Margaret Whelan was always proud of her Irish roots, her church and her family.

"She was part of that old-fashioned, very Irish community growing up in the South Bronx," recalled a son, state Supreme Court Justice Thomas Whelan. "They worked hard, they loved to tell and hear stories and they were very devoted to their families."

It was that love of heritage that she and her postal worker husband, Thomas Whelan, brought to the Long Island suburbs when the couple moved to North Babylon in 1962, the place that remained their home until her death Tuesday.

Whelan, 77, died at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip after a lengthy illness in which she was in and out of the hospital several times in the past two months.

One of four children, Margaret Kerwin was born in Manhattan to parents who had immigrated from Galway, Ireland. At an early age, the family moved to the Bronx and she attended Cathedral High School there. She had to drop out before graduating and went to work in a bank to help her family financially.

In school, she met her husband, who later served in the Army during the Korean War. After his return, the couple married on July 24, 1954, and they remained wed 58 years, until this week. Initially, they lived in the Bronx. But later, her husband transferred to the Babylon post office and the family moved to North Babylon.

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"She always impressed on me the importance of education," said her son, noting "she was a favorite at the North Babylon Public Library." He said his mother "sacrificed tremendously" doing numerous jobs including working as aide at the former Pilgrim Psychiatric Center, and a worker at Dell Laboratories and a local cosmetics plant to help pay for his education at Columbia University.

Whelan also said that his mother, a longtime Democratic committee woman, was especially proud when John F. Kennedy was elected as the first Catholic president. "She had pictures all over her house," he said. Later in life, Margaret Whelan became a committee member of the Independence Party.

Whelan also loved cooking and traveling, frequently visiting Key West, Fla., and making three trips to Ireland over the years. She and her husband also rooted ardently for the Yankees.

Other survivors include a sister, Madeline Fusaro of Manorville; a son, Patrick, of North Babylon; two daughters, Peggy Furrer of Lindenhurst and Maureen Barbal of North Babylon; seven grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated Friday at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Center Moriches at 10:45 a.m. Burial will follow at Calverton National Cemetery.