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1921 Mary 2023

Mary Largess

July 28, 1921 — February 15, 2023

Mary Curran Largess of Saranac Lake, N.Y. passed away peacefully in her home on February 15, 2023 with her youngest daughter Cathy by her side. She was 101.

Mary was born July 28, 1921 in Worcester, MA to Mary Coutanche Curran and Joseph Patrick Curran, the third of four children. She was a lively and curious child and often talked fondly of playing with her siblings in the woods near their home where they lived, next to a forest at the edge of town. It instilled in her a life-long appreciation for the beauty of nature.

Mary attended Framingham State Teachers College in Framingham, MA, the first in her family to go to college. She graduated with a degree in Home Economics, but moved to Boston to be an airline stewardess. Mary flew for American Airlines on routes between Boston, NYC and Washington, D.C., delighting her passengers with her charm and wit. She made it a point to find out information about her upcoming passengers and would welcome each one aboard with personally-tailored remarks.

In the midst of World War II, Mary went to a church dance back home in Worcester and was swept off her feet by a handsome naval officer who was to become her husband, Clifton Russell Largess, Jr., also of Worcester. They were married on July 4, 1945. After the war, Cliff stayed in the navy as a pilot and training officer, and was assigned to the air station in Charlestown, RI, beginning a long connection to southern RI.

But the family was to move every two years or so, following Cliff’s military orders—to California, Washington State, Colorado, back to Wickford, RI, Newport twice, Virginia Beach, Washington, D.C. and Rochester, NY. Mary enthusiastically moved each time, going ahead to find a house big enough to accommodate her growing brood of—eventually—eight children; with Mary’s artistic eye for color and design, every home ended up more beautiful than when they bought it. Mary also found time first to locate and enroll her children in the nearest Catholic school, then to haul them all to the library to sign up for library cards. Her children were all blessed with both an enduring faith and a deep love of reading.

Many of Mary’s children learned to swim before they could walk, as she was a great swimmer and loved to be near and in the water. She signed them up for local sports leagues, for art and piano lessons, swimming and sailing lessons, and would often take them to museums in Boston or Washington: she always strove to provide a rich, full life for her children.

As her children matured, Mary dusted off her teaching degree and returned to the classroom to teach high school home economics, first at Monroe High, then at Bishop Kearney High School in Rochester, NY. Her former students often tell stories of how accepting she was of everyone’s differences and of the personal attention she gave to each.

After leaving teaching, Mary continued to share her gifts as a seamstress, making custom-designed dresses for entire wedding parties. She worked it into a small business but often she would simply gift friends and family with the dresses.

Cliff and Mary eventually retired to Jamestown, RI where they had lived for several years and then returned to each summer. They both became immersed in year-round small town life there. Mary was known for her open arms to the town characters at the fringe of society, welcoming them into her home and listening to each with interest and compassion. Mary and Cliff also were famous for dressing as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the local school children, wearing authentic suits Mary designed and made.

Mary was a voracious reader who especially liked inspirational books which she liked to pass on, and throughout her life continued to enjoy watching any and all sports, particularly baseball. She also was a very accomplished pianist, as well as a knitter, a baker, and a cook, who churned out amazing creations seemingly effortlessly.

Mary was preceded in death by her husband Cliff in 2011 in Wickford, RI. The next year she moved to the Adirondacks, where she and Cliff had often traveled to visit their youngest daughter and her family. She moved into an apartment at the Saranac Village at Will Rogers retirement community in Saranac Lake and soon became one of the most popular residents with her zest for life and her ability to entertain with her countless funny stories.

Mary was preceded in death by two of her sons, Dan and John, events which proved to be the two greatest sorrows of her life. Her sister Jane and her brothers Raymond and George also all preceded her. Also preceding her was daughter-in-law Elizabeth Lane.

Mary is survived by her children, Clifton Russell III of San Diego, CA; Mark of Reno, NV; Mary Largess Lee of Gold Beach, OR; Matthew of Pachaug Forest, CT; Luke (Elizabeth Leland) of Black Mountain, NC; Cathy (Christopher) Woodward of Gabriels, NY.; daughter-in law Karen Largess of East Greenwich, RI; and former children-in-law Alan Lee of Gold Beach, OR, and Kay Largess of Jamestown, RI.

Mary also leaves behind her grandchildren, Daemion (Lisa James) Lee, Noël (Robin) Mirhadi, Alexandra (Michael) Carrozza, Mackenzie (Rebecca Marcus) Lee, Peter (Betsy) Largess, Gary Largess, Jack Largess, Patrick Woodward, Abbie Largess, and Gabriel (Léa) Woodward. In addition, she is survived by three great-grandsons: Manu James Lee, Winslow Marcus Lee and Jonah Marcus Lee.

Mary is survived by numerous nieces and nephews who admired her sparkling personality that added light to any family event. She is the last of her generation in the large Curran/Largess clan, so her passing marks the end of a remarkable and storied era in family lore.

Burial services will take place at St. Mark’s Church in Jamestown, RI, at a later date. Those wishing to make donations in her name, please send to the Innocence Project of New Orleans, PO Box P.O. Box 792808, New Orleans, LA 70179-2808. She was fascinated with her grandson Jack’s efforts there, where they work to free innocent or unjustly sentenced people incarcerated in Louisiana. A donation link and information can be found at their website:

Much appreciation to the staff at Will Rogers and to her personal nursing aides, who all made Mary feel special and loved. Especially in her last days, they made efforts well above and beyond their daily duties to make sure she had the utmost comfort and care, as if she were one of their own.

Special thanks to Mary’s youngest daughter Cathy, who tirelessly watched over Mary’s increasing need for care throughout her years at Will Rogers and was steadfastly determined that when the time came, Mary would be able to die peacefully, in her own time, in her own bed. Her goal was thankfully, gracefully met: for that, her family is deeply and forever grateful.
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