Margaret Kelly, 108-years-old since June and believed to be the oldest living Irish citizen in the world, passed away on Monday, September 27 at her nursing home in Glens Falls, New York.
Margaret, a native of Scarriff, Co. Clare, passed away peacefully in her sleep at 2 a.m., her daughter Margie Drum told the Irish Voice on Tuesday.
“She never had cancer or anything really wrong with her, and we are so happy for that,” said Drum. “I am so grateful for that, and so grateful for all the time we had with her. She was an amazing woman.”
In the weekend prior to her death Margaret had a severely decreased appetite and some confusion, but she was still talking, interacting and bringing joy to all those who knew her at the Pines Nursing Home in Glens Falls, which is 50 miles north of Albany. She had even recently moved into her own new private room.
“She kept saying to me, ‘Margie, I’m not staying here for good. I want to go home with you.’ And of course I told her she would,” said a teary Drum. “But last weekend I had a feeling she just wasn’t well. I would feed her but she wouldn’t swallow.”
Margaret arrived from Clare in the year 1918, and never returned to Ireland. She married Frederick Kelly, who she met upon arrival in New York at Ellis Island, gave birth to five children, one of whom, a boy, died when he was three, and spent most of her life in Manhattan and Queens until she moved upstate New York with Drum and her family in 1983.
The Irish Voice visited Kelly at the Pines in August, and she was remarkably sprightly and alert for a woman of her age. Her Irish brogue was also as thick as the day she left her homeland.
“I remember my mother, she’d hit you with anything she had in her hand! She had no mercy for you!” Margaret said. “And the church; we were always in the church. It was a great big church. I wonder if it’s still there.”
Margaret never looked back once she left Ireland. “I was glad to get out of it!” she said. “I love New York and I love this country! You can say and do anything you want here.”
Apart from ailments associated with the natural aging process, Margaret was never ill. She spent her days at the Pines with her family members – Drum was a constant presence at her mother’s side – and watching Oprah and the Fox News Channel on her new flat screen TV.
Margaret received a signed letter and commemorative coin from Irish President Mary McAleese every year since her 100th birthday, an Irish government policy of marking the milestones of its most remarkable citizens.
In addition to Drum, she is survived by her children Fred, Tommy and Eileen, 21 grandchildren, and numerous great and great-great grandchildren.
Burial is scheduled for Friday, October 1 at Gate of Heaven cemetery in Westchester, which is where her husband and late son Raymond are buried.