Elaine at her desk at Atria-Draper Place in 2011

 Elaine (Holt) Malloy

In the family home on George Street, Mendon, Elaine Holt opened the Milford News one day in May 1963. She was soon fascinated by a picture showing three guys from Hopedale who were graduating from UMass. She decided, then and there, that she was going to marry one of them. Fortunately, I was the one. There she was, a 19-year old who had had no shortage of boyfriends, making this decision about someone she didn’t know, and she stuck with that decision for nearly a year before we started dating. What 19-year old does anything like that? But that was Elaine. Whenever she set her mind to do something, she stayed with it.

During the past week I’ve spoken with many people whose lives were touched by Elaine. Most of their stories I knew; some I didn’t. They all involved her going out of her way to help them. I’ve seen her drop everything when she found someone who needed assistance. We barely knew the Moroskis when Elaine heard that Cathy was going to be hospitalized for a while. Right away we were over there at their home in Northbridge, with Elaine cooking, washing clothes, cleaning the house and doing anything else that needed to be done. I always got involved with anything she did. In that situation, I walked their dog.

When Elaine found out that her Aunt Margaret in South Grafton was having difficulty doing what needed to be done to remain in her home, she jumped right in to help. We’d go to Margaret’s house three or four times a week where she’d do anything needed. She’d bring the laundry home to wash, and return it on the next trip,along with a few meals. She did all sorts of other things for her, and this went on for about six years. Margaret was able to stay in her home, where she died a few months after turning 100.

When Elaine’s Aunt Evelyn in Florida reached her 90s, she was at the point of needing help from time to time.Elaine didn’t like to fly, but nevertheless she made a good number of visits to Winter Haven to assist her not easy to deal with aunt.

Of course much of Elaine’s time and energy for years were spent taking care of DJ, CeCe and me, but there’s far too much of that to go into here.

After Elaine’s mother died, it appeared that her father was unable to live alone. She very quickly converted our dining room into a comfortable room for him. He lived there for the last five years of his life. A few years later my father was too weak from heart trouble to function alone. Elaine turned the dining room into a room for him, and he was there for the last four months of his life. Both situations involved many difficulties, but she was able to handle them.

When Lisa and Ahren were building their house in Thompson, Connecticut, Elaine heard that they could use some help. Very soon were going there most days of the week, for several months, staining woodwork and doing whatever else was within our capabilities. I don’t know what it was, but when we had done all we could there, I’m sure she found another project somewhere else.

When there were no projects to be done, she would be knitting something for someone. She was always finding someone she could add to her list of people she could give gifts to. A few years ago she came across a pattern for a knit hat that she liked. She kept going back to a yarn store for more yarn, and by the time she moved on to another activity, she had made and given away about 35 of them.

For years, usually starting not long after Christmas, she’d find a pattern for a wooden item she could give for the next Christmas. She’d show it to me and say, “Danny, could you cut out 30 of these?” I’d buy some 1 x 8s and get to work with my band-saw. Often, before I was done, she’d think of a few other people and up the number by two or three. I had the easy part of the job. She’d spend a long time on the painting.

Many years ago, Sacred Heart Church had an annual fundraiser called the Pumpkin Patch Fair. Elaine dove right into that, creating stuffed fabric pumpkins and various other items to be sold at the event. She’d spend every spare minute all week at her sewing machine. Then she’d bring what she had done into the weekly meeting and have the ladies on the committee do some finish work. The following day she’d be back at it getting ready for the next week. Recalling this, CeCe said the other day, the project would colonize the house.

When Elaine began as director of the Bancroft Library in Hopedale in 1988, she set five goals, and by the time she retired in 2001, she had accomplished four and had the fifth underway. She might have accomplished them all in one or two years, but the fin-comm wasn’t about to dole out the money that fast. When she started, the furnace was in a shed, roughly 40 feet behind the library. I’m sure most of the heat, as it traveled from furnace to building, served the purpose of melting the snow above the pipe. Before long she had a furnace installed in the building, and the shed is now used for storage.

Another project was getting air conditioning for the library. Until that was done, the library was closed on days when the temperature in there got into the 90s. They had remained open when it was in the 80s, but of course it was rather uncomfortable.

As children’s books had gotten larger since the children’s room was first opened, the shelves were no longer suitable. Elaine had shelves made and delivered to the library. For a few weeks they sat in the program room and hall while she polyurethaned them. The budget had provided enough money to have the shelves built, but not to have them finished. She probably paid for the polyurethane herself. We both painted some of the walls downstairs. She also painted Disney characters on the wall of the children’s room and did some other children’s literature related paintings in the hall and program room. At some point, probably when all of this was done, she had a plaque made, and had a ceremony to name the room, the Marjorie Hattersley Children’s Room in honor of Marge, who had retired around that time, and had been the children’s librarian for decades.

