the weather was not good until St. Stephen’s Feast Day, Dec. 27. (The Feast of the Holy Innocents is observed on the following day, Dec. 28.) Father John mentioned that when he was stationed at a parish in Limerick City, he was trying to prepare for a retreat that he was to give. Three different times, he tried to prepare but was interrupted by someone at the door. When the fourth person came to the door, the door had been left open so he walked into the rectory. Father John spoke with that person for about four hours. The man told Father that he came into the rectory because the front door was open. Father then said he preached on “availability” at the retreat. We should have an “open door” policy and be available to help others. Before the Mass ended, Father mentioned that the February luncheon, which is to be dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes, will include the Blessing of the Sick.

Because there were only about 140 of us at the luncheon, we had much more room to move about. (There were 180 at the December luncheon.) The food was wonderful. It was a pot roast dinner with colored potatoes. I had only seen white and Yukon Gold potatoes in my culinary experience. Hubby and Eileen had the little purple potatoes. One of mine had a light yellow tinge. There were also carrots. The nurse at the Coumadin Clinic at Carney Hospital had said that I could have a little salad, especially a salad made with iceberg lettuce, even though I am on Coumadin. I previously thought that I could not have salad at all. “Everything should be in moderation.” (Iceberg lettuce does not affect the coumadin level very much.) The volunteers brought around a plate of desserts for each table, which we enjoyed with our coffee and tea. We were delighted that our friend Ann won the first of the four prizes. Cora Flood, the Senior Coordinator for the Irish Pastoral Centre, came around to check on each of the tables and to chat with us.

Thanks to St. Gregory’s Bulletin, I saw that the Lourdes Center in Boston has water direct from the Lourdes Shrine available now. Lourdes Water is available for $3 for a one-ounce bottle. For further info, call the Lourdes Center at 617-536-2761. The mailing address is P.O. Box 15575, Boston, MA 02215. The street address is 698 Beacon St., in Boston

I was sorry to learn of the death of Elizabeth “Betty” (Sullivan) Swanton on Jan. 10. I had known Betty back in the 50’s when she, my friend Agnes, and I were in St. Kevin’s Choir. (Betty was the youngest member of the choir; I was second youngest; and Agnes was third youngest.) I was even invited to Betty’s wedding to Fred Swanton in 1960. Little did I know that years later, I would meet the matron-of-Honor from the wedding, Betty’s oldest sister Eileen Burke, and become fast friends with her for all these years.

Over the years, Eileen would tell me about her amazing sister and brother-in-law Fred. They had nine children and adopted a tenth child. In addition to these children, Betty and Fred also took care of approximately 100 foster children. Betty was an active advocate in the Quincy Public Schools and was a long-time member of her church choir. She was active in the Manet Health Center and was awarded the Joseph M. Smith Consumer Award by the MA League of Community Health Centers in 2009. She had helped so many people that her children had to have a two-night wake. Hubby and I went to the wake the second evening and it was just as crowded as my cousins Margie and Janet had told me that the previous evening’s wake had been.

The morning of the funeral, Jan. 22. when we entered Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, next to Grumpy White’s Restaurant in Quincy, we were amazed that the church was almost completely filled. There were four priests on the altar to celebrate Betty’s Mass. Her children were very involved in the Mass. The choir, in which Betty had sung for many years, sang beautifully throughout. (They are a terrific singing group!) Hubby and I were amazed that we knew one of the altar boys at the Quincy church. He was our long-time friend, Tom Cheney. I even saw Tom’s wife Barbara as I returned from Communion. I send my sympathy to Betty’s children: Maureen Donahue, John, Joanne Brown, Susan Quigg, Marjorie Long, Lorraine Gerraughty, Brian, Christopher, Kathleen Mann, and David. I also send my sympathy to her siblings: our friend Eileen Burke, Kathleen Green, Cornelius Sullivan Jr., and Lorraine Grier. Betty was certainly an amazing woman.

I laughed at this thought: “A man is known by the company he avoids.”


St. Stephen's Day is December 26. Here in Ireland it is nearly as big a day as Christmas. Just thought I'd let you know.