Mabel Champney McCarthy, 92, died peacefully of natural causes at the Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital on Sept. 19, 2017, where she took up residence three weeks ago.
Mabel, better known to her family in her younger years as Chickie, and more recently as Grammy, was born in Natick on Oct. 9, 1924. Orphaned by her mom and dad’s deaths by the time she was 10, she was raised by her eldest sister Agnes, who had six children of her own.
While working as a waitress, Mabel put herself through Framingham State College, earning a bachelor’s degree in teaching. After graduation, sister Agnes told Chickie of a wonderful little island off Cape Cod where she might be able to find a job as a teacher.
Upon moving to Martha’s Vineyard, Mabel quickly secured a position at the Oak Bluffs School. It was there that she met another teacher, Daniel G. McCarthy. Legend had it that Dan, while courting young Mabel, would leave sweet messages on her chalkboard. The lovebirds were married.
Upon hearing of a job opportunity from a childhood friend, Dan moved his new bride back to his hometown of Springfield to live with his parents. Mabel soon gave birth to their first child, Margaret “Pegi” Ann. However, they were unable to escape the lure of the Vineyard, so the young family moved back to the Island, where they went on to have four more children.
After having her third child, Mary Kay, Mabel was pulled back into the classroom when her son Michael’s second-grade class was in need of a teacher. She continued to teach grade two at the Oak Bluffs School before becoming the reading and language arts specialist at Tisbury School until her retirement in 1984. In her tenure at Tisbury, Mabel, along with some of her colleagues, became a pioneer in inclusion education when she helped to mainstream a deaf child into regular education classes. She coauthored a book with the student’s grandmother, Barbara Dow, about their experiences. Though “Mainstreaming Jill” never hit the New York Times bestseller list, the book went on to be used by other educators with similar challenges of mainstreaming children with disabilities into regular education settings.
After retiring from teaching, Mabel turned one of her passions, as a voracious reader, into a second profession. She became the head librarian of the Oak Bluffs library, which was then located at the end of her own street, Pennacook Avenue. Mabel was lauded for expanding the old facility and increasing the involvement of children in the library by building a more extensive children’s wing and increasing print resources, programming, and technology.
In addition to being a dedicated member of Our Lady Star of the Sea Catholic Church, located across the street from her home, Mabel also participated actively with her best friends in the Ogkeshkuppe Homemakers’ Club of Oak Bluffs. The two main goals of the club were community service and continuing education. One major project was the reprinting of Henry Franklin Norton’s book, “Martha’s Vineyard, History, Stories and Legends” on June 1, 1976, which served as a significant contribution to Island history and the Oak Bluffs Bicentennial observances. The club used funds from the book’s sales to donate to various individuals and causes, including the Red Cross, the March of Dimes, and the Red Stocking Fund. The group also took much pride in its project of restoring and rededicating the Consecrated Tree in Hartford Park, Oak Bluffs. The club continued to be a social outlet for Mabel until recently, with some of the newer members being the children of former Homemakers. Mabel was the last living member of this group, which included Alice Campos, Alice Coutinho, Francis Coutinho, Margaret Downs, Mildred deBettencourt, Marjorie Leonard, Edith Morris, Estelle Surprenant, and Mary Thomas.
For most of her life, Mabel was an avid traveler, mostly accompanied by her children, sisters, and nieces. She traveled on many cruises and tours throughout the United States and to many countries in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America. She also followed all of her children’s athletic pursuits throughout high school and college. She was extremely proud of the naming of the high school football field in honor of her husband Daniel G. McCarthy, the first football coach at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
In her later years, you could always find Mabel on the porch at her home on Pennacook Avenue surrounded by family, neighbors, and friends. Due to the wonderful elder services of Martha’s Vineyard, Meals on Wheels, many dedicated doctors, Gloria DeBettencourt, Denise Lopes, Danielle Shea, Rachel Shea, Kate Collins, Thenzel Thomas, Laura Hayden, Stephanie Devine, Ashley Tarr, and her dedicated loved ones, Mabel lived out her days on her own terms in her home of over 50 years.
Known to many as the “Last of the Mohicans,” Mabel was predeceased by her husband Daniel G.; her daughter Pegi Nicholson and her husband William J. Nicholson III; all of her siblings, brother Louis and sisters Agnes, Alice, Doris, Helen and Irene; many of her beloved nephews and nieces; all of the original Homemakers; and several of her best friends.
Grammy is survived by two sons, Michael and his wife Susan McCarthy of Edgartown and Mark and his wife Tina McCarthy of Oak Bluffs; two daughters, Mary and her husband Russ MacDonald of Oak Bluffs, and Tricia and her husband Ahmed Bennane of Piscataway, N.J.; her grandchildren, Will and wife Jennifer, Caleb and wife Melissa, Meghan, Jared, Jesse and wife Megan, Rebecca and husband Lawrence, Ryan and wife Allecia, Eric, Michael and fiancée Hannah, Kelsey and fiancé David, Taylor, Kenny and wife Nicole, Evan, Yasin and Ayman; eight great-grandchildren, Wyatt, William, Jayda, Jaelyn, Noah, Maddie, Isla, and Liam; many step-grandchildren; several devoted nephews and nieces; and numerous caring neighbors and friends.
The family extends its sincere gratitude to the caring staff of Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard and Windemere, especially Mabel’s niece Penny Kathy Morrow, for making her final days so peaceful and comfortable.
A viewing will be held Friday, Sept. 22, from 5 to 7 pm at the Chapman, Cole and Gleason Funeral Home of Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown Road, Oak Bluffs. Funeral Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, Sept. 23, at 10 am at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, Massasoit Avenue in Oak Bluffs, with Father Michael Nagle officiating. Interment will immediately follow in the family plot at the Sacred Heart Cemetery on Vineyard Avenue in Oak Bluffs.
In lieu of flowers, those who so desire may make memorial donations in memory of Mabel to Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, P.O. Box 1748, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568, or the Library Friends of Oak Bluffs, P.O. Box 1421, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. Visit ccgfuneralhome.com for online guestbook and information.