Mary Agnes Mannix (nee O’Brien), 98, passed away peacefully at her home in Manhasset with family at her side, of complications of colon cancer, a beloved matriarchal figure to both the Mannix and O’Brien clans. Adored wife of the late William P. Mannix, cherished mother of Robert, Judith (John Koot), Brian (Susan Dudley), Paul (Rachelle Raphael) and Eileen; GrandMary to Jennifer, Katherine, Gregory and Christopher; GreatGrandmother to Owen and Noah; devoted Godmother to Denis, Mary, Virginia, Kevin, Ginny and Steven; loving big sister to Francis and the late Jack and Gene O’Brien; doting aunt, great aunt, cousin and devoted friend to so many.
Mary was born in Manhattan to John T. and Anna Dooley O’Brien, but grew up in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, moving to Flatbush to raise her own children, and then to Manhasset when the fifth and youngest went off to college in 1975. She attributed her longevity to love, laughter, and the limber legs of the professional dancer she was in her youth: before the Rockettes, the famous New York-based chorus line was known as the Roxyettes, for the Roxy theater where they performed when not touring from the Baltimore Hippodrome to the Toronto Expo; going on the road at 16, accompanied by a chaperone, Mom would remain in show business until connecting with her future husband through USO performances when he was serving in the Army during WWII. They took advantage of his weekend pass to marry on 11/19/44 at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Brooklyn Heights, after which she could claim: “I left the stage to marry your father!”; just one of the numerous sacrifices she would make for her family.
Staying home to raise her children as well as care for her own aging parents who lived upstairs in the two-family house, Mary returned to the workforce as Guidance Secretary at Xaverian High School, also chauffeuring the two of her sons who went there. She still found time to be a very active member of St. Vincent Ferrer Church, keeping up her dance skills by serving as choreographer and teacher for many a parish variety show and children’s play. Summers meant packing everyone up to head north – to Quebec, to Potsdam, to Canton – followed by years of daily trips to the cabana at Breezy Point. It was very important to her, though, to complete her own education, and she did so in 1983 (at age 60!) with an earned baccalaureate from SUNY Empire State College; studying Genetics during the same semester as her youngest child, they did their homework together that Thanksgiving. Following her teacher husband to the NYC Board of Education, Mary capped her career with a position as Principal’s Secretary, retiring from Francis Lewis High School at the age of 74.
Her almost quarter-century of retired life, diminished only recently by the constraints of the pandemic, was spent on travels to and with family (Paris, Italy, Egypt, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia, China, Ireland…), activities through St. Mary’s Parish (Rosary Society, F.O.C.U.S.), musical and theatrical outings, and many, many enjoyable hands of bridge with her dear friends, the great ladies of Manhasset and environs. A woman of great faith, with a special devotion to the Blessed Mother, the Catholic Faith Network had become her virtual parish home as her mobility diminished.
Always an avid reader, Mary conveyed her love of language to her children, as well as her love of travel ‘to faraway places with strange-sounding names’. Though a great fan of the work of Robert Frost, whose poems she recited by memory nightly with her daughter during the pandemic, it is a poem by C.P. Cavafy - “The Road to Ithaca” - that was the most meaningful and evocative source of inspiration and imagination throughout her long life. The poet exhorts the reader to “pray that the road is long, full of adventure, full of knowledge”, and “that the sunny mornings are many”, with visits to “Egyptian cities, to learn and learn from scholars”, and then, “wise as you will have become…so full of
experiences”, “to anchor at the island when you are old, rich with all that you have gained along the way.” Mary appreciated her long road, full of adventure, her sunny mornings, which she made sunnier for all who knew her, and was indeed rich in wisdom and experience. Her road, by all measures, was long, but never long enough for those who loved her and will miss her dearly.
Prepared with love and appreciation by a grateful daughter on behalf of Mary’s family,
The family suggests that memorial contributions, if desired, can be made to The Catholic Faith Network (www.catholicfaithnetwork.org) or to St. Francis Hospital Foundation (Office of Development, 100 Port Washington Blvd., Roslyn, NY 11576
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