Marjorie Hanawalt, the beloved matriarch of her large extended family, died July 7th in Crozet, Virginia, surrounded by some family members who were blessed by the last moments of her love. The rest of her large and far-flung family joined their siblings, parents, grandparents, her two surviving brothers, and her many nieces and nephews in spirit. During her final five years, she had become the doyenne of the Lodge at Old Trail, bringing her competitive vitality to the card tables, showering affection and attention on the staff, and delighting in living independently near two daughters. The excellent care she received from the staff at the Lodge, who became friends, is honored by her family. A devout Catholic who enjoyed streaming daily Mass on her iPad in later years, she helped establish Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Crozet, served as a lector, and arranged for Catholic services to be brought regularly to the Lodge.
Marjorie Louise Whelan was born in Owensboro, Kentucky, on April 6, 1928, to James Pius Whelan and Frances O’Bryan, both descendants of Kentucky pioneers out of southern Maryland whose own ancestors had been among the first settlers of that Catholic colony. In the mid 1930s the family moved to Forest Hills, Queens, in New York City, when her father’s company, National Distillers, moved their HQ to Manhattan.
Marjorie attended Bishop McLaughlin HS and graduated with a nursing degree from Mt. St. Vincent College in 1951, and went to work as a school nurse. Later that year she married Harry Joseph Flinn, Jr., an engineer with Sperry
Gyroscope. By the end of 1964 they had six children, all of whom survive her: Francis Xavier “F. X.” (Linda Labriola);
Elizabeth Marion “Betty” (Emil) Groth of Crozet; Joseph Andrew (Amy); Carol Jean (Bernard) Dunne; Anne Marie of Charlottesville; and her namesake, and only blue-eyed child, Marjorie Louise “Midge.” The family lived in the Knickerbocker Knolls neighborhood in Huntington’s Melville area and were members of St. Elizabeth’s parish, where she served as a confraternity teacher.
However, this was hardly even the beginning of her great life’s work and adventure. Tragically, Harry developed a fatal case of kidney failure due to scarlet fever at an early age. A successful electrical engineer working on top-secret guidance systems, he and Marjorie sought out the pioneers of kidney dialysis for admission to a then-experimental program at Long Island Jewish Hospital. Initially refused, Marjorie visited the home of the lead physician and implored him to admit the father of her six children. As an RN, her persuasiveness prevailed, and Harry became the first home-dialysis patient on Long Island.
Sadly he passed away after a year plus on dialysis, in the winter of 1968. Marjorie’s siblings and parents, along with friends, helped the family through the difficult years that followed. In 1969, she took the job of nurse for Camp Highmount, in Roscoe, NY, and did this during the next 4 summers, with her children attending as campers or working as counselors.
In 1973, she married John Andrew Hanawalt, a widower with five children: Pam (Ed O’Brien), Diane (Charlie Jacobs), Heidi (Robert Winkler), Moira (Dan Soulia) and Bob (Kirsten Rasmussen). Her brother, the late Charles Marion Whelan, S.J., officiated. The new family, minus one from each side at college, moved into a home in the Elwood section of Huntington. John was an accomplished educator, teaching in the Syosset public schools, and became a leader in outdoor education on Long Island. Already the owner of a summer camp on a lake in Maine, the “HanaFlinn” family decamped for Howard Pond in Hanover, ME for the first time in June of 1973. Marjorie would return to the camp, BearGrabMeLederhosen, with John, and later on her own, nearly every summer for the rest of her life. When that was no longer possible, taking regular rides along the Blue Ridge Parkway with Betty and Emil was a perfectly enjoyable alternative to connect with the mountains and forests.
The nine children would graduate from high school at the rate of one per year starting in 1974. In the fall of 1975, the family moved to Kersey, CO for a year while John was on a sabbatical and attending the University of Northern Colorado, where he earned his professional degree in outdoor education. By the late 1980s, Marjorie was back to full time work as a school nurse in the Syosset schools, and she and John would commute together to work and repair to Maine for the summer. In the 1990s, both retired and then constructed a proper log cabin at the camp with all the amenities. In the 2000s, they sold the Long Island home and purchased a condo at Aquarina, south of Melbourne Beach. At 75, Marjorie took up golf, which she played for the next 10 years. She and John traveled extensively during retirement, visiting Europe several times.
Marjorie became adept with her computer and later mastered the iPhone and enjoyed texting with her friends, family and, most especially her grandchildren, Garrett, Danny, Erin, Sean, Brian, Laura, Chris, Megan, Danielle, Brendan, Wren, Lily, Samantha, Jessie, Gladden, Nick and Jess, especially when they had photos of her 7 great-grandchildren in action.
She was equally delighted to follow the children and grandchildren of her siblings and was a touchstone for the families of her two late sisters, Fran and Beverly, and brothers, Jim and Tom. She was the kind of loving and caring person her children’s friends, and later, their spouses, would treasure. The Flinn house on Eastfield Lane in the early 60s became a gathering point because of her. The camp on Howard Pond exerted a similar magnetism in the early 80s. The power of her mothering bonded the Flinn and Hanawalt children in a manner her lifelong friend, and second cousin, Florence Henderson, had tried to bring to life as Mrs. Brady. Her ability to connect people through her love, care, and attention stitched countless people together and created uncounted friendships.
Memorial Contributions can be made to the Our Lady of the Rosary Building Fund, PO Box 74, Crozet, VA 22932.