Anne McShane, a former special education teacher and key Suffolk Democratic activist who helped build the party for three decades and erode Republican dominance, has died. She was 86.
McShane, a Deer Park resident for decades, died Friday at her home in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where she and her husband, William McShane, moved in 2013 to be near their children.
Former Democratic Suffolk County Executive Patrick Halpin, now a lobbyist, said he first met McShane during former Rep. Tom Downey’s 1974 first House race. “She was always optimistic, every election mattered and she helped get Tom elected,” he said. “She helped build the party from the foundation up when Democrats were few and far between.”
During her career, McShane served 12 years as Babylon Democratic co-leader, later worked for Halpin’s Office of Aging as a liaison to town senior programs. She also worked at the Suffolk Board of Elections and as an aide to Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Queens). Her last political job was as a fundraiser for former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, including during his unsuccessful bid for governor.
“Anne was one of the most nurturing persons … ever,” Levy said. “She was all about family and if you were in her orbit, you were part of it. But before you’d ever talk business, you would have to be fed.”
Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Gerard and her husband wed in 1954 and the couple moved to Freeport, opening and operating a gas station for three years. They moved to Deer Park in 1957, where they raised five children. One child, Marianne Cowell, predeceased her parents at age 30.
When her children were young, McShane returned to school for a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University in 1970 and worked for a decade as a teacher at the Milton Olive Middle School in Wyandanch, later getting a master’s degree in special education from Hofstra.
‘‘She loved teaching, but she loved politics more,” said Jack Braslow, former Babylon Democratic chairman with whom McShane was co-leader for 12 years. He added McShane and her husband were “relentless in going out and going door to door” often with flashlights at night to get petition signatures for candidates. ”They’d go out for two or three days and get hundreds of names,” he said.
Former Suffolk Legis. Presiding Officer Sondra Bachety (D-Babylon) said McShane only began working full time in politics after retiring as a teacher. “She was an amazingly energetic woman who never stopped,” Bachety said. “She could do things people a third her age couldn’t.”
Anita Katz, Suffolk’s Democratic elections commissioner, said, “Regardless of age, she had an indomitable can-do spirit.”
Aside from politics, her family said McShane loved to cook, entertain family and go on cruises, traveling as far as Alaska and Panama, taking more than a dozen trips over the years. Her son, William McShane Jr. of Babylon said his mother also had a lifelong love of singing Celtic songs such as ”Danny Boy” as well as show and big-band tunes. “She had music in her soul,” he said.
Other survivors include son Michael McShane, of Rehoboth Beach; daughters, Rosemary McShane of New York City, and Elizabeth Fonseca of Rehoboth Beach; seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Private funeral services will be held Friday and McShane will be buried at Delaware Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Millsboro, Delaware.
A private memorial service is also planned for Jan. 28, the day after McShane would have turned 87. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in McShane’s memory be sent to Cape Henlopen Senior Center Building Fund, 11 Christian St., Rehoboth, Delaware 19971.