Another big project was making the building handicapped accessible. There were many complications along the way, and the funds to do the work would be spread over five years. Partly related to the job was the general improvement of the appearance and usefulness of the formerly dungeon-like parts of the basement. Unfortunately, quite possibly due to the mold or other things that had been growing undisturbed in there for decades, Elaine developed asthma at that time.

One morning, several years into the accessibility project, Elaine walked into the library and found that the workers were planning to move the circulation desk ten or fifteen feet toward the front door. They weren’t about to take no for an answer, but no is what she was telling them. In the end, the move didn’t happen. Everyone I’ve  talked to about that is happy she was there and wasn’t about to get pushed around.

Decades ago the main parts of the Statue of Hope had been covered during the winter. By the time Elaine was at the library, the covering was long gone. It had probably rotted away, and the statue was deteriorating. It was  looking pretty bad. Elaine didn’t want to see further deterioration. She got an estimate of $40,000 to do the needed work. State Rep. Marie Parente obtained a grant in that amount, but probably because there had been a delay, by the time the project went out to bid, none were received that were under $100,000. Elaine wasn’t discouraged. She went to work to find enough money to proceed. She got some from the town, some from the Hopedale Foundation, and some from private donations. The whole process took about a year, and there was one crisis after another. Even at home, I heard her making many calls to keep the job moving.

The final step of the Hope project for her was to create a completion report to be submitted to the Massachusetts Historical Commission. She had to make four copies of it, each in a four-inch binder. It had to be detailed, even down to the formula for the mortar used in the work. The job had to have been photographed as work continued. Since I work for free, I was the photographer. There were more than 100 photos, and each had to be captioned, and of course multiply all of this by four.

Elaine had been meticulous about keeping every scrap of information that she’d need for the report, but somehow the ad for bids that had been placed in the Milford News was missing. She needed a copy of it to show that she had advertised for bids in three places. She had the other two, but not that one. Normally there would be an easy solution to this. Somebody, probably me, would just go to the Milford Library where they would have it on microfilm. At that time, however, the library was undergoing a huge renovation and their microfilm projector was buried under all sorts of things. Fortunately, they were able to get the film for the date when the ad had been published. They let me take it to the Franklin Library where I put it in their projector, and was able to find it and print it in just a couple of minutes. I tell this just to give an idea of what was going on to get the project done. That’s just one example; there were a lot more picky things involved than that. After the cleaning was completed, a cover was made to protect Hope in the winter. The original cover, which outlived its predicted lifetime, was found to be unsuited for use this winter. (2018-2019) A fund-raising campaign provided the money for a new one.

The fifth of Elaine’s library goals, barcoding, was in progress when she retired in 2001.

In addition to her major goals, Elaine was always working on smaller projects. One example would be the  Christmas tea. Not long after she began working at the library, she decided she wanted to do something to get more people into the building. She came up with the idea of holding a Christmas tea. The Christmas tea was what she always called it, but I’d say it was a Christmas lunch. She did it annually up until her last year there. With assistance and funds from the Friends of the Hopedale Library, she’d rent china (no paper plates or cups for that event), make sandwiches, etc., etc. and host about 120 people. Yes, 120 people in the library, all on the main floor.

A big part of the teas were the ornaments. Some years she would cross-stitch about 140 ornaments of different patterns. They’d take at least eight hours apiece to do. They’d be hung on a Christmas tree and as the guests left they could each take one. (Why 140 ornaments for 120 people? There were always homes in need of the extras.) More often she’d buy twelve to fourteen dozen wooden ornaments and paint them. They were fairly intricate and would take about the same amount of time to do as the cross-stitched ones. By January, she’d be starting on ornaments for the next year.

For the most part, Elaine had very little concern about money, as evidenced by the fact that checks would often sit around the house uncashed for months. She wouldn’t hesitate to buy the best yarn, or go to Northboro where her favorite meat market was, to buy 40 pounds of corned beef every year for St. Patrick’s Day dinners. But we got along fine as a one car family for 35 years of our nearly 52 years of marriage. In 1969 we were looking for a house to buy, and came across a nice one in Grafton. We probably would have bought it, but the price was $25,000. In those days, that seemed like an amount way beyond what we could afford. A few months later we found a more affordable house ($14,000, with a mortgage payment of $85 a month for 20 years) on Inman Street. We moved into it in February 1970 and she was never interested in living anywhere else.

Elaine liked to be very precise about things. Often at medical appointments she’d be asked if she was, or ever had been, a smoker. She’d reply yes, she had been many years ago. I’d remind her that was for two weeks when she was 17. For all practical purposes, the answer should be, “No.”  

For many years Elaine had said that she wanted to go to Alaska and Hawaii. In 2007 we went to Alaska. More recently Ted and Paula were planning to go to Hawaii and wanted us to go with them. I said if they could move Hawaii about 5,000 miles closer I’d go, but not until then. That was okay with Elaine. If I wasn’t going she wasn’t going and she never complained about it.

