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 ( or Habitat for Humanity (


Condolence & Memory Journal

Today, July 17th we called Riddle and found out about Mary's passing. Riddle also referred us to Mary's obituary on the Internet. We are so glad we were able go visit Mary one more time on June 16th. As it turns out we called Mary a couple days before her actual passing to check on her and Hospice told us Mary was sleeping and resting comfortably. Anyway, to Mary's friends and particularly to her family, we send our deepest sympathy. We know Mary is "in the Light" now and is most definitely at peace. We hope that anyone who knew Mary will remember her for her kindness, courage, humor, friendship and amazing spirit. She was a blessing to all. We will all miss her.

Joan and Gary Williams
(daughter and son-in-law of Janet and Clint Alexander)
Janet was one of Mary's long time high school sorority sisters and best friend.

Posted by Joan Williams - The Villages, FL - friend   July 17, 2019

May cousin Mary finally see the "Light" Rest in peace. Condolences to her family.

Posted by Jeb Boscoe    July 07, 2019

Mrs. McGrew was always a delight to be around! Tim and I enjoyed her many stories of her travels and life with her family!

Posted by Tim & Debbie Hauck - Pensacola, FL - Friend   July 05, 2019

So sorry for your loss Brian, Joe, Larry and family. Your mom was such a special person to our family. She truly was one of a kind! She was so funny, smart, kind and a beautiful person inside and out. Her faith was inspirational. Your mom was an amazing friend to my mom until the day she died. We have so many wonderful memories. A huge loss for your family and everyone who knew your mom. I believe Dan and your Dad came to get her. Heaven is very lucky! ❤ I will pray TO her now and not for her.

Posted by Debbie Ramagano-Boyle - Newtown Square, PA - Friend   July 05, 2019

My deepest condolences Brian, Joe and Larry and to your families on the loss of your amazing Mother. She truly was an inspiration to all who had the privilege to know her.

Posted by Roseanne Hauck - Philadelphia   July 05, 2019

It always amazed me that Aunt Mary knew who I was before I even said hello. She would always say, Janet how are you and how is Mike and Stella (my mom and dad). I once asked her how she knew it was me and she told me it was the perfume that I was wearing. One of my favorite memories of her was the time when she whispered to me to describe the place where we were standing and what the woman was wearing whose voice she heard talking. When the woman finally spoke to her Aunt Mary told her what a lovely dress she had on. What a hoot! She was one-of-a-kind. I will never forget her smile. I will always remember her laugh. What a great lady?

Posted by Janet Strollo-Frangiosa - King of Prussia, PA - family   July 05, 2019

There is no question that this woman WAS loved and rightfully so....kind, considerate, sweet, on and on. So glad she was my "Aunt Bongi." She will be missed.

Posted by Jayne King - North Tonawanda, NY - Family Friend   July 05, 2019

There are just too many to count. Mary has been in my life always. So many wonderful memories being in a little girl on high street playing at the McGrew house. Cold drinks in her colored metal cups. Birthday parties in their cool basement. Christmas Eve visits with Mary and Dan stopping for a glass of cheer with my parents. . My mom just adored her and it was likewise. Always there for the Haucks in good and bad times. When I lived away I always knew Rosie was looked after by Mary McGrew. In the years since my Mom went to heaven she became such a Mom figure to me. Always cheering me on , proud of my accomplishments
and as this tribute read, so happy to hear about our travel and adventures. Mary cared about everyone, like sincerely wanted to know how the family was doing. And knew all the Hauck grands and greats by name and that's quite a feat! . I truly never met a holier woman with such a tremendous faith . It as such an honor to know her and be loved by her . I will miss her so very much . Our thoughts and prayers are with you Brian, Joe , Larry and all of her daughters in law and grandchildren she loved so dearly . As two of my daughters said to me she is up their on that porch with lLittle Grandmom , Esther and Lucy .

