Boston, Columns, Family, International, Newspapers, Remembrances, Youth
Sep 07, 1997

A regal funeral closer to home

Mike Barnicle, Globe Staff

7 September 1997

The Boston Globe

Long before yesterday’s funeral began, a huge crowd assembled inside the magnificent church where everyone gathered in a crush of sadness over the death of a sparkling young mother who touched many lives before she was killed in a horrific car crash a week ago, across the ocean, far from home. Mourners came in such numbers that they spilled out the doors of St. Theresa’s Church, onto the sidewalk, and across Centre Street in West Roxbury as police on motorcycles and horseback led two flower-cars and three hearses to the front of a beautiful church filled now with tears and memory.

Yesterday, the wonderful world of Mary Beatty Devane was on display to bury her along with two of her daughters — Elaine, 9, and Christine, 8 — who also lost their lives on a wet road east of Galway City as they headed to Shannon Airport at the conclusion of their vacation. Her husband, Martin, their daughter Brenda, 5, and their son Michael, 2, survived the accident and, after the hearses halted at the curb, Martin Devane emerged from a car, his entire being bent, injured, and slowed by the enormous burden of his tragic loss.

The Devanes represent one of the many anonymous daily miracles of this city’s life. They lived around the corner from where Mary grew up in a house headed by her father, Joe Beatty, the president of Local 223, Laborers Union, who arrived in Boston decades back from the same Irish village, Rusheenamanagh, where Mary’s husband, Martin, was born.

He is a construction worker. She was a nurse. They were married 11 years and their life together cast a contagious glow across their church and their community.

Now, on a splendid summer Saturday, when the world paused for a princess, up the street they came to cry for Mary Theresa Beatty and her children. There were nuns and priests, cops and carpenters, plumbers, teachers, firefighters, and nurses side-by-side with farmers who flew in from rocky fields an ocean away. A global village of friends inside a single city church.

Bagpipes played while 16 pallbearers gently removed three caskets from the steel womb of the hearses. The weeping crowd formed a long corridor of hushed grief as the caskets were carried up the steps and down the aisle toward 17 priests who waited to apply the balm of prayer to the wounded mourners.

Mary Devane worked weekend nights in the emergency room at Faulkner Hospital. When she was not there, she was either caring for her own family or tending to the dying as a hospice nurse.

During her 31 years on earth, she was many things: wife, mother, daughter, sister, nurse, neighbor, healer, helper, compassionate companion to the suffering, angel of mercy for the ill, smiling friend to an entire community that stood yesterday in collective silence in a church cluttered with broken hearts.

As the pallbearers transported their precious cargo, 22 boys and girls from St. Theresa’s Children’s Choir rose alongside the parish choir to sing “Lord of All Hopefulness.” No cameras or celebrities were present — simply the pastor, the Rev. William Helmick, along with all the others there to celebrate a life lived well and taken too soon.

The 70-year-old church swayed with psalm, hymn, and gospel; with the “Ave Maria”; with voices of youngsters struggling to sing for their classmates Christine and Elaine, who had been scheduled to start third and fourth grade at St. Theresa’s grammar school, 50 yards away.

Larry Reynolds stood in the choir loft, high above the congregation. With strong, rough carpenter’s hands, he gently held a fiddle and began to play “The Culan,” a 400-year-old Gaelic song. As communion commenced below, each of his notes echoed a tear throughout the immense stone building.

Reynolds himself is from the County Galway village of Ahascragh. He has known both families, the Beattys and the Devanes, for 30 years, and after he finished, Mary Twohig, a nursing school classmate of Mary Devane, walked slowly to the podium to recite “A Nurse‘s Prayer” and share an elegant eulogy with all those devastated by these three deaths.

Then, the Mass ended. Incense caressed the air as the pallbearers retreated through the church and out to those hearses idling at the curb before the big crowd drove off in thick traffic for the sad trip to St. Joseph’s Cemetery, where Mary Beatty Devane and her two precious little girls were set to final rest, three members of a truly royal family.