Sometimes Elaine could be very patient and other times very impatient. When we were out in the car, I’d see what I’d regard as normal traffic, and she’d see a road crowded with idiots. Actually, there was another term she’d use more than idiots. When she was knitting, she’d occasionally see that she’d made a mistake, sometimes 40 rows back, and usually something only she would notice. Without a word she’d tear it out and redo it. When we moved to Inman Street, we knew we wanted to make lots of changes in the kitchen. We didn’t rush into it. We thought about what to do for three or four years, and then it took another three years to get the job done. For a long time our island countertop was just a piece of plywood. Although she was working in the kitchen every day, the long process never seemed to bother her.

Elaine was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Over the next three years, she was in the operating room ten times, had twelve bladder infusions, and countless rounds of chemo, scans and various other medical procedures. She tolerated the chemo amazingly well, but in the end it didn’t give the hoped for result. What I’ve written here just gives a hint as to what she was like. I think all who knew us, knew how much we loved each other, and have an idea of how much I’ll miss her. I had hoped we’d have another twenty years together.
                       Elaine’s memories of growing up in Mendon in the 1950s.            HOME   

Elaine and Dan in a small plane in Alaska in 2007.

In 1999, Elaine organized an event to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Bancroft Memorial Library. She painted about 120 of the ornament shown above to give as favors to the guests.

The shop ornament above was made for the grand opening of the Little Red Shop Museum. Elaine painted more that 100 of them to give out on that occasion. I don’t remember when the one below was given out, but I cut at least 100 of those and she painted them. Over her years as library director, she did about 12 to 14 dozen ornaments each year for the annual Christmas teas.

When Elaine was four, her mother taught her how to knit. Over the next seven decades she created countless sweaters, hats, scarves and other items. When she wasn’t knitting, she was usually cross-stitching, sewing, painting or quilting.

Our tables were often covered with projects such as the one above and the one below.

This is a christening gown Elaine made from the baby’s grandmother’s wedding dress. I remember that a lot of thought and planning went into it to make it come our right.

Here are some of the Christmas ornaments Elaine made in 2013.

After years of doing cross-stitching, Elaine got into adding beads to her cross-stitch work. These pictures show just part of the Chistmas village that she did.

Occasionally Elaine would make up her own pattern for a cross-stitching, such as this one for the Hopedale Community House.

Another of Elaine’s crafts was quilting. In addition to regular quits, she made quilted table runners, wall hangings and the Nativity scene above. I think she made and gave away at least a couple of dozen of those.

The four pictures above show some of the items Elaine painted for Christmas presents. For many years, by January she would have decided on a gift for the aunts, the library ladies, and some friends. She’d cut out a pattern and ask me to cut, usually about 35 of them. I’d go down cellar every now and then and get the job done in a few months. It would just take me a few minutes to cut and sand each one, but it would take her a lot longer to do the painting.

I’m not sure what Elaine painted these ornaments for, but some of them might have been for the Christmas teas at the library. They were usually all gone by the end of the event, but she may have set a few aside.

These nutcracker soldiers were given to Elaine by Dick Orff. Actually he gave her about eight of them of several different designs. His wife, Bev, had bought them but hadn’t gotten around to painting them. After she passed away Dick gave them to Elaine. Over a period of several years she painted all of them, and gave away all except one.

Elaine painted these and more on the children’s room walls at the Bancroft Library. They were there for about 20 years, but painted over a few years ago.

This is the article Elaine saw in the Milford News in 1963 that instantly led to her decision to marry me. I have no idea why, but it certainly worked for both of us.

The following is from Deb Rudy, Elaine’s roommate at Brigham & Women’s, where she was a patient for a few days before she was sent to Blaire House in Milford, where she passed on March 22, 2019.

Oh Danny I am so devastated.  Thank you for letting me know.  I know we only knew each other for a couple of days, but I feel like we were lifelong friends. I can honestly say I have never clicked with another person so instantly.  Elaine and I had so many conversations about our lives, family, loves and hates.  She talked about you and how much she loved you from the moment she saw you.  She told me she loved you more each day.   She told me it was love at first sight. We also spoke of her travels abroad with her mother. She described places with such flare and passion I felt like I was there! What a joy it was, those conversations.  When the nurses would come in the middle of the night to check on us we would chat for a while until we both drifted off to sleep.  We even mentioned it was like having a sleep-over. I will miss her. I will never forget her!  I am so sorry for your loss Danny. If there is anything I can do, please let me know. I feel privileged to have met all of you. Please give my condolences to everyone.  

Sincerely, Debby

Elaine’s memories of growing up in Mendon in the 1950s.

   Dan Malloy          CeCe Malloy  

   Ed Malloy          Evelyn Malloy  

   Tom Malloy  

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