Mary LaVern (Herman) Carver died peacefully January 16th, 2009. She was born in Carnegie, PA on Feb. 14, 1923, the third of ten children of second generation German-American Catholics, Dr. Charles and Louise Herman. The Church played a prominent role in Mary’s early years, and at the young age of 15 she left home and family for the austerity of the convent, intent on becoming a nun. It wasn’t until being there for four years, just before final vows, that she realized this was not her calling.
After leaving the convent, Mary continued to follow her faith, becoming involved with the Catholic social action movement aimed at social justice. It was through this movement that she met handsome Notre Dame graduate, Frank Carver, who shared her faith and interest in social action. Though their first meeting was brief, Frank, always a man of words, swept her off her feet with his eloquent letters, and in 1950 they were married.
Marrying Frank set Mary on a life course which included great joy and love, but also hard work and self-sacrifice, and the ongoing complexities and rewards of raising a large family.
Upon marriage, Mary’s advice from her mother regarding children was, “You take what God gives you” – and she did. Mike, Mark and Ang were born at the Carver family farm in Altona, NY. Fran, Brigid, Basil, Mary and René followed in Alison Park, PA, and Reg, Clare and John were born after the family moved to Trumansburg.
It was in the house by the waterfalls, nestled in the heart of T-burg, that Mary spent the rest of her life, until the accumulation of strokes and a fall became debilitating. With picture windows overlooking hillside and creek, Mary could keep track of the children and enjoy nature’s beauty from dawn to dusk.
Mary Carver was heroic in motherhood. One can only imagine how she put three meals on the table everyday for ten children, let alone kept up with diapers, laundry and cleaning, yet she did. Though resources were few, with tremendous inner-strength Mary pieced together a good life for her family.
Many townspeople fondly remember Mary’s warm smile and greeting on her many trips walking uptown to the supermarket, and she enjoyed conversation with friends and neighbors along the way.
When it came to helping others, Mary had an open heart and open house policy. There was always room for one more at the table or overnight. Children who grew up in the neighborhood remember fondly the seemingly bottomless pan of hot chocolate on the stove, kept ready for sled riders on the hillside. Mary delighted in doling out an assortment of orphaned mittens from her mitten drawer to cover sled riders’ cold fingers. Saving mittens was only one way she was thrifty; Mary Carver was reusing and recycling long before others caught on.
Mary had a special green thumb, and with her magic touch poinsettias and Christmas cacti seemed to blossom throughout the year. She was known for taking in dying plants that soon thrived under her care.
Her 12 grandchildren, with births spanning from 1978 to 1992, brought great joy to her life. She happily gave grandchildren the run of her house, making them homemade playdough in a rainbow of colors, and allowing them to make forts in every room. None can remember her ever saying “no” to any amusement or new adventure they developed.
Mary’s grandchildren will always remember her silky braided hair, back rubs, and being rocked to sleep as she hummed their favorite lullaby. And of course they were fed, fed, fed. Apple slices, pancakes shaped like bears, and the best PB&J sandwiches in the world, only begin the list. Even in her last few years, after the punishment of multiple strokes, her eyes sparkled and her smile brightened when she was with her beloved grandchildren. How happy she was last October to hold her first great-grandchild in her arms.
As her own children left the house one after another, Mary’s patience and passion turned to a new found love, hand quilting. In each stitch Mary found comfort and satisfaction. She sat at her dining room table overlooking the creek hour after hour making tiny stitches on future heirlooms. The quilts that hold thousands of Mary’s hand stitches will be treasured for generations.
Mary was pre-deceased by her husband Frank in March of 2008 and an infant son, John. She is survived by her loving children Mike, Mark (Linda) Scibilia-Carver, Angela, Francis, Brigid (Alan) Hubberman, Basil (Barbara), Mary (Arnie) Schwartz, René (Emily Parker), Regis and Clare; grandchildren Regan and Ben Carver, Meg (Cliff) Coleman, Josh, Jeff and Sarah Hubberman, Christopher (Jocelyn) and Danny Carver, Lauren and Chelsea Schwartz, Jacob and Hannah Parker-Carver, and great-grandson, Cooper Coleman.
Mary’s most lasting legacy will be her devotion to family, and in the way she lived her life; loving and giving every day in almost every way. Her family asks that if your life was touched by Mary Carver that you extend a kindness in her name.
In Mary’s honor share a smile and warm hello with someone you don’t know; read to children; lend a hand; give from your heart; and on Valentines Day this year, Mary’s birthday, brighten a day by taking flowers to someone in a nursing home.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated in Mary’s honor on Thursday, January 22, at 10:00 am at St. James Catholic Church, 17 Whig St., in Trumansburg. The family will receive friends at a luncheon at the church following the service and burial. Quilts lovingly hand stitched by Mary will be on display.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that contributions be made to Family Reading Partnership 54 Gunderman Rd., Ithaca for a “Wrap Up and Read Quilts” project in Mary’s honor, to Hospicare, 172 East King Rd., Ithaca, and to Loaves and Fishes, 210 N. Cayuga St., Ithaca.