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'Defender of the house' Barbara Harrington, 82, instilled strong work ethic in children

The Bay Shore mother of seven was considered the "center of the ripple" and the "common denominator" of the family.

Barbara C. Harrington was "the glue of the

Barbara C. Harrington was "the glue of the family, and she never stopped," said Mark Harrington, one of her sons. Photo Credit: Harrington family

Barbara C. Harrington, a Bay Shore mother of seven who bound her family together  with care and laughter and instilled a hard work ethic in her children, died Saturday at age 82, her family said.

Surrounded by family, she  succumbed to complications from a heart attack following a long illness, her children said.

"She was the center of the ripple," said Glenn Harrington, 60, of Pipersville, Pennsylvania. "She was the common denominator."

Brian Harrington, 41, laughed as he remembered that when he was about 6, an older boy pushed him off his bike in front of their house. His mom came outside with a wooden spoon and chased the bully down the street.

"She was the defender of the house, and what was right was right," said Brian, of Oceanside. She signed him up for karate lessons after that.

Her son Mark Harrington, 58, of Manorville, remembered that she kept the family together through perseverance, and still found time to  take him to junior football sign-ups.

"She was always there on the front line, supporting, being a presence. She was the glue of the family, and she never stopped," said Harrington, a Newsday reporter.

Born in Brooklyn and  reared in Springfield Gardens, Queens, Barbara LaCalle graduated in 1954 from Dominican Commercial High School in Jamaica, Queens, and got a job as an executive and legal secretary at RCA Communications Systems.

"She was heading toward a career in Manhattan that was pretty glamorous. She rose quickly through the ranks, and gave that up," Mark Harrington said.

She married Frank Harrington, an ironworker, in 1957 and they had their first child, Michael, in 1958. They had six kids by the mid-1960s. 

With the ups and downs of the construction business, and Frank Harrington occasionally traveling out of state, she rekindled her job skills and went to work for a Bay Shore physician, William Hoffman, when her children were young.

She managed the office and did bookkeeping, but also "had a brimming curiosity about things in the medical field, and pitched in on all kinds of activities," Mark Harrington said.

Glenn Harrington described her as "the Doris Day of the office — the liaison between his tight professional personality and all the people looking for a friendly face."

While raising her own kids and working, she found time to help take care of a child with cerebral palsy and managed the outside religion program at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Parish in Bay Shore.

Kathleen Harrington, 56, of Islip, said her mother had a great sense of humor.

"She made light out of some dark situations in our life," she said. "We knew that she was always there, and took care of us, no matter what."

On Easters, she'd have the kids "dressed immaculately. We'd all have new clothes, jackets, pocketbooks, lined up and everything."

One Christmas, when Kathleen was about 10, her mother had gallbladder surgery just before the holiday. "She still had Christmas for us. She made sure Christmas wasn’t ruined," Kathleen said.

Barbara Harrington bought her daughters' wedding dresses and welcomed her sons' wives as her own, Kathleen said.

Glenn Harrington said his mother made him sign up to work at the Youth Conservation Corps of Long Island when he was 15, though the program required that workers be 16.

"She loved to see us working," he said. "She had a working-class ethic. No one was sleeping late in that house."

At the end of her life, Barbara Harrington' turned to her children and said, " 'I’m just so grateful for all of you. I love you all so much. I’m so lucky to have all of you,' " Kathleen Harrington said. "It was totally the opposite. We were so lucky to have her."

Along with Kathleen, Glenn, Mark and Brian, she is survived by Jeanne McGuire, 55, of West Islip; Lynn Anzalone, 54, of West Palm Beach, Florida; Michael Harrington, 61, of Rockville Centre; 19 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. She is also survived by brother James LaCalle of Maryland. Frank Harrington preceded her in death.

Viewing is Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at the Overton Funeral Home on Main Street in Islip. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated Friday at 10 a.m. in St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church on Montauk Highway in Bay Shore. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, call your mother.

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