Mary Mulholland’s life was celebrated Tuesday with laughter and tears, bagpipes and pennywhistles…and a challenge.
“She is a legend now, and has established a legacy that you all need to carry on,” her son, Brig. Gen. Sean P. Mulholland, told mourners at Assumption Church in Morristown.
“I challenge you all to dig deep and do more, continue the fight, as Mary would have wished it to be. The world needs people to be kind, helping and loving as a counterbalance to the people that wish harm and do bad to all,” he said.
Mary, founder of the Dope Open charity golf tournament, died last week at 85. During Tuesday’s funeral service she was remembered as a tough but loving mother and a prodigious fund-raiser and volunteer who helped causes from AIDS and battered women to drug rehab and homelessness. By her family’s estimate, she raised $50 million over the years.
Gen. Mulholland, one of Mary’s six children, has served in Afghanistan and fought drug lords in Colombia. After reviewing his mother’s obituary, he said, he felt “woefully inadequate.
“I gotta get busy. She’s way out ahead of me,” he said, leading the church in one last standing ovation for his mother–while admitting “the crazy redhead” probably would have tossed some choice words at him for doing so.
Mary could be colorfully off-color, said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who brought roars of laughter recalling conversations larded with “many ‘bastards’ and ‘cockroaches!'”
Noting that six Mulhollands serve in the military, including Special Forces duty, the Congressman praised Mary’s patriotism and cited her as a key ally in efforts to save Picatinny Arsenal from closure. She brought the same spunk to her personal fight with cancer, Rodney said.
“She was amazing, a one-woman army, marshaling her family, her troops, for the next battle. Never a spectator, never a mere observer. If you’ll pardon the expression, a true Fighting Mulholland,” he said.
Monsignor Martin Rauscher recounted Mary’s efforts to create Hope House, a social services center in Dover. She also banged the drum for the merger of St. Clares and Dover General hospitals, and helped the priest deal with his own mother’s Alzheimer’s disease.
“She was the Mother Teresa of Morris County,” the “ultimate volunteer,” said Father Martin. Mary convinced politicians “to use our tax dollars to help solve social problems in the community.”
One homily could not do her justice, the Monsignor said.
“It would take a mega-movie and two sequels…. I was going to say, ‘Rest in Peace.’ But that’s not Mary.”
One of Mary’s daughters, Moira Durivage, sang at the service. Afterwards, the siblings reflected on wild dinner table scenes from their youth, and on the contrast between their supportive but in-your-face mom and their laid-back dad, the late anesthesiologist Robert Mulholland.
“It was total chaos, a free-for-all,” said Gen. Mulholland.
A tight-knit clan emerged from the fray.
Pat Poland said her mom made sure the family gathered to welcome their dad whenever he got home from his tough medical schedule.
“She was a horrible cook, but it just mattered that we were together,” said Pat, a school administrator in Far Hills.
“We all thought it was important that we stick together. Family first. When my brother was in Afghanistan, we mobilized people and sent them what they needed for Christmas. It all arrived on time.”
Whenever Gen. Mulholland was posted someplace dangerous, his mother enlisted her friends’ spiritual support.
“She’d fire up the prayer network and burn candles,” he said. “I think it worked.”
“We don’t do anything moderately,” Pat said.
Case in point: On the day the Mulhollands eulogized their matriarch, they welcomed a new member to the family.
Sage Hetman, all 8 pounds and 2 ounces of her, arrived at Morristown Medical Center at 5:42 pm Tuesday. For Mary Mulholland, who had 17 grandchildren, this would have been great-grandchild number three.