by Pete Mazzaccaro

When I first started work at the Local in 1999, the office here was remarkably different than it is today. The editorial department was led by the triumvirate of Marie Jones, Ruth Russell and Katie Worrall, all three with remarkably deep roots in Chestnut Hill.

The advertising department was also staffed by a group of venerable Chestnut Hill ladies: Mary Flannery, Ellen Maher, Anne Fisher and Lois Thomson. Cheryl Massaro was “new” by Local standards, having only started working in 1995, but she was born and raised on the Hill. Joan Forjohn, who came in 1993 and still works here in advertising, rounded out that group.

That was essentially the beginning of the end of an era in which the Local was staffed, almost exclusively, by talented women. They were not only co-workers. They were neighbors, many of whom had raised children, reentered the workforce and were fortunate enough to do so right around the corner. It was a time when the majority of the Local’s staff kept weekly hair appointments at Chestnut Hill Hair (now Artisans on the Avenue). It was a different time.

The first big shift in the Local’s culture was the retirement of Marie Jones in 2000 after 30 years of steering the paper as its editor. Still, the classified and circulation department retained that old neighborhood culture right up until the time both Mary Flannery and Ellen Maher decided to retire together. Anne Fisher – who passed away in 2002 – had already retired.

Last week, memories of that time returned to me when, in the same week, Lois Thomson decided to retire after 30 years in advertising and we learned that Mary had passed away, unexpectedly, after suffering a stroke during surgery.

(Mary’s funeral service took place at Our Mother of Consolation last Friday, May 4. We will run a proper obituary for her next week.)

The classified department was really the center of good will at the Local. If anyone was laughing in this office, it was likely in classifieds. Anne, Ellen and Mary, who were in perpetual good moods and who all sat together all day, every day, would share jokes and stories. No matter how hard the work, the group was almost always smiling.

Perhaps the only time spirits were ever low was when those ladies were all compelled to shift to a new advertising software system – something for which I’m partially responsible. Sorry. (Still, the department never gave up recording orders on a typewriter).

I still work with a lot of really terrific people in all the Local’s departments, but I do miss those days. Every time you got to the office, you could rely on those classified department ladies for the latest Hill gossip (or, what I like to call “the news”) or a great anecdote – a funny story about days gone by. In many ways it was like working with a bunch of your favorite aunts.

I, and those of us who worked with Mary before she retired in 2007, will definitely miss her. She was a terrific lady who not only brightened up the office with her personality but became an integral part of what made the paper successful for so many years. She was absolutely one of the best, and Chestnut Hill has lost a cornerstone.

Change is inevitable. And I always try to meet it with optimism. But it’s certain this time that an era worth remembering is finally passing.

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