Mary Evelyn Friant was reunited with her best friend and husband, Howard L. Friant, on May 23, 2021, one week shy of her 92nd birthday.
Mary Evelyn was born on May 29, 1929 in Newark, N.J., to the Honorable George D. McLaughlin and Evelyn A. McLaughlin, née Amberg. The family moved to nearby South Orange, where Mary Ev was a standout athlete at Columbia High School (Go Cougars!) and where she met her future husband.
For many of her younger years Mary Ev attended camp, via train, to upstate New York, where she spent entire summers making memories and friends for life.
Mary Ev received her Bachelor of Science in economics from St. Elizabeth’s College, Convent Station, N.J. At college she was a champion tennis player, remaining undefeated through her entire four years of collegiate competition; was goalkeeper on the New Jersey state field hockey team; and followed in her mother’s footsteps (St. E’s class of ’22), competing in women’s basketball.
Mary Ev married Howard on Veterans Day, November 1951. During the Korean conflict he was stationed in France with the U.S. forces looking east as the Cold War heated up. Mary Ev traveled to France on a U.S. troop ship across the Atlantic, landing in La Rochelle and joining her husband in the Bordeaux region. The devout young couple visited Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, leaving with holy water, which Mary Ev will take with her to her final resting place.
In 1953, Mary Ev and Howard built a home in Sea Girt, N.J., where they raised their growing family. Mary Ev and her sister Margaret were founding members of the Sea Girt Beach Club. She was an active member of St. Mark’s Catholic Church, where her nine children were baptized.
In 1967, the couple purchased a $1 raffle ticket from their church, winning a ’67 Cadillac. Not needing a Cadillac, they instead took the cash value and in 1968 bought a summer cottage on an island in Maine. In 1970 they relocated their family to Boothbay Harbor, buying the Seagate Motel, which they owned for 47 years. Much of Mary Ev’s heart stayed in New Jersey, where her lifelong friends and all her family remained. In Boothbay Harbor she found an accepting community at her new church, Our Lady Queen of Peace, where she attended Mass until she could no longer.
Mary Ev was a long-standing board member of the nonprofit Boothbay Region District Nurses Association, which advocates for those with limited financial and family support.
For Mary Ev, sport was an essential part of life. With nine children there was always an extra mitt, skates, boards, bikes, a unicycle, or a pogo stick and every form of a ball and always a hoop. Along with her friend, Al Sherman, she was instrumental in getting the Boothbay Harbor public tennis courts built, not private and accessible to anyone. Occasionally, when not working, she and Howard would fit in a set or two — she always won.
Out of necessity and industriousness, the mother of nine could repair just about anything: a bike that had been handed down three times, a fussy TV, or a vacuum she knew had 10 more years of life. Mary Ev was an accomplished seamstress and knew her way around a sewing machine like very few do — she taught her daughters to sew, could patch her sons’ blue jeans for another year of wear, and if the sewing machine acted up, no worries, she could fix it. Mary Ev could reupholster a sofa, cane a chair, or hang wallpaper; she would take on any job herself before she would ask for help.
She found joy in music and could find a reason to sing about most things. Rarely did a day go by when she didn’t break into song, and at special times she’d play her old 33’s, singing to Glenn, Louis, and always Frank.
Mary Ev lost the love of her life and best friend, Howard, in 2002. The loss of the man she’d known since 13 left a gaping hole in her life. Her family is grateful the Good Lord has taken her to be with Howard, where they can once again dance and sing.
Mary Evelyn is predeceased by her sister, Margaret E. Odell; and brother, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. George D. McLaughlin Jr.
She is survived by her sisters, Anne M. Helfrich of Chatham, N.J., and Josephine McGurk of Berwyn, Pa.; her nine children and spouses: Marie B. Walsh (Dennis); Joan M. Barrett (William III); Howard L. Friant Jr. (Denise); Barbara E. Davis (Blaine T.); Mark E. Friant (Diana); Mary Jo Poitras (Peter); Joseph C. Friant (Lori); George D. Friant (Stacey Miller), and Evie F. Elderkin (William); 18 grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren; and 23 nieces and nephews.
A private burial will take place at the Maine state veterans cemetery on Monday, June 7.
Due to COVID-19, a delayed Mass and celebration of Mary Evelyn’s long life will be announced at a later date.
In Mary Ev’s honor, the family kindly requests donations be made to the Boothbay Region District Nurse, P.O. Box 554, Boothbay, ME 04537.
Hall’s of Boothbay has care of the arrangement. To extend online condolences, please visit hallfuneralhomes.com