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Judith and Jill Bailey: Sharing memories of generous Aunt Mary

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter from relatives of the late Mary McConnell Bailey offers reflections on the life of the woman with Northampton ties who left $10 million to the New York Public Library and $10 million to the Central Park Conservancy.

To the editor:

As heirs and nieces of Mary McConnell Bailey, we know she would have been appalled at the article with an inaccuracy (she taught kindergarten, not elementary school, in New York City) and especially with her picture.

She was a very private person whose priorities were family, friends, good food and the wonderful art and theater of her beloved New York. Aunt Mary saw her wealth as a responsibility and an opportunity to quietly give to others. She was not a recluse or an eccentric but a lady who chose to live comfortably, not ostentatiously, in her two-bedroom, two-bath corner apartment on the Upper East Side overlooking the 59th Street Bridge.

She thought it “inappropriate for one to flaunt one’s wealth.”

She met and fell in love with Frederick Bailey at a school dance at Monson Academy. He was charming and outgoing while she was shy. He called her “Red” because of her red hair.

Frederick had left college to join the Army when they married in February 1944. Although he survived the Battle of the Bulge, he died in Germany in April 1945. Mary then made New York her home, but remained close to her husband’s family in Northampton.

She visited Sidney and Mary Bailey (our grandparents) at the Beeches regularly. We visited her in New York often and kept in touch with letters and phone calls. We loved her and we miss her. We miss the super strong coffee she made at breakfast and the wickedly strong gin and tonics she mixed before dinner.

Frankly, we were surprised the Gazette would write her story without proper research of her McConnell and Bailey families in Northampton to find relatives who knew her well. And who could, at the very least, provide a decent photograph.

Judith and Jill Bailey

Green Valley, Ariz.

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