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Barry University Oral History: Mary Halloran Taber


Mrs. Taber, Catherine and Fr. Joseph Barry


                                   Mary Halloran Taber

Interviewee: Mary Halloran Taber

Interviewer: Sister Eileen Rice

Date of Interview: August 3, 1988

Sister Eileen: Mary, tell me, when were you born?

Mary: December 20, 1910.

Sister Eileen: Where?

Mary: Chicago.

Sister Eileen: Tell me a little about your parents.

Mary: My mother was Susan Barry Halloran. She was born in Ireland, and my father was Martin Halloran and he was born in Ireland, about ten miles apart, in County Clare. My mother came over to the States in 1893, the year of the World's Fair here in Chicago. She was married and I was her third child.

Sister Eileen: Where were you and your family at that time? Were there only three children?

Mary: Actually I was her fourth child. My mother lost her first child a few days after the child was born. I had a brother and a sister older and I. There were four children after that but one was still born. The three youngest are still living. My older sister and older brother are gone. I'm the oldest in the family now. 

Sister Eileen: Where were you educated?

Mary: I went to grade school in Holy Cross School in Chicago, in an area that was called Woodland and the Sisters there were BVM Sisters from Dubuque. When I finished grade school, I went to Immaculata, which was also a BVM school on the north side of Chicago. After that I went to DePaul University for two years and then I went to business school and then to Portland.

Sister Eileen: Tell me about your marriage.

Mary: Well, I was married on May 28, 1938. Ed went to Mount Carmel and we shared the Depression years. There were no child brides in those days. I mean, things were not so good, although we never suffered, I felt, through the depression. My father always had a job. He worked for the park district in Chicago.

Sister Eileen: How many children do you have?

Mary: I have three children. Three girls: Geraldine, Ana Susan and Mary Jane. They are married now and between them all I have eight grandchildren. We feel very fortunate because we have wonderful children, good children. We have noisy grandchildren, young and beautiful. I don't know of anyone that has much more than we have, as far as our families are concerned. We are very close and fortunately they live in some proximity to our home here. Mary Jane lives just a couple of blocks away, and everybody lives around three miles away. Gerry lives in Western Springs.

Sister Eileen: Tell me what you remember about the beginning of Barry College.

Mary: We saw the Bishop in our home for a week or so, at least once a year. My mother and the Bishop were very close. Of course our home was always his home when he came here. So my mother and he had a lot of conversations about his plans and his ideas. He came from a large family, thirteen in the family, and my mother was right in the middle. There were only three girls and ten boys. The fact that she came here as a young girl and kept close to her family at home, and went back and brought one or two here, she knew the whole family. We didn't think (as we think now foolishly) about remembering all those things. We should have a lot of things to tell you and I'm sure they are in our minds someplace, but...

Sister Eileen: Tell me about Monsignor.

Mary: Monsignor was ordained in Baltimore. He came to Chicago. I know he was here at the time I was born. We were always close on account of that. He always had a special interest in me ad I had a special spot in my heart for him.

Sister Eileen: He Baptized you.

Mary: Yes, he baptized me. He was a wonderful man. When the Bishop died, mother and I went and Father Bill met us.  We took the train and he found a hotel for us. He was a wonderful man. He knew we were coming and he said, "I want you to go take a rest because you have been on a train for two days." So we did. He was so solicitous, but his heart was really broken. He just couldn't believe that the Bishop was gone. I think the Bishop was just about seventy years old when it happened. Of course Father Bill was considerably younger. I know he was ten years younger than my father. But you know, for a family as large as they were and one spread out the way they were, they kept very, very close. The first time that my mother, Father Bill and the Bishop's family were together was during the Eucharistic Congress here in 1925.

     Oh, it was wonderful! To see them all. Some of them had never met their brothers and sisters. There were two people, Uncle Gerald (Gerald's grandfather) and my Aunt Mary, who had never been back to Ireland. There was an Uncle Lawrence who was the second oldest in the family. I think there were three of them. They had never met these younger men. They were just, well, Joe in Ireland never came here and Joe somebody died here. So, the family was very close but during the Eucharistic Congress they made a pact that they would write to one another at least once a year. So my mother was very pleased about this, and she kept many letters.

     I had two uncles who were out in California, Uncle Jack and Uncle Dick. Uncle Dick was one of the youngest in the family and he was an engineer. They were building all the roads in California. Uncle Jack was the time keeper. This was in an area from San Francisco to either north or south of that, either way the roads were going. If my mother wrote to Jack, he would call his brother, Dick, and say, "I got a letter from Susan, I'll meet you in so and so." They'd go over that letter and the same thing happened when Dick got a letter from Susy. My mother would have news of everybody that she collected through her letters. They were a very, very close family. We were blessed with parents that made family so important to us. It gave us all a background.


Sister Eileen: What do you remember of the beginning of Barry? How long before the beginning of Barry did they talk about it?

