Mary Bongiovanni McGrew

  • Born: March 30, 1923
  • Died: June 29, 2019
  • Location: Media, Pennsylvania

Cavanagh Family Funeral Home

301 Chester Pike
Norwood, PA 19074

Tel. (610) 532-3120

Tribute & Message From The Family


Mary McGrew (nee Bongiovanni), 96, died Saturday, June 29, 2019, at Riddle Village, Media, PA.

She was the daughter of immigrants Donato (Daniel), a stone mason from San Donato, Italy (near Alba), and Marieta (Maria/Mary) Sacco Bongiovanni, a farm girl from Alba, Italy. Donato and Marieta came to America in the first decade of the 20th century in one of the last great Italian immigrations to the USA.
Mary was born on March 30, 1923, in Nicetown, a diverse, working class section of North Philadelphia, where she grew up with her two brothers and two sisters and befriended neighborhood Polish, Ukrainian, Jewish, African -American, and Italian children.

Mary graduated from Simon Gratz High School in 1941 and then went to Comptometry School at night to get a business degree. Comptometry was an early mechanical calculator used in accounting and bookkeeping work. No doubt her piano-playing skills assisted her as she could hit 5- to 10-key "note" combinations to enter numbers.

Mary worked professionally from 1941 until 1955 for ITT, now AT&T. In 1953, an adventurous Mary traveled to Europe on a whirlwind trip that lasted 73 days! At that time, not many women ventured to Europe on their own, and she was fortunate to share the trip with her cousin Louise Gardella. In order to realize her dream, she worked nights and weekends to pay back her sister Esther, who had funded the trip.

Mary developed retinitis pigmentosa in the 1950s and was declared legally blind in 1970. Discerning folks need to know that she was never blind---she was just unable to see. She had an agile mind and memory and used these gifts to offset her condition. She amazed relatives and friends with her uncanny ability to remember their children's birthdays and send them cards with "treats" enclosed as acknowledgment each year. Her secret—she cared about those she loved and reveled in hearing of their families' adventures.

Mary married Daniel McGrew in 1955, and they purchased a home in Sharon Hill, PA, in 1956, where she lived until 2015, when she moved to Riddle Village. She often said in high school that she wanted 4 sons. She got her wish! She is survived by her sons Brian, Joseph (Dorothy), and Lawrence (Ellen); grandsons Jordan and Josh (and their mom Pam); granddaughters Frances, Theresa, and Lucy; and brother Daniel (Sandy). She was pre-deceased by husband Daniel (1996), oldest son Daniel (1998), as well as her sisters Rose and Esther and brother James.

Mary's life was a legacy of friendships. She developed and maintained life-long relationships with 8 women who worked with her at AT&T, including Cass McNichol, a friend who still resides in Springfield, PA. In Sharon Hill, she formed long-lasting bonds with her neighbors through their common experience of raising families on High Street and Woodland Avenue. Her cousins, nieces, nephews, and family friends faithfully visited Mary and kept in touch with her as she transitioned to Riddle Village. She was loved her entire life. Is there any greater homage?!

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at Church of St. Kevin, 200 West Sproul Road, Springfield, PA 19064, on Saturday, July 6. Visitation begins at 9:30AM; Mass is at 10:30AM. There will be a private interment at SS Peter and Paul Cemetery, Springfield, PA.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Mary McGrew's memory to Foundation Fighting Blindness (www.fightingblindness.org) or Habitat for Humanity (www.habitat.org).