Mary Olive Conlon, 79, of Brielle passed at home on April 18, 2010. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at St. Catharine Roman Catholic Church in Spring Lake.
Buttons: She was treasurer of the New Jersey State Button Society (NJSBS) from 2004 – 2007, a member of the Jersey Shore Button Club, Central Jersey Buttoniers and National Button Society.
Specializing in cats, owls and studio buttons, Mary presented the “History of New Jersey Studio-Button Makers” at the May 2007 NJSBS Spring Show. Her PowerPoint talk illustrated the works of 23 New Jersey studio artists, from the 1940s through modern-day, and the wide variety of materials they used: carved pearl; wood Marquetry; glass lamp work, including paperweights; ceramic; leather; polyester and etched Pinna shells. The program was re-printed in the Fall 2007 edition of the NJSBS Bulletin (Vol. 66, No. 1).
Canadian Background: The first born in her family, Mary was given the first names of her grandmothers: “Mary,” for Mary Doran Conlon, and “Olive,” for Olive Gravell Bedard.
She was born in Port Lambton, which lies on the Canadian side of the St. Clair River in Ontario Province, opposite the State of Michigan in the USA, and was raised in nearby Sombra, which means “shade” in Spanish. A neighboring town, Corunna, honored the Battle of Corunna, fought in Spain in 1809, when the British defeated the French during the Napoleonic Wars.
The St. Clair River, itself, is part of the Great Lakes watershed: the 39-mile-long river drains from Lake Huron (second largest of the Great Lakes) into St. Clair Lake, which, in turn, empties into the 32-mile-long Detroit River, which flows into Lake Erie (fourth largest of the Great Lakes).
Education and Work Background: Mary received her BA and Master’s degrees from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and upon graduation, received the Marty Memorial Scholarship from the Queen’s University Alumni Association. This scholarship enabled her to enroll at Columbia University in New York City, where over a period of years, she completed coursework in economics for a PhD, and taught undergraduate courses in economics. Mary was hired by Mobil Oil Corporation, headquartered in New York City, as its first female economist. She stayed in New York for 32 years, living in mid-town Manhattan.
Volunteer Work: While living in Manhattan, Mary was among the first lay delegates to the Diocesan Synod of the Archdiocese of New York.
Upon retirement, she moved to the Jersey Shore, and joined VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), an organization originally founded by President John F. Kennedy. VISA directed her to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, then located in an old ice warehouse in Spring Lake.
Mary volunteered 20 hours a week for over 20 years to the FoodBank. Interestingly, the organization bore her own initials: the FoodBank of MOC. “Mary took the FoodBank newsletter to a new level and thoroughly enjoyed taking photos at FoodBank events. She became The FoodBank Webmaster and was always ready to take on new FoodBank assignments,” says Ellen F. Koment, media coordinator at the FoodBank, adding:
“When asked why she chose to give her many gifts in this way, Mary replied, ‘My ancestors suffered from the famine in Ireland and I want to do something to feed the hungry.’”
For her work and dedication to the FoodBank, she was presented the “Real Hero Award” in 2001 by Jon Bon Jovi. “Mary was not only a valued volunteer, but a loyal and amazing friend. She will be missed tremendously and was a real hero to so many whose lives she touched,” says Ms. Koment.
Mary was also a member of the Atlantic Club in Wall Township, a health club where she took swimming and fitness classes.
She is survived by two brothers: the Revered James Conlon, a priest in Oakland, California, and Robert, who with his wife Tate lives in Derry, New Hampshire; two nieces, two nephews and three great nieces.
Memorial contributions can be made in Mary’s name to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, 3300 Route 66, Neptune, NJ 07753. (Reference: Asbury Park Press, April 21, 2010),