Mary D. Emery


Mary D. Emery, 97, a registered nurse who worked at the Jane Brown unit of Rhode Island Hospital and later as a visiting nurse for Northwest Community Nursing, died Aug. 18, at her home in Scituate.

For 71 years she was the wife of the late Chesley E. "Chet" Emery. She was the mother of Deborah (Salerno) Emery Nadeau of Chepachet and C. Eugene Emery Jr. of Cranston, a reporter at the Providence Journal for 40 years.

Born in 1925 at home in Rockport, Maine, she was a child of the depression, growing up in the small fishing village, where everybody knew everybody, nobody locked their doors and lobster was so cheap it was the go-to meal when you ran low on money for food.

She was the middle child of Kenneth and Hazel (Graffam) Daucett, graduating from Rockport High School, where she was the valedictorian in a class of just 11 and her family was scandalized anytime she got less than an A on her report card. At school, she did just about everything -- playing saxophone in the band and the orchestra, and being part of the basketball team.

"I was in every play. We had two major plays, one in the fall and one in the spring, and in the last three years I would have the leading role," she said. In 8th grade she was Little Eva in an adaptation of the anti-slavery novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin."  "They had to work and work with me on the death scene," she recalled in 2018. But her sister and cousin "cried and cried when I died."

Her summers were spent swimming off Granite Pier in Rockport harbor and she became a distance swimmer. She loved movies starring Esther Williams, the competitive swimmer turned actress. She and her friends would walk a mile and a half to nearby Camden to see them. They wouldn't take the bus because that cost 10 cents and they needed to save their dime to afford the double feature.

"I would babysit for 25 cents for the evening, and do dishes or ironing or whatever needed to be done," she said. When an uncle would occasionally slip her a dollar; she felt rich.

After graduation, it was a time of limited career options for women. "You were either a teacher or a nurse; that's all I knew of," she recalled. She opted for the latter, attending the three-year nursing school at what was Central Maine General (now Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston). Upon graduation she worked at hospitals in Rockland and Camden. 

She and Chet had met at one of the weekly dances at the Camden YMCA around 1941-42.

World War II interrupted their courtship. When Chet returned from Europe, they reunited in Providence, where Mary was in town for three months studying communicable disease at Charles Chapin Hospital (now part of the Providence College campus). They went to the Lowe's Theater, the movie house that now houses the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC). They sat in the balcony and, when asked about it on their 60th wedding anniversary, neither could remember what movie was playing. "We didn't care," Chet would recall later. "All we did was look at each other."

They were married in November of 1946. She wore a second-hand wedding gown that belonged to an aunt and got married in the home of the uncle who gave her those dollars. To celebrate the special occasion, the crusts were cut off the sandwiches before serving.

When she and Chet moved to Rhode Island around 1947-48, rent in their Providence tenement was $22 a week. She began working at the Jane Brown Hospital, now a unit of Rhode Island Hospital, which catered to the well-to-do. She eventually became head nurse on the 3rd floor at Jane Brown, but moved to part-time work in the evenings after her children were born. 

The couple moved to a house on Elkland Road near the airport in Warwick in 1951, where they had their children, and then to Highland Street in Cranston six years later.

Mary was a member of the now-defunct Meshanticut Park Baptist Church on Oaklawn Avenue in Cranston, teaching Sunday school for several years, serving on the Board of Christian Education and on the board of deacons. She would leave when the church membership split over the question of equal rights for gays, a position she and her husband supported. She also ran a Cub Scout Den when her son was young.

After leaving Jane Brown, Mary worked for about a decade at the Institute for Mental Health in Cranston and eventually joined Northwest Community Nursing, a VNA in Chepachet. She and Chet built a new home in Scituate in 1979.

After her retirement, she spent much of her time helping her daughter raise her two children while they were living with her and her husband in Scituate.

She loved to play bridge or just about any card game. For years she was a member of Bridgeworks bridge club, until the group closed down.

After Chet died in the winter of 2018, she declined to go into assisted living, keeping her house because she wanted her grandson and his two children to have a place to live. 

She was a frequent patron of the Scituate Public Library and the new love of her life was a chihuahua/corgi mix named Sparky, who loved to sit in her lap to help her watch the news, "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy."

During her final three weeks, she received care around the clock from her children, daughter-in-law Michelle Emery, cousin Nancy St. Germain, and CNA Ariana Parrish.

Besides her children, she is survived by grandchildren Michael and Mark Salerno, Matthew Emery and Rachel Feeney', four great grandchildren, Isaac, Mark and Dominic Salerno, and Jacob Feeney; and several cousins, nieces and nephews. She was the sister of the late Kenneth Daucett of Oxnard, Calif. and Arline Pease of Massachusetts

In lieu of flowers, a donation may be made to or your local NPR station. An outdoor memorial gathering will be held Sept. 10. Email for details.

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