Margaret Dolores McEnery Eulogy and Poems

Margaret Dolores McEnery (Sellers)
Rosary: 7:30 Tuesday
Funeral: 9:30 Wednesday, November 13, 1991, FR Wade

Pallbearers: FJC, Crema, Sanfillippo, Vic Corsiglia, Pat Kelly, Bud Trinchero, Bud Herning, Larry Sutton

Guard of Honor: McTeague, Tiejens, Toney, Davis

Donations to St. Anthony’s Mission, Jolon, Box 803

We would like to thank all of grandma’s friends for spending the morning with us here in St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

In a letter to all of us, Grama said, “I can’t put in words how much I love each and everyone of you and how happy you have made my life.” It is not left to those of us who remain to find words to express our feelings and our love. Margaret Dolores McEnery – she loved that name so much, but it was not the one she was born with. As a baby she received the love and the name Sellers from relatives named Ben and Katie, who gave her the affection she desperately needed. They lived on old Orchard St., now Almaden Blvd. right where the Holiday Inn now stands. Down the street lived the painter A.D.M. Cooper. As a little girl she used to skip thru Plaza Park, under the old City Hall to visit her father at his San Jose Creamery on 1st St. Her great uncle was a Supervisor, two uncles were police officers, and her grandfather was the superintendent of roads in the county – her world in the downtown was populated by friendly faces and loving comments. Full employment for Irish – there seems to have been a great affirmative action program for the Irish in early San Jose. She was an only child, doted on by scores of relatives from San Jose to Solvang.

Later, with rapid commercial development, the family would move to the suburbs, 7th and Reed! She attended St. Joseph’s and Lowell School, and later the Covent of Notre Dame on the old site, Santa Clara St. There, she formed life-long friendships with classmates like Dorothy Comte and Eileen O’Rourke, and Juanita O’Brian-they were all day students, made to wear different uniforms and attend different classes from the boarders.

In high school began a great love story with a gangly young man with a quick jibe and a cocky attitude: John McEnery. They met at the cemetery where he was digging graves and she was putting flowers on her grand parents gravesite. We’re sure stopping that work to talk for a while was a great imposition. John P. had a wise comment; Margaret, probably just an understated look. They were in love from that first moment; she spoke of being together within just the other day.

Friends say she was the most beautiful woman in San Jose. That’s not hard to imagine. The look was visible to the last. To find her complaining or feeling sorry for herself was not an occurrence any of us remember. When you lose a child as a baby and lose your oldest as a newlywed to a riding accident, you really have absorbed most of life’s hard blows. She was resilient and courageous-friends still comment on her standing bolt upright at the head of her daughter Bengie’s coffin-and strengthened the whole family. She was, indeed, the rock. In crisis, she drew the bonds of love ever tighter with herself at the center. Bengie, Margaret Mary, John, Tom-all of us she loved equally. Each of us was ‘special’. Margaret McEnery loved San Jose and lived almost the entire period of her 83 years within a few blocks of where we gather today. But she also treasured the beaches at her summer home in Seabright in Santa Cruz, where she had spent every summer of her life-it was in her window looking out on the beach that she spent her last moments.

Hats were her trademark. She had a strong love for both Ireland and Italy, appropriate for the blood in our family and this Valley. St. Anthony, as our parents recall, was her special patron, her special friend.

Grandma knew a lot about the world and about life, and unlike many, shared her knowledge and advice sparingly. She was not judgmental, she laid no conditions-the best type of friend; the best type of mother. As the daughter, wife and mother of politicians, she was no stranger to the real world. She knew those two imposters “victory and defeat,” and treated them accordingly. She had a gallows humor and frequently a mischievous twinkle in her eye. Last August when Susan Hammer was talking with Tom on the deck in SC, my Grandma walked out and said, “Hi, I thought I heard the red carpet being rolled out!”

Her life spanned from the turn of the 20th century to the dawn of the 21st-from the Progressive Era of her father, through the time of San Jose’s bustling adolescence and growth to the emergence of our city as something special at the dawn of the 21st Century. (From “Honest Ben” to “Big John” to Mayor Tom”.) Quite a journey! Quite a woman! (She was the linchpin.) Now all of those men named weren’t exactly “front men,” mind you, but then again…

She knew how to roll with life’s punches and often cautioned about prettiness and jealousy-“that is for fools!” she once wrote.

She understood change and the transience of life well. She was not a sentimentalist-her families old ranch is now the SJ International Airport, her old home lies under the Holiday Inn, the Dad’s Creamery beneath the Fairmont, and her favorite Aunt Bridget’s house on Autumn St is now the foundation of the new Arena-she wasn’t fazed by this change, she handled it as well as any one possibly could. People were what mattered to Grandma.

She was not a poet, although last week for some strange reason we were all reading Grandpa John’s notebook of poetry from Kipling to Robert Service, she recited more lines than any.

John III: She made us all feel very special. If you asked any of us who here favorite was the answer would be the same from all of us: I was and I believe we all were her favorite.

Theresa: Even if you only meet her once she could make you feel beautiful and special and good about yourself.

John III: A woman ahead of her time: a teacher, a progressive, a feminist. A woman ahead of her time. But she gave it all up for Dad and her family. She fought all his fights and ours too.


1When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
and nodding by the fire, take down this book,
and slowly read, and dream of the soft look,
your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep.

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
and loved your beauty with love false or true;
but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrow of your changing face.

And bending down beside the glowing bars
murmur, a little sadly, how love fled
and paced upon the mountains over head
and hide his face amid a crowd of stars.


The Planter’s Daughter

When night stirred at sea
and the fire brought a crowd in,
They say that her beauty
was music in mouth.
And few in the candlelight
thought her too proud,
For the house of the planter
is known by the trees.

Men that had seen her
drank deep and were silent,
The women were speaking
wherever she went.
As a bell that is rung
or a wonder told shyly,
And o’ she was the Sunday
in every week. — Austin Clarke



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