By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Family and friends of Mary Cruise Kennedy, the matriarch of Brockton’s Cruise-Kennedy clan, gathered Saturday to not only mourn the loss of the 101-year-old former head nurse, but also celebrate the life of a woman who was ahead of her time.
“She had such a great life,” said Ward 1 City Councilor Timothy Cruise, Mary Kennedy’s nephew. “She was blessed,” he said.
Cruise said in a recent interview that while family members were saddened by the news Mary died peacefully of pneumonia Saturday, Nov. 26 at Brockton Hospital where she graduated from the hospital’s nursing school in 1931.
Mary Cruise Kennedy was the eldest of 9 children who led the family when the children's parents died young.
During a brief time when she worked at the former Lakeville State Hospital, she met her husband Bob, and had four children of her own, including State Senator Thomas Kennedy.
Tim Cruise said while Mary’s passing is sad, he said hundreds of family members were expected to converge on Russell & Pica Funeral Home last Thursday and Friday for calling hours, followed by services at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brockton.
“It’s a celebration, a celebration of a great lady,” Cruise said. “She had a great run. She was the glue that kept things together. We’ll miss her,” he said.
Tim Cruise said the 40 or so first cousins who were expected to attend last week’s services held a lot of respect for his aunt, and many children in the family didn’t dare cause trouble while Mary Cruise Kennedy was around.
“Just a look was enough,” Tim Cruise said.
Cruise Kennedy was also a woman ahead of her time in the medical field.
Graduating from Brockton Hospital’s Nursing School in 1931, she soon became the head nurse, a position she held for decades.
Tim Cruise said he always took for granted his aunt’s position as a nurse and only realized how hard she struggled and fought to be taken seriously and not let male chauvinism stop her from helping her patients.
“I never realized until I was older how difficult it was for her, and other women back then,” Cruise said. “If she thought a doctor was wrong, she would let them know, she wasn’t going to back down,” he said.
Cruise Kennedy volunteered in many capacities, and helped found first of its kind programs the Edwina Martin Recovery House for Women and the Ann Ward Congregate Assisted Living Home at the former St. Edward's Convent.
Active and sharp, Cruise Kennedy's endeavors decreased in her 90s when she voluntarily gave up her driver's license.
She is also the namesake of the Council on Aging's Mary Cruise Kennedy Senior Center where she made a surprise and welcome visit with one of her two sons State Senator Thomas Kennedy for the Council on Aging's annual St. Patrick's Day celebration.
For a full background on Mary Cruise Kennedy’s life, please click here to visit Mary Cruise Kennedy’s obituary.