Published in the September 10, 2019 edition.
A proud graduate of Wakefield High School in the class of 1938, Mary then faced a challenge common to many young people. What comes next? While visiting a friend and neighbor in the hospital, Mary was struck by the kindness of the nurses, took a hard look at the profession and decided that is what she wanted to do. She approached St. Elizabeth’s Hospital but was told that she needed more math and science courses to be admitted to the nursing program.
Undeterred, Mary asked the Sisters of St. Joseph to teach her biology, chemistry, geometry and the other classes she needed. With completion of the classes behind her, Mary entered the Nursing program at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital. After passing her State Board of Nursing exam in 1943, Mary enlisted in the Army as a Lieutenant. She went through basic training at Fort Devins and then was stationed at Camp Edwards, caring for men coming in from the front lines in Europe. Later, she joined the medical team that, in January 1944, opened the District 1 hospital in Framingham which later became known as Cushing Hospital.
There were a dozen nurses in the original group. They had to open wards one at a time. There was nothing in a new ward but the cots. The nurses had to order everything from dishes and linens to medical supplies. As quickly as they got a ward open, it would fill up with wounded soldiers and sailors, many from France or Italy. Mary also served at Army hospitals in Jackson, Mississippi and Memphis, Tennessee. After her enlistment, Mary returned to Cushing where she worked for many years.
While at Cushing, Mary was caring for Paul Lally, a resident of Wakefield and close friend of the family. Paul had been badly hurt in Europe. He needed around the clock care. Mary was one of the nurses that volunteered to care for Paul after her shift was over. His brother John came to visit him every week. He never missed. One day, as Mary was driving home, she saw John walking down the road. Mary offered to drive him back to Wakefield. That began a love affair that blossomed into a long and happy marriage that only ended with John’s passing on January 12, 2003.
Wanting to get her bachelor’s in nursing degree, Mary entered Boston College. It took her 10 years going part-time and nights to earn her degree, but she graduated from BC in 1958. After getting her degree, Mary taught the Fundamentals of Nursing at Holy Ghost Hospital until the job at Wakefield High School arose.
In 1969, Mary saw that the nurse position at Wakefield High School was open. She applied immediately and spent 18 wonderful years caring for the students at her alma mater. Mary was beloved by many of the students even though she was adept at figuring out the difference between real illness and the maladies that affect teenagers who haven’t studied enough for a test or suffer chills on the first warm spring day. The students made a special tribute to Mary in the 1976 Oracle yearbook. Even years later, former students would come up, greet her and share warm memories of the many instances when she had impacted their lives.
After retiring from Wakefield High in 1987, she volunteered at the Melrose Wakefield Hospital with Ellen Quinn, her sister. Mary volunteered for 25 years for the Hospital and, also, for the Salvation Army Auxiliary. Two months after John’s death in 2003, Mary added volunteering at the Wakefield Interfaith Food Pantry on Tuesdays to her community service schedule. The Pantry recognized Mary in 2011, when she was 90, as one of its Volunteers of the Year. She was quoted as saying that, “Nowadays, it takes me a little longer to get moving and get the fingers working, but I still really look forward to it.”
Mary was the loving wife of John Lally, the daughter of Matthew J. Burns Sr. and Julia (Boland) Burns, the sister of Ellen (Burns) Quinn, Lawrence J. Burns, MM, and is survived by her younger brother, Matthew J. Burns Jr. of Wakefield. She also took great delight in her nieces and nephews, Judith A. (Quinn) Wallace, Mary Ellen (Quinn) King, Edward L. Quinn, Jr., Matthew J. Burns III, Mary J. (Burns) Brunini, Michael J. Burns, Margaret J. (Burns) Hibbard, Lawrence J. Burns and Timothy P. Burns. In addition to her nieces and nephews, Mary had many grand- and great-nieces and nephews, all of whom she adored.
Her funeral will be held from the McDonald Funeral Home, 19 Yale Ave., Wakefield on Friday at 9 a.m. followed by a funeral Mass in St. Joseph Church, 173 Albion St., Wakefield at 10 a.m. Interment, St. Patrick Cemetery, Stoneham. Visitation for relatives and friends will be held at the funeral home on Thursday from 4-7 p.m.