Swissvale woman was known for kindness, scones
Whether one was a relative or simply someone in need of a hot meal, the door to Mary Folan’s Swissvale home was always open.
“And for over a 16-year period, my parents always had foster children living with us,” said her daughter, Maggie Folan.
Mary Theresa Cloonan Folan, of Forest Hills, died of an aneurysm on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007, at UPMC Presbyterian. She was 78.
“With the exception of our kitchen and living room, all the other rooms in the house were bedrooms,” Maggie Folan said. “We even had our aunt and uncle living with us.
“Although my parents’ agreement with Children and Youth Services was for temporary housing, one of the foster children stayed for nine years.”
Born in Homestead and raised on a farm in Galway, Ireland, Mary Cloonan was one of 11 children in the family of Festus and Ann McDonnell Cloonan.
In 1946, Mary Cloonan returned to Homestead when she was 18 to work and send money home to her parents.
Although Mary Cloonan and Michael Folan lived 20 miles from each other when they were growing up in Ireland, they met for the first time in 1949 while riding a streetcar in Pittsburgh, their daughter recalled. They were married two years later.
In the years following her marriage, Mrs. Folan continued working as a housekeeper and baby sitter while at the same time involving herself and her family in the traditions of the homeland she left behind.
She saw to it that all of her children took up Irish dancing and learned to play musical instruments, said her daughter.
“The first meeting of the Irish Center that was built in Squirrel Hill took place in our living room,” she said.
Although Mrs. Folan never participated in her husband’s Irish radio programs over WPSL, she monitored the broadcasts for any errors on dates for upcoming events.
“We’re an Irish family living in America,” her daughter said. “But my parents never forgot that it was this country that gave their children opportunities that they would never have had back home.”
Mrs. Folan also was recognized for her scones, which were served during the receptions following the benefit concerts for the Brendan Foley Scholarship Fund for Central Catholic High School in Oakland.
The scholarship, which benefits members of Central Catholic’s rowing team and the band, was named after her grandson who died after a bicycle accident in 1996.
Mrs. Folan is survived by her children, Patrick and Eamonn Folan, both of McCandless, and Maggie and Sally Folan, both of Forest Hills; and 11 grandchildren.
She also is survived by three siblings in Ireland, Margaret Heffernan, Catherine O’Donnell and Eddie Cloonan, and two brothers in this country, Bernard Cloonan of Forest Hills and Thomas Cloonan of Shaler.
Mrs. Folan was preceded in death by four brothers, Michael, James, Festus and John Cloonan; a sister, Helen O’Donnell; and grandson, Brendan Foley.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. today in St. Anselm Roman Catholic Church, Swissvale.
Arrangements are being handled by the Nied Funeral Home Inc., 7441 Washington St., Swissvale.