ARLINGTON — When it became their turn to stand up for strangers, Arlington’s residents and first responders were there.
During light rain Wednesday morning, some residents and the town’s police force saluted a black hearse as the vehicle traveled down Massachusetts Avenue carrying the flag-draped casket of one of the town’s own — and one of the country’s own — US Air Force veteran Mary T. Foley.
Foley was 93 when she died Saturday, according to the town and her online obituary posted by the DeVito Funeral Home, which handled the final arrangements including interment at Holy Cross Cemetery in Malden. The cause of death was not announced, and she apparently left no relatives.
Prodded by Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine, residents — most wearing a mask and all keeping a 6-foot distance between them — were urged to stand and show their respect since Foley could not receive the military funeral she was entitled to as a veteran due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“During these trying times; we, as a community, must not forget the service and sacrifice of others,” Chapdelaine wrote about his plan to support Foley.
There were varying accounts of when Foley served in the Air Force, with some saying she was on the job in World War II or more recently in Korea and Vietnam. But that issue did not matter to one veteran who posted on her online obituary.
“Mary, I understand you leave behind no family! Not true," he wrote. "you have a very large veteran family you leave behind! Rest in peace and thank you for your service! A fellow Air Force veteran!!!
According to her online obituary, Foley was a parishioner at St. Camillus Church in Arlington for 51 years where she often attended Mass on a daily basis. "Mary was a wonderful storyteller and enjoyed sharing a good laugh with anyone who would listen,'' her obituary reads. “She especially loved telling her escapades in Europe during her years of service there.”
Town police officers stood at attention as the hearse drove past and many of the residents held American flags, some that could be carried in just one hand and others who needed both arms to hold up the flag as it stretched across their chests.
And there were some who held slightly sodden pieces of computer printout paper with four words in bold, black capital letters.
“THANK YOU MARY FOLEY,” they read.