Former Massapequa resident Mary Wirth worked for social justice causes in...

Former Massapequa resident Mary Wirth worked for social justice causes in Nassau County for more than 65 years. Credit: Wirth family

Mary Wirth was the epitome of dedication, according to her family. The Massapequa resident worked tirelessly for social justice causes in Nassau County for more than 65 years.

“In a lifetime that hardly seemed enough for any one person, my mother did it all — always prioritizing service to the community, and with a profound impact,” said her son, David Wirth, of Brookline, Massachusetts.

Wirth, 97, died after a brief illness on Jan. 4 in St. Petersburg, Florida, where she had resided since the pandemic.

Born in Brooklyn, Wirth was adopted at birth by Eva McKee, who raised her as a single mother during the Great Depression.

"Mom was raised in a very diverse environment so she developed an appreciation for all races, cultures and religions while growing up," said her son. "When she later worked for Social Services, she was able to gain the trust of clients, who were not always well-treated by government employees, regardless of their race or culture."

Wirth graduated from Hunter College in 1948 with a bachelor's degree in economics. She was a founding member of the Long Island Chapter of the Hunter College Alumni Association and served as the group's treasurer until very nearly the end of her life.

"Mary was a giving person and a brilliant student. I never would have thought that the aloof blonde girl in the camel hair coat with the careful pageboy and lovely English complexion I used to see every morning on the A train platform heading from Brooklyn to Hunter would become my best friend not only in college but for life," said Carol Rupert. "For the next 75 years, Mary was always the first person I’d call or hear from in bad times and in good."

Wirth met her future husband, Bob, in 1950 while on vacation in Cape Cod. He was training with the Army Reserve, having already served in the Army during World War II.

"After about a year of dating, my father was called up for Korea, so in 10 days they planned their wedding," said their son.

In 1955, Wirth and her husband moved to Massapequa to raise their two children: David and their daughter Eleanor, who both said that more than anything, Wirth loved being a mother.

"In spite of all Mom's educational, professional and community service accomplishments, her role as a mother was always the most important to her," said Eleanor Wirth, of St. Petersburg.

As her children approached college age, Mary Wirth returned to school to obtain a master’s degree in education from Hofstra University in 1970. One year later, she accepted a job with the Nassau County  Department of Social Services, where she remained for 20 years, first as a caseworker and then as a liaison to community-based substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

Wirth also served on the board of directors of Southeast Nassau Guidance Center in Seaford, a nonprofit providing mental health and counseling services to the local community, for 10 years.
"Even as she approached the end of her career with the county, the nonprofit programs couldn’t let her go, recalling her as acting executive director for Operation Pride in Freeport, a community rehab center," said David Wirth.

Mary Wirth enjoyed swimming, reading, all forms of classical music and opera, with her favorite being "Aida."

Well into her 90s, Wirth continued the discipline of attending aquacise classes at the Freeport Recreation Center, where she developed a close-knit group of friends.

"This world is a better place because Mary Wirth passed our way and we became steadfast friends," said JoAnn Beauford, of Freeport, who met Wirth in 2004 at a Freeport aquacise class.

Wirth's husband died in 1993. In addition to her children, she is survived by three grandchildren.

A memorial celebration of life was held Feb. 16 in St. Petersburg. Donations can be made to the Scholarship and Welfare Fund, Alumni Association of Hunter College, 695 Park Ave., Room 1314E, New York, NY, 10065.

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