Mary Agnes Ryan (nee Connelly), age 96, beloved wife of Joseph (deceased 2007), much-loved Mom and Grandma, pianist, quilter, crossword guru, songstress, reciter of poems and teller of tales passed away July 25, 2019. She was born the second child of Edward and Mary Connelly, a steel mill worker and seamstress, in Youngstown, Ohio, on January 31, 1923, and was a proud lifelong Buckeye. She loved the piano, which she played from an early age into her 90s, specializing in romantic, swing-era songs like Deep Purple and In the Mood. She had a large group of friends at Ursuline Academy High School, who gave her the nickname Mac, after her initials. A dark-haired beauty, she enjoyed swimming and tennis with her friends and had many admirers. She displayed lightning-speed at the typewriter, graduating in 1940 at age seventeen. After high school she worked as a secretary at the Steel Door, which made parts for aircraft during World War II.
In June 1944, a few days after D-Day, she let her friend Mary Jane drag her to a USO dance, where she met Signal Corps Private First Class Joe Ryan. The next day, they all went swimming at Youngstown’s Idora Park, and for the next six weeks Joe visited from training camp in Pennsylvania as often as he could before shipping out to France. They wrote many letters back and forth, and Joe was determined to marry her on his return. They married September 2, 1946, in Youngstown before settling in Queens, New York. Mary Agnes took up a secretarial position at Radio City, riding the subway into Manhattan daily until their first child was born. In the first four years of marriage, she and Joe had three daughters, Mary Pat, Lou Anne, and Peggy. In 1951, the family moved to their own house on Diane Place in the bedroom town of Paramus, with Joe commuting to his job at New York Telephone.
Mary Agnes and Joe helped found the new Catholic church in Paramus, Our Lady of the Visitation, and made many close friends among the young couples of the parish and in their neighborhood. She enjoyed entertaining friends, participating in the Rosary Society, and hosting canasta nights in her home. In the 1950s their children Jody, Jed, and Katie joined the growing family. They moved to a larger home on Linwood Avenue in 1958 and welcomed two more children soon after, Jim and Marian. Though she was busy with all the kids, Mary Agnes bowled and swam, and had many creative interests, from oil painting to sewing to writing and illustrating her own children’s book, Albert in Wonderland. She also studied calligraphy and enjoyed ceramics, tole painting, and decoupage. She became a practiced and enthusiastic baker, making favorites like cream puffs, lemon meringue pie, and Nuggets cookies, and teaching her daughters to bake. She enjoyed making a pot of fudge after the kids were in bed, and adored most candy and sweets, especially Milky Ways. She loved the ocean and trips to the Jersey shore, where she collected seashells. She was an avid reader of mysteries and biography and a serious fan of crossword puzzles, which she enjoyed solving alone or along with her kids for many decades. In the 1970s and 1980s her grandchildren were born, and she loved spending time with them. She’d get down on the floor to build towers with her grandson Jeffrey, and drew and had tea parties with her granddaughters Michele and Jaclyn.
Her point of view was distinctly her own – she was a bit of a character. As she might say, she marched to the beat of her own drum. Until her final days she loved telling favorite stories, singing songs, and reciting children’s rhymes.
The Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Monday at 9:30 AM at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel RC Church, 1 Passaic St., Ridgewood. Interment to follow at St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, NY. Visiting Sunday from 3:00-7:00 PM at the Feeney Funeral Home, 232 Franklin Ave., Ridgewood.
In lieu of flowers, donations made in Mary’s name to the Muscular Dystrophy Association (mda.org) would be greatly appreciated.