It is with great sadness that we announce the peaceful passing of Margaret Mary Whalen (2/12/1931—3/22/2021)
Margaret was born in NYC, NY to Jack and Catherine Whalen. She was the oldest of the 5 Whalen children. The family lived on City Island NY. Margaret told stories of time spent sailing as a member of the City Island Mariners. She frequented Orchard Beach with friends and family. Her siblings remember when Margaret came home from her first day of 5th grade declaring that she was NOT going back. After hearing that a Nun had pulled Margaret’s braided hair her mother immediately transferred her to PS 17, the public school on City Island. When Margaret made her mind up, there was no changing it.
Margaret attended Cortland State Teaching College in upstate NY where she received her BS in Education. Margaret wasn’t like most teachers of her era, she went above and beyond to meet the academic and emotional needs of her students. She was well respected by students, parents, and colleagues. Until the day Margaret passed, she still received phone calls and letters from former students. It was through teaching that Margaret met her lifelong friend, and fellow educator, Barbara Martin.
Family was everything to Margaret. In the late 1950’s she followed family and moved to York Beach Maine. Over the years several family members followed until finally, all of her siblings and their families lived close by. The home on Freeman Street, that she shared with her mother and younger brother John, was the perfect place for family and friends to gather. There were always interesting people visiting to include priests, colleagues, childhood friends, and family from the city. The ocean front property was the backdrop for weddings, birthdays, holidays, clambakes and so much more. Margaret loved a good party with laughter, great food, and singing “God Bless America”. She hosted the family Christmas parties with at times, more than 50 people in attendance. She would pass out a wrapped gift to everyone. The gifts were all the same theme, funny hats, ornaments or some unique treasure. Margaret’s generosity was felt by many as was her abundance of love and unconditional acceptance.
Margaret’s “open door” policy meant that her nieces and nephews visited often. She took it upon herself to “mother” the gaggle of kids who were drawn to her. They were given aptitude tests and succumbed to haircuts in her attic bedroom. She would gather whoever was available over school vacation for road trips to NY to visit relatives. She would warn her nieces and nephews of the danger awaiting in “Sex O Rama” (Fun O Rama). She told the boys, whether they were family members or not, to “keep their flies zipped.” She declared with conviction that wearing makeup could lead to pregnancy. She also impressed them by boldly swimming in the frigid waters in front of her house and once bit a live crab in half to prove a point. Her robust laughter and bear hugs were what they loved the most.
Margaret was a gifted artist. She used her talent to inspire her family to test their abilities as well. She opened a shop in York Beach called The Family Tree. Here she proudly displayed paintings, pottery, and other works of art. Margaret’s in home studio was busy with friends and family members exploring many art mediums hoping to have a piece of art worthy of making it into The Family Tree. Margaret also combined her artistic talent and love of teaching to open a summer art camp at her home. The camp was attended by many of her students and a few lucky nieces. She was always finding ways to celebrate the arts and to build self-esteem.
In 2000 Margaret moved to Blue Hill Maine with Barbara and their beloved dog. There she found a slower pace and a community of artists who embraced them immediately. She continued her painting and had a gallery in her home to display her work. She and Barbara were surrounded by an eclectic group of friends that would stop by for happy hour to share a laugh and a cocktail or two. Every day started with watching Mass as her strong Catholic faith was ever present. She enjoyed her private yard with beautiful gardens and visiting wildlife. Throughout her life she was able to experience the pleasures of living on a small island, the vastness of life on the ocean and in the end, the peace and tranquility of rural Maine. Margaret would tell you she lived a full life, blessed with adventure, joy, love, companionship, good health, and gratitude. Knowing this brings peace to all who adored and admired her.
Margaret was predeceased by her parents Jack and Catherine Whalen, her friend and companion Barbara Martin, her sister Judith Seedner, and brother John Whalen. She is survived by her sisters Jaqueline Villinski and Mary McNulty, brother-in-law Patrick McNulty, sister-in-law Elizabeth Whalen, several nieces, nephews, and great nieces and nephews.
We are honoring Margaret’s request to forgo a service or public burial. Instead, we are asking those who wish, to extend an act of kindness in her memory.