Mary K. J. Mooney-Getoff

07/22/2010 12:00 AM |

Mary K. J. Mooney-Getoff, 81, of Northampton, Mass., died peacefully in her sleep on July 7 in Leeds, Mass.

Mary was born on Aug. 14, 1928, in Ozone Park, Queens. Her mother, Marie Murphy Mooney, died when Mary was only 13 months old. Raised as an only child by her father and his siblings, she often said it was like being raised by a committee. Her father, John Mooney, died when she was 19. Mary had a close relationship with her favorite aunt, Kate Mooney, with whom she lived for many years in her early adult life in New York City.

Mary had a lifelong passion for learning. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Pratt University. She and Dr. Louis Getoff were married in 1963 and separated 12 years later. As a determined single parent of two young girls, Mary returned to school, earning a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University. At the age of 70 Mary again returned to school and earned a MPS in gerontology from Southampton College.

She spent many years teaching courses on topics including culture through food, Chinese cooking and embracing solitude. In the early 1970s, she wrote a food column for Long Island’s Traveler Watchman newspaper and in later years ran a successful bed and breakfast, delighting in cooking her delicious apple rings and chatting with guests.

Throughout her life, Mary was adventurous, open-minded and kind. During college, she spent summers studying Spanish in Madrid. She camped alone all over the U.S., visiting homesites of Laura Ingalls Wilder and later publishing on the topic. Throughout her daughters’ lives she had a quote taped to her refrigerator that said, “If you don’t raise your kids right, nothing else you do really matters much.” At her lifelong home in Southold, she was a magnet for troubled teens and stray cats, allowing both to stay as long as needed.

Mary always found her joy in the simplest of things: her children, singing, the orange lilies growing along the road and eating sweets. She grew her own garden, raised her own chickens and brought her own bags long before it was cool to do so. Her framed motto was, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Almost daily she would say, “It’s just so good to be alive, isn’t it?”

Mary will always be alive in the hearts of her daughters, Maria Getoff (Peter Hayes) and Sarah Getoff (Chris Scanlon); her stepsons, David Getoff (Linda Schubert) and Michael Getoff (Donna); her granddaughters, Dara Getoff, Molly Getoff Hayes and Sofia Getoff-Scanlon; and many other relatives and friends.

A service celebrating Mary’s life will take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 21, at Czelusniak Funeral Home in Northampton, Mass., with a local reception to follow.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to a place very close to Mary’s heart: a nonprofit, spiritual retreat center. Checks may be made payable to Star Island Corporation and mailed to the same at Morton-Benedict House, 30 Middle St., Portsmouth, NH 03801. Donations can also be made online at In the memo line, please note “In honor of Mary Mooney-Getoff, a member of the IA Conference.”