2013-09-13 / Obituaries

Mary ‘Cotty’ Libby Sawyer Greenlaw

Mary L. Greenlaw, 85, of 4 Stillwood Road, Falmouth (formerly of South Portland and Scarborough), died Wednesday, Sept. 4 at home surrounded by her entire family after a courageous lifelong battle with cancer. Determined and never complaining, Mary simply decided that she would not be defined by her illness but would “stand tall” until the very end.

Mary was born on Feb. 11, 1928, in Portland, the daughter of the late Clifford and Mary Greely Libby Sawyer. She was lovingly adopted at an early age by the only father she’s ever known, the late Daniel Sawyer. Some of her fondest memories were of the ocean and predawn lobstering with her stepfather. She attended South Portland Schools, graduating in 1947, later graduating from Gray’s Business School.

After supporting her family from the age of 11 in a variety of occupations, she was employed by First National Stores for over 20 years where she was the “nucleus of the office.” She was the confidant and sounding board for many executives who could be counted on for a candid perspective. Colleague and friend Marilyn Reilly described her mentoring style in Mary’s own words; “I don’t care if you shovel manure off Commercial Street, just make sure you’re the best manure shoveler I have ever seen.”

She married her “someone special,” the late Clare Ralph Greenlaw Sr., on Feb. 14, 1969 at Holy Cross Parish. They had an unwavering bond of love and understanding through good times and bad.

In 1973 Mrs. Greenlaw moved from her beloved childhood home on Harbor View Avenue in South Portland to Puritan Drive in Scarborough with her husband, Clare and son Clare Jr. Fiercely independent she was eventually convinced to leave their Scarborough home and join her son’s family for the last eight wonderful years of her life.

She was a longtime communicant of Holy Cross and St. John’s, and eventually Holy Martyr’s parishes. Her faith in God remained central to her strength to the very end. She was a volunteer at Maine Medical Center and a proud member of the Irish American Club.

Mary was a mentor and confidant to young and old throughout her life. Beginning with the children of Harbor View Ave. and Puritan Drive, neighborhood children spent countless hours doing homework, working with her in the yard, and getting advice on life’s challenges over a cup of coffee at her “office” – the kitchen table. These loving relationships continued on throughout her life. Mary greeted her granddaughters Sarah and Libby with a homemade “sniki” every afternoon for “girl talk” before moderating homework sessions.

A veracious reader, Mary consumed anything in print and prided herself on her knowledge of current events (and the latest specials for Shaw’s supermarkets!) She loved late night Italian sandwich runs and had an insatiable appetite for Chinese food with her son.

Mary wanted to try anything innovative or visit new places throughout her life. She frequently commanded spontaneous family adventures (and purchases) affectionately known as “Mary’s follies;” although many successful adventures, others were “duds” as she would call them. No matter, the family always came away with a legendary story to laugh about.

Mary was happiest taking long rides with her son and family who learned that the words “just a short ride” meant a secret day-long agenda. A constant request to her son was “Can I come?” As a tour guide she delighted with old stories and taught her granddaughters to try anything once. She loved shopping for her family and exploring the fascinating possibilities of the products in home centers.

For over 30 years, Mary loved watching the seasons change at the family camp on Pequawket Lake in Limington, where she enjoyed the serenity of the lake, her love of trees and nature, and the simplicity of the outhouse. Just weeks before her death she still played “onesie-twosies” in the water with Sarah and Libby, celebrated the 4th of July with sparklers, and had one last campfire.

Mary leaves her family with a lifetime’s worth of rich holiday traditions to be lovingly carried forward. Whether it was Christmas presents “lining the walls,” the importance of the manger scene, an immaculately pressed white Thanksgiving tablecloth, mandatory Labor Day cook outs, Fourth of July sparkler waving with the national anthem, or the numerous holiday spirits that delivered predawn thoughtfulness and goodies, Mary expressed her love and care to her entire family throughout the year. Even when unable to leave the house, holiday cards to all were always mailed.

Mary was predeceased by her husband, Clare Sr. She is survived by her son, Clare Ralph Greenlaw Jr. and wife Meredith of Falmouth, and daughter, Cheri McPhee and husband David of Gorham. She is also survived by eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

A celebration of Mary’s life and a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church in South Portland. Interment followed at Calvary Cemetery in South Portland.

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