At 11 a.m. on a summer Saturday, the trees behind the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization’s amphitheater perfectly shade those who are seated. When family and friends gathered to honor the life of Mary Jamin Maguire there near the Lowry Avenue Bridge June 18, they basked in that shade and a gentle breeze.
Jamin Maguire died of lung cancer at age 72 in February after a five-month battle, some suspect due to pollution from industries along the river.
Susan Vikse, of the Above The Falls Community Advisory Council (AFCAC), described Jamin Maguire as a tireless worker and strong advocate for the Upper River in many roles, formal and informal. Vikse recalled a protest with many organizations as the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency considered a permit for the metal-shredding Kondirator.“We lost that one but it increased our visibility.”
“Calm determination” is how neighbor Susan Whitaker put it. “Mary was so committed and did everything in a calm, positive manner, maintained composure and never gave up. Such strong conviction.” Whitaker and others in the neighborhood started the Concerned Citizens of Marshall Terrace in the mid to late 1980s, later renamed Marshall Terrace Neighborhood Organization, MTNO. Jamin Maguire consistently represented the neighborhood on AFCAC and recently served as MTNO chair.
Mary Jamin Maguire and Charlie Maguire, who later parted, moved to the house on Marshall Street in the early 1970s, daughter Elsie Jamin-Maguire told the Northeaster. She emphasized that Mary’s work was not just for the immediate neighborhood. “Getting access to the river was very important,” public and equitable access, not just private homeowners or businesses. Mary would bring up disparities between what this [North and Northeast] part of the city gets, or doesn’t, versus other parts of the city. “There’s a lot of focus on the lakes but the river is so much a part of who we are, and of this state,” she’d say.
Mary was in for the small battles, the unglorious work of reminding officials, particularly new ones, and developers, that there is a long-term, well-thought-out plan [Above the Falls] agreed to, and there should not be exceptions. She wasn’t opposed to change, but potential change demanded a lot of discussion and inclusion. The plan made sense and connected the things the city, the county and others were doing,
Elsie said. “My mom saw the big vision.” Every year, bits of progress were made toward that plan.
Adlerian psychology, Mary’s training as a therapist, “certainly informed her work,” her daughter said. “She believed in community and positivity, positive discipline, talking things through, finding solutions for the greater good.”
“A very optimistic powerhouse,” Walt Whitaker echoed. Mary was self-employed and did a lot of contract work for Hennepin County and other organizations. Susan Whitaker remembers taking a months-long training from Mary that the County initiated to fill a human services staffing gap, about respecting diversity in cultures and people in poverty, understanding systemic things that keep people from progressing, “without blaming the victim.”
Mary’s sisters Dorothy and Kitty (Catherine) told the gathering they were glad to have reunited in the last ten years after losing touch for a while – they had stayed in New York state, nearer where Mary was born in Croton-on-Hudson.
There was knowing laughter when Mary’s go-to “where are we going to eat?” was mentioned. It was not uncommon after meetings to grab a bite or a brew.
Twelfth-Night parties at Mary’s house were famous. She was in a decades-strong brunch group, one of whom is Marge Ostroushko, who read the Maya Angelou poem “When Great Trees Fall.”
The poem ends, “And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. … Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.”
Mary Jamin Maguire was preceded in death by her father, mother and a brother. Daughter Elsie Jamin-Maguire and Jack Ferro are parents of Mary’s grandson Ian Ferro. She also is survived by son James Jamin-Maguire, her brother Joseph, and sisters Dorothy and Catherine.
Below: Mary Jamin Maguire (Provided photo)