Floral 13

Moira (Griffin) Griffin-McKenna

October 26, 1954 ~ March 7, 2024 (age 69) 69 Years Old

Moira Griffin-McKenna Tribute

Moira Griffin McKenna, age 69, passed away peacefully in Waterbury Connecticut on March 7th, 2024, after a forty year marathon run with the chronic disease Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a progressively debilitating disease, but Moira’s story demonstrates that even though she couldn’t outrun the outcome, she finished first in the challenge of living a full life. 

She grew up in Waterbury, the grandchild of Irish immigrants from the Dingle Peninsula, and maintained her family's pride in the culture of Irish poetry, dance and music. She attended St. Francis Xavier and Catholic High, held a BA (Conn College, 1977) an MA in journalism (NYU, 1982). Post schooling, she performed legal research for the New York County Lawyers Association, wrote freelance articles on feminist issues such as access to credit, the legality of marital rape, and the work of Andrea Dworkin, studied neuropsychology at Yale, traveled in Ireland, Venezuela, Japan, and the Dominican Republic while working for Medical Meetings Magazine, and wrote an award winning memoir on living with MS, called Going The Distance, all by the age of 35. 

She and Joseph McKenna welcomed a daughter, Molly Kate, in 1991, and the rest of her life was spent as a mother. She and Joe divorced, but remained lifelong friends and co-parents.  Loving and advocating for her daughter became her primary objective.

She coaxed staff at therapeutic riding centers that she attended as a disabled person to allow her daughter to participate in horseback riding sessions, and took a bus paid for by Medicaid for an hour each morning to bring her daughter to a Montessori school in Litchfield. She won the hearts of music teachers who volunteered to drive the family home after her daughters' cello lessons, and used a scooter to escort her to self defense classes nearby their home. She also relied heavily on her three sisters, Cynthia, Regina, and Rebecca, and especially her mother, Mary, and her co-parent Joe, to work like a village to give the child of a disabled person the most advantageous opportunities imaginable, nothing except her own body dared to get in her way. 

Her passionate, obstinate, peevishly honest, and firmly affectionate method of addressing life by grabbing it by the hair of the head, even when all hope was lost, was an inspiration to many, and will be sorely missed. 

Even as she entered a nursing home, Autumn Hill at Bucks Lake, in 2013, she continued to engage with the world around her in a way that was far beyond ordinary. She started a recycling club, gave away most of her money to feminist, environmental, and progressive causes, made meaningful friendships with everyone from roommates to custodial staff, read dense and esoteric books (such as her favorite, Pale Fire, by Nabokov) every day, listened to Joni Mitchell, screened Wonder Woman, and exercised her arms, the last working part of her body. She even forced the nursing home to allow her to attend a yearly music festival organized by her daughter in Maine, traveling overnight with paid nursing staff in order to witness all that creative effort that she had worked to encourage. 

Her passing was recorded at Waterbury Hospital, with her daughter and her sister Regina at her side, looking out across the valley at St. Mary’s where she was born, and the Baldwin Street neighborhood where she and her three sisters grew up, and where she raised her daughter.

She is predeceased by her father, John Griffin, and mother, Mary Bowler Griffin, both also of Waterbury. She leaves behind her daughter, Molly Griffin McKenna, her former husband, Joseph McKenna, her sisters Regina Griffin, Cynthia Griffin Haller, Rebecca Griffin Heinzen, nephews Jay and Conor Heinzen, cousins Matt, James, Brigette, Alyssa, Penny, and Cara Bowler, and Uncle, Tom Bowler. 

A memorial will be held this spring, at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, where her mother Mary was a board member, and where the family attended many plays, art classes, and winter tree festivals. In lieu of flowers or gifts, a donation can be made to the MS Society or Emily’s List.

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