Mary Paige Mcguirk

Harford County Dairy Farm Operator Raised Her 15 Children And Nurtured Many Other Young People

April 22, 2009|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

Mary Paige McGuirk, the mother of 15 children who nurtured others while running a dairy operation, died of heart failure Saturday at her Bel Air farm. She was 88.

Mary Paige was born in Bellport, N.Y., and raised in New York City. She was a 1938 Brearley School graduate and attended Bryn Mawr College in suburban Philadelphia. In 1941, she married William E. McGuirk.

In 1954, she, her husband and their expanding family moved to Marylea Farm in Bel Air. Mrs. McGuirk raised not only her own 15 children, but also many others.

"The door at Marylea Farm was always open, and a spare bed could be found somewhere, for only a night or, perhaps, for years," said son Hugh D. "Huffer" McGuirk of Butler. "Her only requirement was that you clean your plate and assist with things to be done either in the house or on the farm."

He said that youth in need of focus, direction or "merely love" found a home with her.

Throughout her life, Mrs. McGuirk welcomed teenagers from as near as Baltimore and from as far away as Iran, Ecuador and Russia.

"She loved them all and continued to provide love and support to many until her death," said her daughter Mary E. McGuirk of Bel Air. In the mid-1950s, when a farmhand quit, she milked 59 cows by hand at 4:30 a.m. daily. After a month, she bought an electric milker, her daughter said.

Mrs. McGuirk helped run the Marylea Farm Dairy business and assisted in the milking bottling, and care of her herd of Jersey cows. She managed the winter calving operation after a barn and the dairy burned in 1962. She then converted the operation into a commercial cow-calf operation. She also raised a flock of Hampshire sheep.

Two of her sons retain the farm, growing corn and soybeans.

"She was not afraid of hard work. She ran a tight ship," said her daughter. "She had a locomotive bell mounted on the outside post that she rang for lunch and supper. You had better be there when she rang it. We ate at big tables with benches and just moved inward when a new person arrived."

Mrs. McGuirk played tennis and golf, and gardened. Her daughter said her favorite recollections often involved golf trips with her husband and their annual visit to the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta, Ga. In November 1977, she made a hole-in-one at Marshwood at the Landings in Savannah, Ga.

She was a patron of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Southeast Baltimore, where a memorial fund has been established in her and her husband's names.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church, 533 E. Jarrettsville Road in Hickory, where she was a daily communicant.

Survivors include seven other sons, Michael McGuirk, G. Derek McGuirk, Joseph M. McGuirk, Jonathan D. McGuirk and Ian McGuirk of Bel Air, Peter P. McGuirk of Arlington, Va., and William E. McGuirk III of Westford, Mass.; six other daughters, Paige McGuirk Larson of Boulder, Colo., Sheila M. McGuirk of Madison, Wis., M. Terrence McGuirk of Sandpoint, Idaho, Anya M. McGuirk of Raleigh, N.C., M. Katia McGuirk of Doylestown, Pa., and M. Andrea McGuirk-Rigdon of Jarrettsville; 48 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Her husband of 64 years, a Davison Chemical Co. and later Mercantile Bankshares Corp. executive, died in 2005.

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