Marian T. “Zebby” McNamara, a devout Catholic who met John Paul II at the Vatican while vacationing in Rome, has died from natural causes. She was 87.
Meeting the religious leader was a highlight in her life, her family said. After a Mass in the pope’s private chapel, the two shook hands and the pope gave her rosary beads.
“My mother was very overwhelmed meeting the pope and started to cry a little bit. It was very meaningful meeting him face to face,” said her son, Msgr. Brian McNamara, 57, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in West Islip.
The mother of five boys was born in Hicksville in 1928. She attended St. Dominic High School and eventually graduated from Mary Immaculate School of Nursing in Queens in 1949. She continued working there as a registered nurse. The school is now closed.
Years later, she joined the U.S. Postal Service Medical Unit, giving physicals to postal workers and treating employees for work-related injuries such as dog bites or back pain from lifting heavy objects. She retired in 1991.
Around Hicksville, where she always lived, McNamara was often seen riding her bicycle along streets earning her the nickname “bicycle lady,” family members said. She never learned how to drive a car.
She was also known for her homemade treats, which family and friends looked forward to on holidays and special occasions.
“She was a very kind woman who never had anything bad to say about anyone,” said her son Christopher, 57, of Massapequa Park, who is Msgr. McNamara’s twin brother.
Living at home with her husband, five sons, and at one point her father, often led to a long-running family joke.
“Mom, we treat like you like a queen,” the joke went, Brian McNamara said. “Then how come I always feel like I’m one of the guys,” she would respond.
She died on Jan. 21. Family said her health declined after fracturing her pelvis. She was admitted to Maria Regina Residence, a nursing facility in Brentwood, where she died.
Her funeral was Jan. 27 at Saint Ignatius Loyola Roman Catholic Church in Hicksville. She is survived by her sons: Brian; Michael, 59, of Stanford Connecticut; Christopher; Timothy, 54, of East Fishkill; and Stephen, 52, of Hicksville.