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Mary Scottoline, 90, feisty mother of best-selling novelist

Daughter Lisa Scottoline often wrote about her mother’s life.

Mary Scottoline
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LISA SCOTTOLINE, writer of best-selling mysteries and Inquirer humor columnist, frequently wrote about her mother.

Like the time she described in her column about discovering that Mother Mary, as she always called her, and Mary's son, Frank, were watching church services on TV at their home in Miami Beach.

"Mom, do you and Frank really watch church services on Sunday mornings?" Lisa asked.

"Who wants to know?" Mother Mary demanded.

After more dialogue, Mother Mary says, "It makes me feel good. Is that a good enough reason for you?"

"Yes," Lisa replies.

"I'm glad you approve," Mother Mary snorts.

Although Lisa often portrayed her mother as grumpy and irascible - she once wrote that Mother Mary "is Yosemite Sam on blood thinners" - the love always came through.

Mary Scottoline, a South Philly gal who never really left South Philly behind no matter where she lived, died Sunday of lung cancer at age 90. She had been living in Miami Beach and formerly lived in Bala Cynwyd.

Lisa reported her mother's death on her Facebook page, saying the family was "heartbroken," but adding, "We choose to remember her as here, making us laugh."

Take the time the family was trying to buy Mary new sheets. She had refused to use the sheets that son Frank had bought her. There were bats printed on the bottom sheet and Batman on the flat sheet.

"Mother Mary couldn't picture Batman lying on top of her," Lisa wrote. "Neither can I."

Mary claimed in April 2012 that she was bitten by a bed bug at Lisa's home and it still itched.

"It makes no sense," Lisa told her. "The last time you were at my house was during the summer. Your butt still can't itch from six months ago.

"All she says," Lisa wrote, "is, 'What can I tell you? It was a helluva bug.' "

Or the time Mother Mary called her daughter in a panic and said, "I need you!"

Lisa was about to call 9-1-1 and hop on the next plane to Florida when her mother revealed that she couldn't get her TV remote to work.

After one visit to Florida, Lisa wrote: "She's Earthquake Mary. And I'm having aftershocks."

When Mother Mary refused to put up with people singing "Happy Birthday" to her on her 90th, Lisa asked, "What if I have someone jump out of a cake?"


"Telly Savalas."

"He's dead."

After Mother Mary finally agreed to let people sing to her, a tearful occasion as it turned out, Lisa wrote: "Ninety years with Mother Mary. To me, it's still not enough."

Even in her final hours, Mother Mary was as feisty as ever. No longer able to speak, she wrote on a whiteboard. Asked how she was feeling, she wrote, "Aside from this crap, I'm doing fine."

Mary was the youngest of 19 children and when she attended West Catholic High School, she had to walk many blocks to class.

She worked as a secretary for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission for a time, and as an administrative assistant to an insurance company in Ardmore.

Mary was married and divorced twice, to the late Nicholas DiVario and the late Frank J. Scottoline. She moved to Bala Cynwyd because she wanted her children to attend schools in Lower Merion Township. She moved to Florida 15 years ago.

Besides Lisa, a former lawyer and author of 20 suspense novels and numerous other books, and son Frank, she is survived by another son, Nicholas Eugene DiVario, and a granddaughter, Francesca Serritella, who often writes the Inquirer column, "Chick Wit," with her mother.

Services: Memorial service was yesterday. Burial was private. Donations may be made to the American Cancer Society,