You know loss has hit Fair Haven when you pass the Fair Haven firehouse and see a sign of mourning.
All last week that sign was one for the borough’s own Mary Ellen Connor, a 50-year resident, lifetime fire company member and second mom to countless kids who knew her as their lunch lady and friend to all.
Mary Ellen Connor spent most of her life raising her eight children in Fair Haven, volunteering at the fire company, always at the fair and in several other venues, working at Knollwood School and being there for many people who grew to love her as an embracing mom whose door and heart were always open.
Mary Ellen died, at 78, last week on Sept. 25 in her home in South Carolina where she had taken her love of children to her job as an aide to those with special needs there for the 27 years following her half-century in Fair Haven.
She was laid to rest over the weekend. But, here in Fair Haven she was not easily forgotten.
When news hit of her death, comments flooded her Facebook page as well as Fair Haven’s.
Her daughter, Evie Connor Kelly, wrote, in an email to Patch the day of her mother’s funeral, “I hope Fair Haven kids (now adults) will remember her from her lunchroom lady days (15 years). Our entire childhood, we have fond memories of our parents working the firemen's fair. We all started as 'fair workers' from about 5 years old or so. When I think of growing up in Fair Haven, I often think of women like my mother and mother-in-law, who mothered big families there, namely the Connor, Kelly, Murphy, Conley, Chandler and Riley families, to name few. We all grew up together. Our siblings were in each other's classes … It was special.”
And it was to many who were brought up in Fair Haven and knew Mary Ellen Connor.
“I just want to say how sorry I am to all you Connor children on the loss of your mom,” said Ethel Hodgkiss Truex on Facebook. “Not only did she raise a bunch of great kids of her own, but she touched the lives of so many of us when we where kids, being our lunch lady and supervising us during the fair work days!! She truly was a great lady who will be missed. My thoughts are with you all.”
“Thank you for putting a little extra in Barbara's lunch bag for me during high school,” said Kim Halligan Garrison on Mary Ellen’s Facebook page. “It meant more than you'll ever know. RIP Mrs Connor.”
Family wrote about her endearing smile, sense of humor and “great laugh (that) rang through out our homes, weddings, softball games, firehouse functions and holiday gatherings.”
Mary Ellen’s last entry on Facebook was on Easter. It read, “Happy Easter everyone ! I hope you all have a blessed day!”
Mary Ellen Pryor Connor was predeceased by her husband, John Joseph Connor, and two sisters, Margie Pryor and Evelyn Lantott. She was born on Dec. 4, 1933, in Red Bank, the daughter of the late Luke and Mary Beckett Pryor. She was a special needs teacher's aide at Guinyard-Butler Middle School in Barnwell, SC, District 45. She was a life member of the Fair Haven Fire Department’s Ladies Auxiliary.
Surviving her are: her son, Joseph L. Connor, of Neptune; daughters, Mary Beth (Wendy) Gibson, of Barnwell, SC, Mickey (Jon) Martin, of Statesboro GA, Joan Wood, of Virginia Beach VA, Barbara Halligan, of Quaker Town, PA, Evelyn (Evie) Kelly, of Long Branch, Susan McDaniel, of Long Branch, and Sister Judith Connor, of Pittsburgh, PA; 20 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Take a look at the slideshow above in memory of Mary Ellen Connor. Thanks to the Connor family and Facebook contributors for the photos. Please feel free to leave your thoughts about Mary Ellen in the comments section below.