Posted by A friend   July 04, 2019

Posted by Marti Walker    July 04, 2019

Wow: what wonderful tributes to my Mom as the oldest son, on earth, my brothers and I want to thank you all for your wonderful words, prayers, and love you know everyone has a Mom: but my brothers and I had a MOMMMMMMMMMMMMM: and my sons and nieces had a MOMMOMMMMMMMMM. Thank you are 2 small words, but sent to you all with great appreciation and love. I am my Mom's son, Brian

Posted by Brian McGrew - Lawrenceville, NJ - Son   July 04, 2019

As a Holy Spirit community member the Shiber's offer our condolences to the McGrew's on your beloved mom's passing. What a wonderful lady! We remember her well and send our prayers and love today.

Posted by Rita Novello - Nottingham, PA   July 03, 2019

So sad to hear of Aunt Bonnie's passing. I'm so glad my daughters, granddaughter and I were able to visit with her several times in her later years. She always managed to keep up with all the latest news of family and friends. May she Rest In Peace in Heaven.

Posted by Grace (Murphy) Mile - Lewes, DE - Family   July 03, 2019

Ii'm so sorry to hear of Mary's passing, but what a life! Loved and admired by all who knew her. To her family, I send sincere condolences for your loss.

Posted by Gloria Lorenzon Shelmerdine - Advance, NC   July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

Posted by Patty Bongiovanni Henry    July 03, 2019

My heart goes out to you Brian,Joe and Larry.Aunt Bongie was a very special person and she will be missed by all who knew her.I will miss all our phone calls and the up spirit she always kept no matter what.Although regarding the phone calls...I am sure she is busy in Heaven talking to my mother and grandmother!!!!

Posted by Kathleen Gillespie-Zaugra - Tucson, AZ - Family Friend   July 03, 2019

Such a special person! I had no idea of her traveling to Europe like that. Great write-up of a wonderful person. You will be missed but I'm sure you are happy to be reunited with Dan and Daniel. Hugs to all the McGrews.

Posted by Mary Geoghegan - Williamsburg, VA - Family   July 03, 2019

Brian, Joseph and Larry. I will never, ever forget your mother's laugh, her genuine love of you boys and our many visits. She brought you boys to visit us in grandparents were so fond of her also (the Purcell's) every summer we were there. What a wonderful spirit. Just knowing her, she was greeted in Heaven by all those who loved her and were "waiting" for her arrival. Love, Mary Alice Gillespie-Chapin

Posted by Alice Chapin - Groveport, OH - Family Friend   July 03, 2019

Larry, very sorry to hear of the passing of your mother. Deepest sympathy.
Anne Henry

Posted by A friend   July 03, 2019

Aunt Mary was a treasure as a person. Joe and Gail were thankful for the last few years with her-Joseph and Gail Smith

Posted by GAIL SMITH SMITH - Beach Haven, NJ - Family Friend   July 03, 2019

I'm so glad I had a chance to see Aunt Mary in May! It was such a long awaited visit for both of us. She has always been such an inspiration to me, as well as the rest of the John McGrew family! A true model of love, compassion, perseverance and and acceptance of others as they are. She will be dearly missed but will continue to shine brightly in our thoughts and memories. Meg McGrew, Wilmington, NC

Posted by Meg McGrew - Wilmington, NC - Family   July 02, 2019

A remarkable woman May her spirit live forever.

Posted by Jen Kopf - Lancaster, PA - Family   July 02, 2019

Mary was indeed a remarkable woman. Her blindness never kept her down; she was willing to go out and about with us (Theresa and Marian). This threesome had some great times together over many years. I will miss her greatly but am happy that she is now at peace and home with Dan and the Lord.

Posted by Marian Spor - Upper Chichester, PA - Friend   July 02, 2019

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I'm so glad I had a chance to see Aunt Mary in May! It was such a long awaited visit for both of us. She has always been such an inspiration to me, as well as the rest of the John McGrew family! A true model of love, compassion, perseverance and and acceptance of others as they are. She will be dearly missed but will continue to shine brightly in our thoughts and memories. Meg McGrew, Wilmington, NC