Even in the last year of her long life, Ellen Daly was still working in her South Gardner real estate business. She'd rise every morning at 5:30 - usually after watching a Red Sox or Celtics game the night before - and make a cup of tea before settling down with the newspaper and MSNBC. Eventually the phone would ring in her office off the kitchen, and she'd pick up the receiver and answer cheerfully, "Property Shoppe! This is Ellen speaking!"
After a short stint at Century 21, she co-founded her own business in 1980. By the time she turned 90, though, she decided she shouldn't be climbing stairs anymore to show listings - or driving to Sturbridge to get a seller to sign documents. So she left the heavy lifting to her son Chris, to whom she'd transferred ownership of Daly's Property Shoppe, and became the office manager, keeping the books and serving, as always, as the wisest of sounding boards.
When Ellen died peacefully Sunday April 22, 2018, at age 91, in her home in Gardner surrounded by those who loved her most, her family marveled at the fullness of her life. Yes, she lived more than nine decades, but it was still amazing that someone could squeeze so much into them . . . and still give all that she gave to her late husband, Dan, and their four children. There were things, lots of things, Ellen just had to do - in education, the church, politics, philanthropy. It was in her DNA.
She was born Ellen Elizabeth Crahan in Framingham, MA on May 16, 1926 and grew up in nearby Holliston. Her father Joseph, a fine basketball player in the Post-Peach Basket Era, headed the town's department of public works. Her mother Mary Sheehan Crahan served for many years as a social worker.
Ellen graduated from Holliston High, and, at 17, from Tufts Forsythe Dental School for Hygienists. She was too young to take the state licensing test - 18 was the minimum age - so she worked as a dental assistant in the interim, then for Dr. Frank Coyne in Framingham and, after that for the Whitman public schools. She was a pioneer in delivering dental health services to underserved communities and served on the local Board of Health.
It was around this time she met her future husband, Daniel R. Daly of Gardner, on a blind date on Cape Cod. He'd served in the Marines during the War, was just finishing his Graduate work at Harvard and was planning a career as a High School English Teacher. When Ellen told Dr. Coyne of her intention to marry, it caught him so off guard that he closed the office for the rest of the day and demanded to meet "this young man." His approval was important to Ellen. She'd lost her dad at 12, and the Dentist had become, in many ways, a surrogate father to her. Try as he might, Dr. Coyne couldn't find anything disqualifying about her choice of spouses and gave his OK.
After the wedding, Ellen and Dan moved to Long Island - Cedarhurst, N.Y., not far from his first teaching job at Lawrence High School. She gave up dental work to start raising a family that within a decade would include three sons and a daughter.
When the rental house in Cedarhurst got crowded, the Dalys bought a home in Baldwin, on the island's south shore. It was here that Ellen, between Little League games, dove into school volunteerism, which she thought was the best way to safeguard the future of not just her children but others. Rising quickly in the ranks, she was elected to the Board of Education in 1966, serving as its first woman President, and was involved in the building of several new schools.
After the family moved to Gardner in 1968, it was more of the same. The Save Our Schools (S.O.S.) movement she Co-Chaired - which led to the construction of a new high school off Pearl Street - got its name from a similar effort of hers in New York. She was later appointed to the Mount Wachusett Community College Board of Trustees by Governor Dukakis and went on to serve as the Board's first woman President.
Ellen also resumed work, mostly for Dr. John Sampson in Fitchburg. Even after leaving the dentist's office, she remained committed to the profession. She was instrumental in the institution of the dental hygiene program at the Mount, where a clinical training room as well as a scholarship were named in her honor. In addition she served on the Advisory Board to the Quinsigamond Community College School of Dental Hygiene in Worcester.
Religion played a big part in Ellen's life as well. At Holy Spirit Church, just down the hill from her home, she was President of the Parish Council, a longtime Lector and helped organize the weekly bingo games that resulted in the elimination of the parish debt.
Active politically throughout her life, she was one of Rev. Robert Drinan's inner circle of volunteers during his successful runs for Congress in the '70s.
Ellen's honors and accomplishments in business are many. To mention just a few, she served on the Board of Directors of the Greater Gardner Chamber of Commerce and was honored as their Citizen of the Year Award in 1993. She was Director of the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, President of the Northern Worcester County Board of Realtors, and served as the long-time Chair of its Professional Standards Committee. In addition, she was named Realtor of the Year in 1991 and inducted into the NWCBR's Honor Society. She also received the Rotary Four-Point Award and the AARP Gardner Woman's History Award.
No less important to her, she was President of the Board of the Gardner Youth and Advocacy Counseling Center and sat on the original Board of Directors of H.O.P.E., Inc. (House of Peace and Education, Inc.), which provides social services to women and children, especially those subjected to violence and abuse.
Ellen is survived by her four children, Brian J. Daly of Nashville, TN, Daniel D. Daly of Alexandria, VA, Christopher J. Daly of Gardner, and Ellen E. Daly Bell of Westminster; and five grandchildren, Andrew Daly of Nashville, TN, Daniel and Patrick Daly of Chicago, IL, Seamus Bell of Granby, and Caitlin Bell of Westminster; daughter-in-law, Laurel Daly (Daniel's wife); and son-in-law, Damian Bell (her daughter's husband).
Funeral Services will be held Friday, April 27th from the Boucher Funeral Home, Inc., 110 Nichols Street, Gardner with a Mass at 11:00 a.m. in Holy Spirit Church, 50 Lovewell Street, Gardner. Burial will be in St. John's Cemetery, West Street, Gardner.
Calling hours will be held Thursday, April 26th from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Ellen Daly Dental Hygiene Scholarship and sent to the Mount Wachusett Community College Foundation, Inc., 444 Green Street, Gardner, Massachusetts 01440.
Thursday, April 26th, 2018 6:00pm - 8:00pm, Boucher Funeral Home, Inc., 110 Nichols St., Gardner
Friday, April 27th, 2018 11:00am, Holy Spirit Church, 50 Lovewell St., Gardner
St. John's Cemetery, Gardner