Mary Regina “Jean” McCauley, a retired St. Agnes Hospital hematology lab worker and family matriarch, died of complications of kidney disease Nov. 18 at Gilchrist Hospice in Columbia. The longtime Ellicott City resident was 89.
Born in Baltimore in the kitchen of her parents’ Gough Street home, she was the daughter of Reginald Ashcroft, the manager of the Broadway Theater, and his wife, Deborah Ann “Annabelle” Harrigan, a Social Security Administration typist and member of The Ladies’ Auxiliary to the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
She attended St. Patrick’s School and was a 1950 graduate of the Catholic High School of Baltimore. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at what is now Notre Dame of Maryland University.
She met her future husband, Frank McCauley, at a rathskeller dance. He told her that his name was Harry and later revealed his proper name when he met his future in-laws.
Mrs. McCauley worked in the hematology lab at Maryland Diagnostics and later joined St. Agnes Hospital’s staff.
“She loved her work and the challenge it gave her each day,” said her granddaughter, Chrissie Collett. “My grandmother was not short on opinions, ever, and was outspoken. She loved her job and was a little bit ahead of her time. She was definitely not a stay-at-home mom. She was a terrible cook and did not like housework or cleaning.”
Her granddaughter said that Mrs. McCauley excelled at being a grandmother. She served three go-to dishes: lasagna, crab dip and taco pie.
“That was it,” her grandaughter said. “She made grilled cheese and sometimes left the plastic wrap on the slices. She was not a skilled gift wrapper and handed out packages enclosed in jumbled, different patterns of paper.”
Mrs. McCauley loved to read and went to the Howard County Public Library’s Miller Branch a couple of times a week. She belonged to two book clubs, one at the library and another at a senior club. She was a devotee of historical fiction.
“Being so outspoken, her opinion of the book would be different from others,” her granddaughter said. “She had no favorite authors and would read anything. As she aged, she watched every show imaginable on the BBC. She loved a show called ‘Bridgerton.’ She also watched ‘Pride and Prejudice’ numerous times.”
Mrs. McCauley mispronounced certain businesses. The Talbots women’s shop was “Talbert’s.” Netflix was “Netflick.” Kohl’s department store became “Kroll’s.”
“She was a terrible driver and was bad with directions. She often missed an exit,” said her granddaughter. “She ran into the back of the trash truck while riding a lawnmower. But through all these mishaps, she was not afraid to laugh at herself.”
The family recalled other humorous situations with the woman they loved.
“We were having a crab feast and I noticed she had hot pink eyebrows only to find out she used hot pink lip liner as her eyebrow filler,” said her granddaughter. “She was incredibly generous and was always shoving money in our pockets when we were going back to college.”
A favorite meal involved crab meat – she preferred it served at restaurants in crab imperial and crab cakes.
“But if the crab cakes had too much filler, she wasn’t interested,” said her granddaughter.
She enjoyed ice cream daily and asked for soft serve at sweet shops.
“She taught me how to eat a cone from the bottom up so it would not drip in your hands,” her granddaughter said. “The day she died she asked for orange sherbet.”
In the summer, Mrs. McCauley patronized local snowball stands and ordered egg custard with marshmallow on top.
“Anytime you went to her house you would find black licorice. Her Amazon account was filled with orders for it,” said her granddaughter.
A funeral Mass will be held at 11 a.m. Dec. 11 at the Roman Catholic Church of the Resurrection Chapel, 3175 Paulskirk Drive, where she was a member.
She is survived by her husband of 64 years, Frank McCauley, a retired Social Security Administration statistician; two daughters, Karen White of Ellicott City and Virginia Fenwick of Port Orange, Florida; a son, David McCauley of Hampton; a sister, Nancy Hudson of Concord, California; seven grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
She is also survived by three stepgrandchildren; and 11 stepgreat-grandchildren.