At weddings or parties years ago, Yvonne McGrory’s husband, Leo, would join her on the floor for just one dance, a slow number during which his feet never actually moved. No matter. She danced with enough enthusiasm for both of them. And the rest of their family. And the rest of the room.
Having taken dance lessons as a girl, she incorporated every new craze that came along into “a style of her own that people would raise their eyebrows at,” her daughter Carole McCarthy recalled, laughing. “There was a lot of body-shaking going on.”
Some stroll through the decades. Others slouch in the face of challenges. But Mrs. McGrory danced through life in ways literal and figurative. As intense in conversation as she was on the dance floor, she turned the casual encounter into something lasting.
“She had a special gift for creating friendships,” said her other daughter, Colleen of South Weymouth, vice president, sales, at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. “She made you feel like you were her best friend, so she had a lot of best friends. Some people have one. Some people have none. Even now, she probably had a dozen best friends.”
Mrs. McGrory, 85, a vibrant and memorable presence wherever she went, died Wednesday in Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. She had lived in Weymouth for many years.
“Everybody in Weymouth knew Yvonne McGrory,” said Mike Sheehan, a longtime friend who is chief executive of the advertising firm Hill Holliday. “She just meant something to everybody she met. She knew about their lives. She knew about their kids. She knew about their kids’ jobs.”
Because of the interest she lavished on others, he said, “there was never a moment I was with her that I thought was ordinary or plain or routine. Every moment was special.”
The second of seven children, Yvonne Bird grew up in Roslindale. In her early 20s, she would leave her job with the Public Utilities Department on summer Friday afternoons and hitchhike to a weekend beach rental with friends in Hull.
It was there she met Leo McGrory. They married in 1951 and had three children. Mrs. McGrory combined being a mother and working, first as a secretary at Faulkner Hospital, then as an executive secretary for an engineering firm. Mr. McGrory, who died in 1990, was a gentle counterweight to his wife’s ebullience.
“We always used to say that he held the reins on her, but not very tightly,” said Carole, who also lives in Weymouth and is a longtime nurse at Floating Hospital for Children.
Mrs. McGrory and her friend Jack Sheehan of Weymouth were constant companions in recent years. Their travels belied their age, including regular trips to Southern Maine, where she befriended proprietors of every local haunt, and Marco Island, Fla., where she was as well known as she was back home.
In retirement, she launched an event-planning business, to no one’s surprise.
“My mother could plan a party in an instant,” Carole said.
Mrs. McGrory’s business cards were black with silver lettering, accented by a red rose. She called her company Affairs by Yvonne. “Her motto was, ‘Your affair is my business,’ ” Carole said.
Carole and her brother, Brian, who was named editor of the Globe two weeks before his mother died, broke the news to Mrs. McGrory last Saturday that her cancer had spread.
“We were talking about things and I told her, ‘As you look back, you may be the only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t regret a single thing. Your only regret is that there isn’t more,’ ” Brian recalled. “And she said, ‘You’re absolutely right.’ ”
In addition to her two daughters, son, and Jack Sheehan, Mrs. McGrory leaves two brothers, Robert Bird of Duxbury and Jake Bird of Mashpee; a sister, Margaret Sweeney of Florida; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and five step-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass will be said at 10 Saturday in St. Francis Xavier Church in Weymouth. Burial will be in Mount Hope Cemetery in Weymouth.
Mrs. McGrory was often mistaken for someone much younger. Hospital staff would “look at the chart, look at her, look back at the chart, and say, ‘You’re 85?’ She never got tired of hearing it,” Colleen said.
“If you’re going to live to 85 or 90, you could learn a lot from her about how to do it right,” said Mike Sheehan, who is Jack’s nephew. “She ran through the finish line.”