WEST PITTSTON — Margaret McGrath and her family had always loved Halloween.
McGrath, known as “Peggy,” and by those closest to her as “Hurricane,” enjoyed playing the “foil” for her husband, Raymond, who passed away in 1984.
“My father would jump out of closets to scare the trick-or-treaters,” said daughter Renee Hanan, of Nantucket, Massachusetts. “And my mother would always be there to give the kids candy after they recovered from fright.”
Hanan also remembers that her mother, along with her aunt, Alberta Walsh, made their children’s costumes each year. “We never wore a store bought costume,” she said.
This year, in their mother’s memory, McGrath’s children decided to honor a special final request. Before she passed away on Oct. 1 at Hospice of the Sacred Heart, Dunmore, McGrath asked her family and friends to remember the special gatherings that they always shared.
On Saturday, her family, which includes Hanan and McGrath’s sons, Ray and James, did just that by opening up their mother’s home for a special Halloween party and open house. Children who stopped by were given treat bags filled with candy bars and toothbrushes, an idea the family got from late comedian Robin Williams. Adults were provided with refreshments.
An invitation to the community was included in McGrath’s obituary, which appeared in the Times Leader on Oct. 19.
McGrath loved living in West Pittston, and this was her way of giving back to the community, her family said. She initially planned to throw a party on Oct. 31 as a retirement bash for her son, but when her health declined, she wanted her family to still have the party in remembrance of the family’s joyous times together.
Before the open house, McGrath’s family held a memorial Mass at Corpus Christi Parish’s Immaculate Conception Church in West Pittston, followed by a luncheon. The Mass featured Broadway tunes, along with an intimate homily from Monsignor John Sempa.
“She didn’t want it to be a sad occasion,” said Walsh, McGrath’s sister and dearest friend, who has shared McGrath’s home with her since 2009.
McGrath resided on the first floor, and Walsh lives in an apartment on the second floor. Before that, the sisters lived together at Gateway Apartments, Edwardsville, for many years. James, known to his family as “Jimmer,” also shares the home, after moving back from California to help out his mother and aunt.
Hanan and Walsh credit Jimmer’s hard work, not only for restoring the Susquehanna Avenue home to its original Victorian elegance, but also for making it Halloween ready on Saturday. The walkway was strewn with lights that looked like skulls and bones, and flying ghosts and bats whirled around the porch. Spooky eyeballs peeked out of the shrubs, and hands reached out of railings, ready to grab unsuspecting passersby. The eerie atmosphere was made complete with noise effects of howling wolves, cackling witches and other scary sounds of the season.
Yet even with such a festive atmosphere, it was the kind invitation McGrath extended to the community that seemed to bring people to the doorstep.
Pat Murman and her daughter Christa, both of Duryea, stopped by to give condolences as well as a gift for the family. Neither woman had ever met McGrath, but after seeing the announcement for the community Halloween party, they knew they had to stop by.
“It’s just such a beautiful thought,” said Pat Murman. “To do this for other people.”
And even though McGrath may be gone, her family will let the celebrations live on. They’ve already begun planning a party for McGrath’s birthday anniversary on May 4, a party that will once again be open to the community.
As for the Halloween bash on Saturday, the family said, whether they had one or a hundred visitors, it was still a success. “Even if we didn’t get any trick-or-treaters,” said Hanan, “it’s still a family affair.
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