Mary Bowler Griffin’s high-school nickname (borrowed from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) was "Happy" based on her temperament and never did a nickname fit anyone better. She turned 95 on October 12 and took great pleasure in the many bouquets, gifts, calls, and cards she received from her wide circle of friends and family. Mary died the next day, October 13, at home in her beloved Heritage Village, Southbury, with her daughter Regina by her side.
Born in Waterbury, CT, in 1925 to John and Mary (Hickson) Bowler, Mary attended Saints Peter and Paul School, then Waterbury Catholic High School, where she absorbed the Congregation of Notre Dame’s commitment to academics and social justice. She continued learning throughout the rest of her life, taking courses in languages (French and Irish were favorites), literature, history, opera, and especially art history.
During World War II, Mary worked at Scovill Manufacturing Co. where she met her close friend, Hermiline Phelan, who later introduced her to her husband-to-be. At this time, Mary was selected as a Miss Marine, becoming a pinup, which she later used to tease her husband, fellow Waterburian John Griffin, who’d served in the US Army Air Corps.
After the war, Mary married “Jack” and joined his large group of friends and family from Washington Hill, including Fitzie and Joan, Albie and Stevie, Ralphie and Jackie, John and Olive. Mary and Jack opened a furniture store in Plantsville, Olde Farms Furniture, where she worked and built up her knowledge of furniture, adding to it by annual trips to the Winter Antiques Show and visits to the Furniture Study at Yale University’s Art Gallery.
Mary, a passionate supporter both of Waterbury and of the arts, put these two interests together and became one of the longest serving Board Members of Waterbury's Mattatuck Museum. There she served as a treasured docent, as well as on the Women's Committee and the Travel Committee. Mary loved to travel and planned rewarding trips for fellow museum members, to Charleston and Savannah, the California coast, Central Europe, and Italy. As a lover of all things Irish, she herself visited Ireland, of course, but also the UK, France, and Russia. Her last trip was with the Mattatuck to the museums of Dallas and Fort Worth, TX.
She encouraged and supported her four daughters’ careers: Cynthia as an actor and later art dealer, Moira as a writer (her book Going the Distance details her personal struggle with multiple sclerosis), Regina in publishing as an editor-in-chief and champion of diverse voices, and Rebecca, in her work in international reinsurance. Mary became a surrogate parent for her friends whose parents had predeceased her.
The always popular Mary was known as an enthusiast, insatiably curious, a lover of life, of people, and a gentle flirt. An actor at Long Wharf Theatre, where Mary subscribed, said, “It’s a better audience if Mary Griffin is in it.” Always open to change, she addressed her lifelong fear of water by beginning AquaFit classes at the age of 90.
Predeceased by her husband and her dear brother James “Jimmy” Bowler and his wife, Rosalie (Maturo),, and her nephew Sean, she leaves behind her four daughters and sons-in-law, Cynthia (Stephen Haller), Moira Griffin-McKenna, Regina, Rebecca (James Heinzen); her grandchildren, Molly-Kate Griffin-McKenna, Conor and Jay Heinzen; her brothers, John (Mary Wilson) and Thomas Bowler, her much-loved nieces and nephews, and her many friends.
Due to the pandemic, a wake and Mass will be held later through Carpino’s Funeral Home and Sacred Heart Church in Southbury when everyone can get together to celebrate Mary’s love for life. To her, “Bliss it was to be alive.” In lieu of flowers, if you’d like, you may make a donation in Mary’s name to the Mattatuck Museum of Waterbury, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, or to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The Carpino Funeral Home of Southbury has been entrusted with the arrangements. To leave a message of remembrance, please visit www.CarpinoCares.com.
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