She was widowed at age 48, a mother of eight — five of those children 16 or younger — with her prospects for the future bleak at best.
Her husband, Robert, had somehow lost his pension, son Robert McKee, of Lindenhurst, said, leaving Patricia McKee with all those kids and a past-due mortgage on the huge turn-of-the-century house on Central Avenue in Baldwin.
"It was a hell of a mess," said Robert McKee, a former priest and now a middle school psychologist, noting that his mother's father, Jim Killorin, lived with them at the time — only to die barely a year later. "The mortgage wasn't paid, there was no money coming in. I honestly don't know how she did it."
Patricia McKee died Sept. 12 at the Carillon Nursing Home in Huntington. She was 100.
After her husband's death, Patricia McKee somehow muddled through. A neighbor helped her figure out how to collect Social Security; another neighbor bought a sliver of the Central Avenue property, despite knowing it could never be developed. Eventually, she took work with a photo developing company in nearby Rockville Centre.
The kids even took odd jobs to help out, with Robert McKee cutting lawns and delivering the old Long Island Press, then taking work behind the counter at the local Carvel.
All the while, Robert McKee said, his mom remained a devout Roman Catholic, going to church and believing in hope for a better tomorrow.
And, though she had the opportunity, she never remarried: "My mother had her share of suitors over the years after Pop died," Robert McKee said. "Quite a few of them even were well off. But, once she was free she wasn't going back there again. She was just fine being on her own."
Patricia McKee was born in Brooklyn on March 17, 1919 — St. Patrick's Day. She was the middle of five children — Jimmy, Virginia, Lucille and Vera — of Helen and Jim Killorin.
After her marriage to Robert D. McKee, the couple had eight children, the first five of them girls. They lived in Flatbush, Brooklyn, before moving with her parents to the six-bedroom house on Central Avenue in 1955.
In that house, built in 1898, Patricia and Robert had three boys, as Patricia took care of her aging mother until her death in 1963, her son said. She then took care of her father until his death in 1969.
At the time of Robert McKee's death in 1968, the three eldest children, daughters Deborah, Trisha and Kathleen, already were out of the house, her son said. The youngest five children — Virginia, then 16; Faith, then 14; Bob, then 12; Greg, then 10; and Tommy, then age 8 — all were still at home.
Niece Mary Nolan of North Bellmore, daughter of Virginia Nolan, recalled how despite not having much money, her Aunt Pat always made the house a great place to be.
"Her home always was a very warm, inviting, enjoyable place," Nolan said. "She was my godmother. And she could cook up a storm."
Nolan said: "Each of the sisters had a claim to fame. My mom was not a very good cook. My mother was a seamstress, she could sew everything. Aunt Pat? She was the baker, she was the cook. When I needed instruction, I went to her.
"One time I asked her what I could do to be a better baker," Nolan recalled. "She said, 'See that company never sees your mistakes. Mistakes are for family. If you make a mistake, start from scratch.' My poor kids probably ate a lot of burnt cookies because of that."
Robert McKee said he and his brothers all took to cooking because of their mom and all consider themselves accomplished cooks. But, he said his best memories are of the holidays, especially Christmastime.
"There'd be the tree and all these gifts," he said. "With so many kids in the house, you couldn't walk into the living room without walking into somebody's gift. The lights on the Christmas tree, all the colors of all the wrapping paper. The room filled with all that color, Mom baking an apple pie and stuffing for the turkey . . . We didn't have much money, but she would save for six, eight months, a nickel, a quarter at a time, just to make sure all that happened for us."
Patricia McKee was buried next to her late husband in Cemetery of the Holy Rood in Westbury.
In addition to her son, Robert McKee, she is survived by her sister Vera and her other children — Deborah Kletter, of Riverdale in the Bronx; Trisha McKee of Port Jefferson Station; Kathleen Mircacola, of Wading River; Virginia Meriam, of Garden City; Faith Eccles, of Port Jefferson Station;Gregory McKee, of Dingmans Ferry, Pa.; and Thomas McKee, of Huntington — as well as by 14 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.