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Mary Jane Heffernan Quinn lived and loved every minute of her 94 years and 30 days, succumbing finally on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. The woman who cared about everybody else first and herself last died at Staten Island North Hospital after a short illness.
She was born in Brooklyn during the Depression, and it often was her job to wait on the bread lines. That determination and sense of responsibility never left her, and she approached every day with a big smile.
She is survived by her brother Thomas Heffernan, four children, James Alfred Quinn, Janine Marie Kessler, Suzanne Gittins and John Jr. and her grandchildren, James, Ryan and Michael Gittins, Christopher Kessler and Jack Quinn, sons in law Raymond Gittins, Richard Kessler and daughter in law Amy Z. Quinn. She was predeceased by her husband of 43 years Jack Quinn, and sisters Betsy and Florence.
She was Aunt Janie to our loving Heffernan cousins and Betsy.
In her later years, she wound up being called Mary mostly because every official document was Mary Jane, and her name Jane would be forgotten, though she never was.
She graduated from Bishop McDonnell High School in Brooklyn with a commercial degree hoping she could work in Manhattan as a secretary. In reality, she could have gotten a Ph.D from any college in the country. She would go to her high school reunions, outliving every consolidation and name change (eventually Bishop Loughlin) until she was the only one left from her original school.
She had style and class. One time, she took us kids to a diner and asked for coffee but pronounced it like the king’s English, first part "coff," then "ee."
We looked at her like, "Mommy, you OK? You mean, 'cawfee,' right?" She smiled. There was no hope. We were too far gone.
At night, on East 98th Street, the four kids would be strewn far and wide. But, at 6 p.m., her voice would pierce the chaos, and we listened for it like a warning from Paul Revere.
She would bellow our names, and each one would gain a few extra syllables
We sprinted home from the four corners of Canarsie.
She could cook like a gourmet chef. Not sure if it’s hereditary. Her Irish mother cooked a mean roast beef but liked to boil almost everything else. The two would often talk on the telephone, and not always taking the other's advice. "But he likes it that way," meaning, of course, my father. He got his meat from a butcher, and she cooked it medium rare, and no one complained in my house.
When we went to Holy Family grammar school, you’d walk the hallways, and there she was, substitute teaching for one class or another.
When she started working at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn, after we were old enough to stay out of trouble, she’d have to take three different city buses and a 20-minute car ride for the hour-and-a-half commute. She never learned how to drive. It was partly a gender issue. Women didn’t drive back then. Also, her neighborhood in Brooklyn was the conjunction of just about every subway in Brooklyn and Queens with easy access to Manhattan.
Later on, after moving to Tottenville, she’d have to take the Staten Island Rapid Transit, then ferry, then walk a half mile, rain or snow. That’s a good hour and a half.
Meanwhile, she knitted or crocheted for everyone, blankets for christenings and sweaters for school.
Even to the end, she was working at the local AARP meetings until COVID stymied everything.
She loved golf and bowling. Back in the day, she averaged at least 150 on the lanes. Title IX came too late as she would likely have gotten an athletic scholarship.
She had four kids in four years. We were all bottles and diapers. Janie became Mommy and always will be.
God took her finally. She can go back to Willoughby Avenue or East 98th Street or Yetman Avenue. Or the Poconos. Or whatever place she loved best.
And you can drink that Manhattan, Mom, and not have to worry. You earned it.
Services will be held Saturday from 2-7 p.m., at Bedell-Pizzo Funeral Home, 7447 Amboy Road, Staten Island.
Internment will be private.
Saturday, February 11, 2023
2:00 - 7:00pm (Eastern time)
Saturday, February 11, 2023
Starts at 3:00pm (Eastern time)
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