Mary Scottoline, 90, formerly of Bala Cynwyd, the hilarious, sometimes profane, larger-than-life maternal figure known to readers as "Mother Mary," died Sunday, April 13, of lung cancer at the home of her daughter, Lisa, the author and Inquirer columnist.
"We are heartbroken to report that Mother Mary passed away at home this morning, though she was at peace and in the embrace of our love. We choose to remember her as here, making us laugh," Lisa Scottoline said Monday on her Facebook page.
Mrs. Scottoline dealt with her final two weeks the way she did everything; she was cheerful, unfazed and funny.
Near the end, when she couldn't speak, she communicated with family and caregivers by means of a whiteboard. How are you, they wanted to know.
"Aside from this crap, I'm doing fine," her son Frank said she wrote.
The youngest of 19 children, Mrs. Scottoline grew up in a strict family in South Philadelphia. More or less ignored, she had to fight for attention.
She wanted to attend West Catholic High School so badly that she walked many blocks to get to school.
She became a secretary to the Philadelphia City Planning Commission at one point, and later, an administrative assistant to an insurance company in Ardmore.
She was married and divorced twice - to Nicholas DiVario and Frank J. Scottoline. A single mother, she lived in Norwood, Delaware County, but pushed to move to Bala Cynwyd because she wanted a Lower Merion education for her children.
Ten years ago, she beat throat cancer. She gave up smoking and beat congestive heart failure, too. Through it all, she was upbeat and hilarious.
"She didn't expect anything to be easy," said her granddaughter Francesca Serritella.
In March, Mrs. Scottoline was admitted to the hospital wearing a white lab coat. She wasn't trying to trump the docs; she liked the pockets.
When daughter Lisa and Serritella wrote about the rough air between mothers and daughters in their Inquirer column, "Chick Wit," and books including Meet Me at Emotional Baggage Claim, they found that Mrs. Scottoline's persona flowed seamlessly onto the pages.
"She loved being in the book," said Lisa Scottoline. "Her personality and spirit was big enough for any room twice over. She stood for a good, strong, funny woman."
The stories resonated with readers, who found elements of Mrs. Scottoline in their own mothers.
Fifteen years ago, Mrs. Scottoline (pronounced Scott-a-LEE-nee) went south to Miami Beach to live with her son, Frank. She was very well-liked, he said. She enjoyed cooking Italian meals and pampering her pets.
She always said exactly what she felt. "Thank you for today," she once told her son.
Surviving, in addition to her son, daughter, and granddaughter, is another son, Nicholas Eugene DiVario. Her former husbands died earlier.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 15, at the D'Anjolell Memorial Home of Malvern/Frazer, 392 Lancaster Ave., Frazer. Interment is private.
Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society via www.cancer.org/.