Mary: I would say they probably talked about it for at least five or six years. I don't know where they got the wherewithal to do it. Haven't any idea, but I do know that Gerald, Gerald's father, was, I think the architect. He had a great influence on the timing. His two sons moved down there during this time. I really couldn't tell you too much except that it was a dream of Bishop Barry to have a Catholic college in Florida. In any community in Florida, Catholics were a very small number in those days. 

     He [Bishop Barry] had a dear friend who was a minister, I think he was Episcopalian, and they spent a lot of time together. If I remember the story correctly, the Episcopalian had two sons and one of them became a Catholic. I think he became a priest.

     I do know he [Monsignor Barry] loved Florida. You've got to have the information of all that Father Bill did along the coast. One parish after the other. When we went there when the Bishop died, we landed in Jacksonville. There was a church there where Father Bill had been a pastor and had built.

Sister Eileen: Is there anything else you have, stories, any anecdotes that you'd like to tell? Either of the Bishop or Mother Gerald or Monsignor?

Mary: The Bishop was, as busy as he was in the State of Florida, very interested in everyone in his family. I'm sure that anyone in his family could talk to him and he would be a good listener. So it not only made him knowledgeable about us but us about him. If we got a letter, he would enquire about everybody and what they were doing and where they were going and all. We had a great bond in him. He used to tell us about his travels in the diocese, which were tremendous. He was very seldom home.

     I had a brother that was a priest, I don't know whether I mentioned that. He was the oldest brother. He died in an accident, a very serious accident. He was with my mother and my sister going down state to visit grandaunt's of mine and aunts of my mother. My brother was ordained in 1933 and he died in 1936, so he was a very young man when he died. When he was ordained he wanted to go to Florida for his first trip. You know this wasn't too far away from the bad years [Depression], and he wanted to go to Florida because he had two of his favorite uncles there. They wanted to see him as a priest. So he went to St. Augustine first and they had some kind of carnival or some type of festivity there. The Bishop won a very small, little car. My brother and one of his classmates went to the Bishop and the Bishop gave them the car to use during the trip along with a car, a note, that would introduce them to any parish in the diocese. We had a picture of the two young priests, one with the leg on the window of the car and the Bishop there, looking at the two of them wondering, "Are they going to make it or not?"  He wasn't in the car. He was just watching these two clowns. That's just the kind of charming, wonderful man he was. Everybody that ever knew him loved him. So, Lawrence and Father Murphy went on their way. I think Father Murphy is still living and in very poor health. The greatest experience he ever had was his first vacation when he went to Florida. My brother went back one time after that when his Uncle Lawrence died, my mother's brother, and everybody was away. The Bishop was in Rome, or some place and Mother Gerald was away. So, my brother went and said Mass for Uncle Lawrence. I think Father Bill was away too.

Sister Eileen: Are there other stories about Father Bill or Mother Gerald? What do you remember about Mother Gerald?

Mary: I'll tell you a funny story about Mother Gerald. Ed and I became engaged about two years before we were married. Mother Gerald said to me, "Now that you are engaged, would you come visit me in Adrian?" I said yes.  She said, "... because I've lost you so come." [She was not going to enter the convent]

     I went to Adrian, this had to be in 1937. I went there for a few days and she said, "We are going to Kelly's Island," which was right off Toledo. We had to take a boat across [to get to Kelly's Island.] Mother Gerald was all dressed up and she said to the captain, "Splash that water once" and that was the end of it.

     We were going across the water and we saw these people with long cloaks on and she [Mother Gerald] said, "Look at those girls. They think they are fooling me." We got off and they had their bathing suits on and were swimming. Anyway, we went into the house and she said, "We are going to the beach. We'll show those girls." I said that I didn't bring my bathing suit. She said, "We have lots of them." She asked someone to get a bathing suit. I got a bathing suit and was waiting in the parlor, and this very attractive woman comes down with cape and all. I looked at her and she said, "You don't recognize me at all, do you?" It was beautiful. She came out and we had a swim.  That was how hospitable she was. Her home was your home when you were there. She didn't want you to miss anything.

     We stayed there a few days. We stayed overnight there and the place where we stayed was, I think, an old house that they had converted into a convent for the nuns. In the front room, the parlor, there was a day bed in the corner and above it there were shutters. During the night there was a terrible storm and the shutters were cracking. I got up and walked to a bedroom. There was a nun there at the door and I said, "I'm scared to death over at that place." Mother Gerald heard me and she said, "Mary, come in." This was almost forbidding. I went in and she said "What's the matter?" I said, "I can't swim and I'm surrounded by water!" She said, "Put your head down here." I think I went back to sleep. When I woke up, she was not there.  I think she just left me there, maybe she went to the parlor. She was wonderful too. She entered the convent shortly after I was born.

Sister Eileen: Thank you Mary.

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Frances Sciurba