Toledo Irish: Remembering Betty Mears, a Wonderful Toledo Irish Lady
by Maury Collins
Betty Jane Gaffney Mears was born on April 17, 1926 to Irish born parents, John Gaffney and Helen Quinn Gaffney. She passed away on May 14, 2014 I met Betty in 2000; she was a member of the Lucas County Mother McAuley division of the LAOH. I was just getting more involved with the John P. Kelly Division AOH.
The AOH division was close to going out of existence. I was elected president with an expectation of bringing back old members and finding new ones. Betty called me and offered to help in any way that she could. Her cousin, Father Tom Quinn, was chaplain of both divisions and suggested that I get together with Betty.
She was one of the warmest, cheerful and most positive people I have ever known. I set up a Hibernian night at the Mud Hens. She ordered 15 tickets to start. Her only stipulation was that the seats be near the top of the section, so she and her guests would not have to walk down the steps. She also asked that I reserve two seats at the end of the rows to make it easier to get in and get out.
I wrote a program for the St. Patrick’s festivals. Betty always bought an ad. I set up a “Trip for 2 to Ireland” raffle. She ordered twenty tickets and gave them to cousins in the Quinn group.
Betty explained about the Quinn group. They had a family reunion every year, alternating the event between Toledo and Lorain, Ohio. The group consisted of Quinns, Donnellys, Aubrys, Weisenburgers, Dorans. Hermans, O’Dohertys, Repkos Zinks, Stipes, Grotes, Weihers and Hendricks. La The reunions required a large hall. Betty would be so excited and busy making sure all was set for the big day!
Betty had a special love for her cousin Pat Hendricks. She would tease him about being named Patrick and not being Irish and about being a Michigan fan and not a Notre Dame fan.
Betty was so generous to me personally. I admired her lighted window shamrocks and she ordered two for me. She gave me a green Santa hat telling me it was from Father Quinn for my hard work with the Hibernians. She invited my wife, Penny and me over just to have some giggles.
Tell Me Something Good
I received a Christmas card from her one year which read “To what should my wondering eyes should appear, but a bottle of wine and a six pack of beer. I heard the saying from her often; “Tell me something good, kid.” Her toast was “Cheers”. My favorite Betty words whenever I saw her or spoke with her on the phone was the way she ended the conversation by saying “I love you!!”
Betty went to the Cole Eye Institute at Cleveland Clinic monthly. She had an experimental medication injected directly into her left eyeball. She explained that her eyesight in that eye was far too gone for her to benefit from the injections, but it may help someone in the future. Her final act of charity was donating her body to the University of Toledo Medical College.
There was a message from the Cole Eye clinic on the funeral home website, “In this life you will only meet a handful of truly Good Righteous wholesomely Real People who are truly a privilege to have known and this woman was one of those people. She was one of the warmest, cheerful, uplifting people I have ever known.”
The Kennedy Connection
I had many conversations with Betty about her life. Here are just a few stories. Betty was active in Democratic politics. She started out her involvement in the “Young Dems.” She was elected to the Lucas County Democratic Central Committee four times. She was a member of the Democratic National Platform Committee from 1960 through 1968. She worked on President John Kennedy’s campaign as well as Bobby Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey.
She was a member of Toledo Real Estate Board, Democratic county executive committee, Toledo Council on World Affairs, Common Cause, Toledo Museum of Art, Old West End Association, League of Women voters, NAACP, and the Women’s advertising Club of Toledo.
Betty had a very successful career in Real Estate. She sold Real Estate in Toledo and in Marietta, Georgia. She was a member of the Million Dollar Club in both cities. Betty told me stories about walking in area neighborhoods of the city in Marietta. She would talk to people saying what a great neighborhood they lived in. She would ask if anyone was interested in selling their home claiming she had people looking to buy.
Betty married James G. Mears on October 28, 1972 in the Rosary Cathedral. Betty’s cousin, Father Marty Donnelly, performed the ceremony. She was given in marriage by another cousin, Thomas Quinn.
The reception was held in the Parkcrest hall. John Mohr, a family friend recalls the wedding reception: “what an elegant wedding she had, I was not used to waiter/waitresses walking around with trays of hors-d’oeuvres and drinks, I had to try something from each tray, the only time I remember my wife, Jennie had to drive home.”
Jim and Betty had a beautiful Home on Robinwood, in the Old West End of Toledo. They had it restored before their move to Atlanta. Jim was a Construction Estimator from California and worked many places, including Alaska.
Jim moved to Atlanta for a job and Betty followed soon after. Jim died in his sleep on December 8, 1986. Betty described that terrible morning, when her husband was not responding. She paused for a moment after telling me about it, remembering and then with a wonderful smile she said, “Tell me something good.”
Eileen Pedro Durham wrote about Betty, “A wonderful friend, aunt, sister, cousin, who always made sure you were thought of and taken care of. Many stories were told of her life. A lady, who loved her Irish heritage and let everyone know she was Irish and proud of it. You have left me with great memories, which I will cherish forever.”
A poem on the back page of Betty’s funeral program
Wipe your eyes, hug, clap and sing.
In life, I got to do my thing.
I loved, laughed, had family I adore.
How could anyone ask for more?”
The next journey, I start unprepared
But go, with the thought, I had loved ones who cared
Wish me well, yell Bon Voyage, give me a wave
I hope you know how much to me you gave
I thank you all, how important you were in my life
You made me a neighbor, a sister, a friend, aunt, a wife
Again, I say how could anyone ask for more,
As I open up my next journey’s door
Rest in Peace, dear Betty. You are remembered with love.
Special thanks to Janet Lankey, Patrick Aubry, John Aubry and John Mohr