life lived - shea

Mary Shea, of Margate, with sons Chris, left, and Steve. Mary was a mother of three and grandmother of six but rarely had her picture taken - she preferred organizing and taking group pictures herself.   

Mary Shea moved to Margate after years of working in the Trenton area, but she didn’t retire to the shore.

Her husband, John, was partly retiring as a professor at what was then Trenton State College when they made the move to their little summer place in Margate in about 1983. He still taught part-time, but before long, Mary got a full-time job at Resorts International, as Atlantic City’s first casino was known.

She was a marketing and promotions supervisor, mostly dealing with customers — a job that fit her personality perfectly, friends said.

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Mary retired in 1998, after more than 15 years at Resorts. But when she died last month at 83, a lot of old co-workers came to her funeral — which was especially touching to the family after all her years away from the job, said John Shea III, of Northfield, the oldest of three Shea sons.

And even when she officially retired, Mary still worked. She was a regular volunteer at her Catholic parish, Margate’s Blessed Sacrament, doing anything from stuffing envelopes to bringing Holy Communion to parishioners too sick to go to church themselves.

“She had a twinkle in her eye and the warmest smile when you opened the rectory door,”said Chrissy Alexander, 54, of Linwood, the former parish secretary and Mary Shea’s good friend. “She was always the first (volunteer) to show up, and one of the last to leave.”

Alexander liked listening to Mary, a proud graduate of Hallahan High School in Philadelphia, banter with friends from Little Flower, a rival Catholic girls school. It was basically high-school trash talking — “but in a warm, ladylike way,” Alexander said, laughing.

Mary was also one of her parish’s Saucy Ladies, a group who volunteered every month for 12 years to cook big quantities of food for sick or homebound church members and others who needed hot meals.

“She was just a lovely, fun-loving person,” said Joan Stecher of Margate, a Saucy Ladies leader. “They should have a Mary in the world all the time.”

Mary was also known for setting up get-togethers for friends. John, her son, said his mother started a club of a few women who met for birthday lunches at Barrels, a Margate restaurant. After a few years, the birthday club grew to almost 25 women getting together for monthly lunches — with Mary as chief organizer.

She volunteered at Lucy the Elephant’s gift shop and as a dispatcher for Margate’s free senior-citizen bus, and she had friends wherever she went.

Her second son, Chris Shea, of Brigantine, knows why.

“The talk was always about you ... and how to make you feel better,” he said. “She was always that way, even to her last days. The conversation never ended with her.”

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