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By Jackie Nickel (The Essex Times, January 4th, 1996)
As many of you know, my mom, Marian McKew, died of lung cancer two days before Christmas, 1995. First, I want to thank everyone who visited the funeral home, sent flowers, cards, food, Mass cards and called to express sympathy. It’s such a tribute to her character to have so many express their love for her. My sons and I were deeply touched by your kindness as we were by her love. Special thanks to my pal at The Sun, Joe Nawrozki, for the beautifully written obituary. For those of you who missed it, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my mom.
Marian Sophia Nickel (she hated that middle name) was born on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 81 years ago. She was named appropriately after the Blessed Mother Mary. Although her mother modernized the name to Marian, her dad always called her Mary.
After losing her mom to pneumonia at the early age of 14, Marian became somewhat of a mother herself, caring for her younger brother Buddy and looking after her beloved dad, “Hon” Nickel, who owned the Gayety Theatre in the heyday of burlesque. She assumed so much responsibility early on that carried over throughout her life.
Marian, the daughter, took business courses at the Institute of Notre Dame so she could help run her father’s business. Marian, the sister, looked after Buddy until his death 25 years ago. Marian, the wife, was loving in her care in sickness and in health. Marian, the niece, cared for the aunt and uncle who helped raise her in their senior years.
But it wasn’t until she became a mother and grandmother herself that she got the chance to put all her nurturing spirit into action.
She gave birth to me, her only child, in 1942 and devoted herself to motherhood, with that unconditional love only a mother can know. Deprived so young of her own mother’s presence, Mom devoted herself to providing me with everything she missed out on after her own mother died, both physically and emotionally.
Education was the key to all success, she believed, and Mom made sure I got the best even when times were tough — sending me to prep school at Notre Dame of Maryland and to campus life at College Park.
Although she was a devoted mom, she surely outdid herself as a grandmother. With three grandsons presented to her in a five-and-a-half-year period, Mom truly got to practice her maternal expertise, becoming a substitute father in many instances as well. Scott, John and Mike stayed out of trouble, they say, only because they were afraid “Mom Mom” would find out. Once again, she stepped in to ensure her boys would be well educated, through parochial school, private high school and college. In later years, Mom began to reap the rewards of her efforts, seeing not only me, but also her grandsons develop successful careers. She was especially encouraging and proud when I made the move, in the midst of her illness, to The Essex Times.
With mom’s responsibility came strength. She carried her family and friends through many crises. Sustained by her faith, Marian lived by the words of the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
She has imparted her strength on her family and friends, along with the courage and wisdom of that prayer. But more importantly Mom has at last reaped the reward of true serenity in the heavenly home she surely earned. She continues to look over all of us with a mother’s love, not only her daughter, grandsons, daughter-in-law, godchild and cousins, but her friends as well.
Her Women’s Club who affectionately called her “mother,” her closest friends, Jennie and Angela, her neighbors, who looked on her as the matriarch of the community, and her many other friends feel her loss but have gained her strength.
Mom promised me a year and a half ago when we learned she had cancer that she would not die until she knew I was strong enough to go on without her. But I and my children, our family and friends are not without her — Mom’s presence is more powerful than ever as she continues to watch over us, as alive and loving in our hearts as she was in our lives.