Mary Antoinette Cummings was born in Chicago on February 27, 1938, the only daughter of Nicholas and Mary (Donnelly) Cummings. She lost her father when she was a toddler and was raised by her strong, Irish Catholic mother. Her mother was forced to work full time in downtown Chicago through the 1940s and 1950s to support them, leaving Mary primarily in the care of neighbors and family members. Mary's fiercely independent mother taught her early lessons about hard work, right and wrong, and how to tell a good Irish joke.
Mary grew up in an apartment on Kenmore Avenue in the DePaul neighborhood. She attended St. Vincent DePaul grade school and Immaculata Catholic High school near Irving Park and Lake Michigan. Attending high school in Wrigleyville, made it convenient to head over to the Friendly Confines after school and catch the last half of the Cubs game from the bleachers. Being an only child, she made lifelong friends that were as close as sisters, and took great pride in her North Side roots.
It was during these impressionable early years in Chicago that Mary fell in love with the Chicago Cubs. A love that would cause her great pain, but keep her coming back year after year after year. Anyone who knows Mary knows that she loved the Cubs. She hated them too. Just like the rest of us.
In the late 1950’s she met and married Robert Martenson and started a family. Steve was born in 1961, Christine in 1966 and Sharon in 1968. Robert had a promising career with Texas Instruments as an engineer and Mary and her family's future seemed bright. Tragically, in November of 1968, Robert was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 34 . Mary became a 30 year old widow, with 3 young children. She didn't have a job, a driver’s license and, typical of a 60’s housewife, even credit in her own name.
When Mary was asked how she got through those years she would answer in her characteristically straightforward way, “Well, I just woke up every day and looked at these babies and kept going. What other choice did I have?” She has said many times that she depended heavily on family, friends, and her faith to help her through those difficult first years.
A few years later, mom remarried a kind-hearted and caring man, Francis, who remained her husband for the last 37 years. His love for her was so apparent, especially in the last few months of her life, as he cared for her, fed her, prayed for her recovery and held her hand until the very end.
Francis had two children of his own, and Mary and Francis raised their expanded family in Cary, Illinois and became active members of St Peter and Paul parish until they retired in 1991. Mary made lifelong friends in the parish, and enjoyed lots of social activities, including the annual tradition of marching in Chicago's St. Patrick's Day parade.
Travel was another one of Mary's passions. Money was tight in her large family, so Mary got a part time job and saved her paychecks so that she could still plan a family vacation nearly every year.
Retirement took Mary and Francis to Green Valley, Arizona in 1991. Soon, they had a large circle of friends in this retirement community south of Tucson. Mary loved to host frequent parties, and now had the luxury of being able to travel the world. She sang in Our Lady of the Valley church choir, was a member of the "bodacious babes" Red Hat society, the Green Valley Telephone Pioneers, and the Elks Auxiliary. She was just a two hour drive from the home of the Cubs' Spring Training stadium, and frequently made the trip North to watch them play.
Mary taught her children with humor and practicality. She believed that they should read, travel and be familiar with current events. She modelled that good friends are the cornerstone of life and that it is important to have lots of fun, while maintaining a good work ethic. She believed in modesty, and counting her blessings.
Mary died as a diehard Cubs fan. This loyalty to her lovable losers exemplified her personality more than anything else. When her ovarian cancer was getting the best of her and the doctor told her that she was terminal, one of the first things she said was "Doctor, I am never going to see the Cubs win the World Series, am I?” Her doctor said, “Mary, my son is 10 years old and he is never going to see the Cubs win the World Series!” Mary claimed that her eternal pessimism came from being a Cubs fan. She used to watch the games from the top of the stairs because she believed her distance to the TV actually had a direct impact on the results of the game. A few months before she died she insisted on a trip to Wrigley Field, even though her illness had made it challenging to climb to her seat.
Mary will be greatly missed by all of us. She was a giant in the family and we all looked to her for answers and approval. The hole that is left will never be filled. However she gave us the tools to stand on our own and carry on. It is what she would have done. And so will we. Until we meet again, Mary, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.