New Hampshire’s Mothers Day: Focus on Mary Manning Webster (1919-2007)

I have written only stories that included small tidbits about my Mom, and so a more lengthy one is greatly overdue. Mary Manning was born in Manchester, New Hampshire

1938 photograph of Mary Manning for high school graduation

1938 photograph of Mary Manning for high school graduation

into a mostly-Irish family.  She adopted the middle name of Theresa later on, at her confirmation ceremony, selecting the name of her oldest sister who had recently died.  She always had several Catholic statues on her bureau, one always that of Saint Teresa Teresa of Ávila.

She grew up in South East Manchester, at a time when the former mostly Irish neighborhood was quickly becoming populated with those of Canadian origins. Her mother spoke French, and her grandmother had been born in Stanstead PQ. When Mary was young,  Shasta Street, where they lived, ran from Hall Street all the way down to Elm Street, and was sparsely populated. A great “sand bank” was across the street where she and her siblings often played.

As a child my mother contracted polio, but said she felt herself fortunate, as other children in the neighborhood died where she survived.  She was operated on to correct a polio-related muscle atrophy, called “drop foot,” and it left her with a noticeable limp that made her feel self-conscious.  Due to this, she was like a mother lion when it came to having her children vaccinated for diseases, but polio especially.

Other than her bout with polio, she seemed to have had a happy childhood, being next to

Rare photo-- Sam and Saul (or Saul and Sam) Weisman/Waisman circa 1945 (so you have to be a little old to remember this). They ran two businesses, the Howe Street Garage at 450 Howe Street near where A-1 Auto is to repair cars. They also owned Cy's Auto Parts & Used Cars at 268 Elm in Manchester NH. I am pretty sure this photo was taken at the dealership on Elm Street. Pictured here in the middle, between the Weisman brothers, is my mom, then Mary Manning. She was their accountant for a few years.

Rare photo– Sam and Saul (or Saul and Sam) Weisman/Waisman circa 1945 They ran two businesses, the Howe Street Garage at 450 Howe Street near where A-1 Auto is to repair cars. They also owned Cy’s Auto Parts & Used Cars at 268 Elm in Manchester NH. I am pretty sure this photo was taken at the dealership on Elm Street. Pictured here in the middle, between the Weisman brothers, is my mom, then Mary Manning.

the youngest in the large family of 10 children.  It was not unusual for older children who were needy to return home to live, and as a result, she always valued whatever privacy she could manage, and made sure that each of her children had a “private place” whether it be a drawer, or shelf that was theirs alone.

My mother attended St. Antoine Grammar school  for a few years before Our Lady of Perpetual Help (O.L.P.H.) was built, and then was in the first graduating from O.L.P.H.  She spoke about how difficult it was for her at St. Anthony’s because she was not allowed to speak any English in classes, and she knew almost no French at first. She went on to graduate from St. Joseph High School for Girls, and then received an A.S. degree from the NH Accounting School (now Southern NH University). After graduation he worked as a bookkeeper for many years at the Weisman Brothers Auto dealership [see photograph].

My mom had many hobbies.  She was self taught to play the accordion, and a bit of piano.  I have fond memories of her playing polka music and singing to us.  She enjoyed all types of music,  and music filled our home, at first from phonograph records, and later radios. She was a voracious reader from the time she first picked up a book, until her death at age 87.

Mary Manning playing the accordion.

Mary Manning playing the accordion.

The Manchester City Library staff were very good to her in her later years, allowing her to order books by telephone, and delivering them to her.

During her teens and 20s she loved horseback-riding, and often rented them at Havey Stables, and other nearby locations.  She loved: to laugh, to walk along the ocean and the smell of the salty air, her family, art and painting, buying something on sale, scallops, keeping in touch with friends.

My mother was fascinated with photography, and took enough pictures to fill many albums.  It was a love that she shared with my father, and perhaps was one of the interests  that first brought them together.  She was also a dedicated volunteer, and admired anyone who would offer their time for non-profit groups.  After many years of raising her own family, she went back to work as a volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America, the Elliott Hospital and The Caregivers.

Mary and Berwin Webster with children.

Berwin and Mary (Manning) Webster with children.

My mother was keenly aware of, and was kind to, people with disabilities.  Due to I’m sure her own life-long issues from polio, and the birth of a child with Down’s Syndrome, she was the first to champion anyone who was challenged physically or mentally.

She catered to her children, insuring that they not only had the necessities of life, but that they attended Catholic grammar schools, took music lessons, had plenty of reading materials.  She scrimped, saved and stretched my dad’s paycheck to insure that her family was happy.

She adored my father his entire life, and mourned him terribly when he passed away.  She

Horse back riding at Havey's Stables with friend (later Father)  John Connolly.

Horse back riding at Havey’s Stables & Riding School in Bedford NH with friend (later Rev.) John Connolly.

was at his bedside when he died of cancer.  It was a shock because she always thought she would go first. She would not even have his tombstone engraved, because it would have “felt so final.”  She left that for me to do for her.

She loved a bargain and would travel clear across the city to get 10 cents off on anything.  All of those dimes added up, but were quickly gone the next time one or two or more of her children outgrew something necessary. She never complained about having to go without so that her children could have.

My mom doing her absolutely favorite thing: walking in the sand at the ocean.

My mom doing her absolutely favorite thing: walking in the sand at the ocean.

She had the gift of gab, the ability to make people feel especially loved, and a somewhat naive curiosity about the world.  Don’t be mistaken–she had human faults, and no halo grew about her head. But whatever she lacked was overshadowed, like Mount Everest over the land about it, by the good things about her.  It is easy  to not remember that she had any imperfections.

She was a good sport about my genealogy interests.  I started researching when I was in my twenties and so for at least 35 years she was the object of endless questions and interrogations (oh wait, I mean interviews). Near the end of her life she finally said what she had been thinking for a long time.  “Jan, I really enjoy MY version of the family history, so you don’t need to share any more.”

Remembering you today Mom. Thank you for your gifts that I carry with me every day.  Rest in Peace.

 

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3 Responses to New Hampshire’s Mothers Day: Focus on Mary Manning Webster (1919-2007)

  1. virginia Penrod says:

    Rhank you, Jan. I love this! Our Mary. My Most Special Aunt/Mom!

  2. Ginny Young-White says:

    Wonderful article and tribute to your mom…really enjoyed that part of still (after 40+ years of knowing you) getting to know my high school cohort…lol. We’ve just got to get together again, soon.

  3. Pingback: A Tribute to My Mother on Mothers Day 2015 | Cow Hampshire

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