I received a call from my brother, Charles Henesy, a few hours ago, notifying
me that our mother, Mary Frances McGee Quinlan died in her sleep at 4AM
this morning at Gwinnett Extended Care Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
May she rest in peace.
Her body was sent to Emory University, her decision many years ago. She was
always a very determined lady and, would never have gone into a nursing home
if she had been in control. Until the stroke that felled her, she had lived the
previous eighteen years in a duplex, growing increasingly less able to care for
herself because of macular degeneration and beginning dementia.
Mother was one of thirteen children, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers.
She grew up, knowing backbreaking labor, picking cotton. Her mother died
when she was twelve and her father soon remarried. He died shortly thereafter.
She was an avid student, however, and did very well at Pelahatchie ( Mississippi )
High School. She then went to nursing school in Columbus, Georgia where one of
her brothers lived. She left nursing school in her final year to marry Charles
Henesy, an army lieutenant at Ft. Benning and, later, went to work for Dr. Otis
Gilliam. Her marriage did not last and I remember our living for some time in
the poorest of housing projects. Dr. Gilliam was her employer for many years,
a kind country general practitioner who even made house calls and took me
along as his "nurse" occasionally. He was the reason I became a nurse.
Mother eventually married Daniel J. Quinlan, another Army officer who was
like a father to my brother and me. Ultimately, my mother and he divorced.
I remember my mother as being very smart, hard working and dedicated to
my brother and me. She did not have a wealth of friends. She loved canasta
and we played when I was very young and all my life. She taught her grandsons,
Alex and Jeremy and, every visit to Georgia, we would play for hours. Shawn
Mother was an avid reader and she loved poetry. She always encouraged my
writing and, one of my greatest regrets, is that I did not complete my book of
poetry when she was able to be aware of it. She would have been very proud
of that. She did not like to travel but she did come to San Francisco for a few
weeks every summer to escape the Georgia heat. As a young Army wife, though,
she lived in Austria ( my brother was born there ) and she spent six months in
Thailand with my stepfather. She never could understand my love for travel.
After my nursing position with San Francisco ended, I was able to go to Georgia
on five different occasions to spend a month with her. It was on my final visit
that I found my mother sitting in her favorite recliner, speaking unintelligibly, unable
to answer my questions. I had previously been notified by a lady who did her
weekly grocery shopping that mother had not been taking her medications.
After five days in the hospital, my brother drove her to Gwinnett Extended Care,
part of an excellent medical complex where Susan, my sister-in-law, had
worked in Same Day Surgery. Mother remained there until her death, receiving
superb care. She was so fortunate to be close to Charley and Susan and
her grandsons, Chris and Matt Henesy, and two beautiful great grandchildren,
Liam and Britt Henesy.
I can never thank my brother and his wife enough for their continued love and
care of my mom during the past years she has been in extended care.
I am just glad I made that trip to the South in January so I got to see my mother
one more time, the week of her 90th birthday. For just a brief minute, she
recognized me, saying, "I know that voice," and, after I told her it was Carmen,
her daughter, visiting, she said, "I love you," something I rarely heard from her in
Mary Frances McGee in her 20's
Mary Frances McGee Quinlan in her 30's
These two photos were the last of me and my
mother, taken in January 2014, a week before
here 90th birthday