Mary Jane “Mike” Flynn, the matriarch of her family, who assisted her husband in his real estate firm, died of complications of a fall Sept. 9 at the Mercy Ridge Retirement Community in Timonium. The former Wiltondale and Glen Arm resident was 91.
Born in Philadelphia, she was the daughter of Helen E. Carroll and Joseph A. Gallagher, an official of the A.R. Winarick firm, which made Jeris Hair Tonic and other cosmetic products.
“She received her lifelong nickname in the hospital waiting room," said a family biography. "Her father confidently told a circulating nurse that his wife was expecting a boy, who would be named “Mike.” Upon presenting the newborn girl to him, the nurse announced: “Here’s your ‘Mike.’ ”
She grew up in Pelham Manor, New York, and earned a bachelor’s degree at Marymount College in Tarrytown, New York, where she was awarded the school’s Mother Butler English Award.
A music and dancing enthusiast, she attended social functions at the Westchester and Pelham country clubs. She also liked the orchestra at the Stork Club in New York City, where she also danced.
She met her future husband, Ramsey W.J. “Bill” Flynn, on a blind date. She had earlier spotted him cheer leading at an Iona Preparatory School sports event in New Rochelle. They married in 1954.
She and her husband moved to Towson, where Mr. Flynn went into selling real estate and co-founded O’Conor Piper & Flynn, which grew to become the state’s largest real estate brokerage.
“I don’t think my father made a move in his business without my mother being there,” said her daughter, Dorie Flynn of Lutherville.
Mrs. Flynn assisted her husband’s work by entertaining potential real estate purchasers and sellers. Her children said she had a “loaves and fishes” ability to accommodate family and unexpected business guests.
“She hosted all sorts of dinners for people moving to Baltimore or clandestine, private dinners when the firm was merging with other firms. When we closed an office, or opened a new one or moved — she was there unpacking boxes. There wan’t anything she didn’t get her hands on. She led that charge,” said another daughter, Maureen Flynn Kozelski of Mays Chapel.
Maureen Flynn Kozelski also said, “She was a remarkable woman, intelligent and well-read. She was a quiet, giving, behind-the-scenes person. She had a magical laugh that people still talk about.”
A family friend, John Gilsenan, who lives in South Carolina, recalled Mrs. Flynn’s hospitality: “She was sociable and welcoming. With little notice, my wife Mary and I were brought to their home. The table was set with a white tablecloth and china. The seven children were at the table too. By the end of the night we finished off one and a half hams.”
Mrs. Flynn worked for the Preservation Trust of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. In the 1950s, shortly after arriving in Baltimore, she became a fundraiser for the old St. Mary’s Villa, an orphanage at Roland Avenue and Cold Spring Lane. She ran casino nights for Maryvale Preparatory School and belonged to the Loyola Blakefield Mothers' Club. She was also a Villa Maria volunteer.
“She had a sublime way of calming storms,” said her son, Ramsay Flynn of Mays Chapel. ”My mother never sent a neighbor’s child home hungry. The dinner table simply swelled like an accordion. She was relentlessly gracious in all weathers."
Her children said that Mrs. Flynn often instructed them when unexpected guests arrived to be charming.
“She was unusually protective of her limited supply of Goldfish crackers,” said Dorie Flynn. "She would send her children to the living room with this admonition: ‘Go out there, be scintillating, and please don’t eat the Goldfish.’ ”
Another daughter, Kathleen Flynn, recalled a memorable family dinner.
“A scoop of vanilla with hot fudge substituted for the potatoes and gravy, ice cream sandwiches stood in for roast beef, and green chocolate mint ice cream represented some type of vegetable,” said her daughter. “My guess was that she wanted to make a point. The only way she could make a dinner that pleased everyone was to serve ice cream."
Her children said she leaned on the tenets of Catholicism. One of her most common sayings, when any child whined unnecessarily, was to “Offer it up for a higher place in heaven.” When a child displayed impatience with a show of self-pity, she said, “Please don’t bleed on the rug!”
When she felt her children were watching too much television, she quietly cut the TV cords one summer morning. To stop the flow of telephone calls during the dinner hour, she muzzled the phones by turning the ringers off and covering the flashing lights with a sweater, her children wrote in their biographical sketch.
Her husband gave her a chauffeur’s cap to use when driving her children to school and their activities. She wore it with pride.
After the family moved to Glen Arm and a property known as Holly Knoll in 1977, she was called on to welcome larger groups of people, including more than 1,000 guests to at an O’Conor Piper & Flynn picnic.
A reader of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, she kept news clippings to back up points being debated by her family or their friends.
In addition to her son and daughters, survivors include another son, Brian Flynn of Littlestown, Pennsylvania; two other daughters, Eileen Flynn Toohey of Lutherville and Tara Flynn Runge of Wiltondale; 14 grandchildren; and four step-grandchildren. Her husband of 56 years died in 2010.
Family services will be private. A memorial Mass will be offered when the pandemic has faded.
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