GARDNER - Mary E. (Phelan) Nordman, one of the most positive and passionate people you'll ever meet, the granddaughter of Irish immigrants who loved her friends, family and dogs, died peacefully on Wednesday after a long and courageous battle with interstitial lung disease and scleroderma. She was 78.
Mary requested the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” be played at her funeral services. She often asked, “Oh why, oh why can't I?” But she always “dreamed the dreams,” and they really did come true. When Mary wanted to do something – build a family, earn another degree, change careers, take up a new sport, travel – she did it fully and with a smile. She would want everyone reading this to do the same.
An inspiration to all, Mary was a self-made woman – a popular legislative aide, successful small business owner, active community volunteer, talented equestrian, enthusiastic hockey mom, and dedicated registered nurse for over 20 years. She had no regrets.
Born in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Feb. 12, 1943, Mary lived there until age 12 when her family moved to Herkimer, New York, after her dad passed. She settled in Gardner as a teenager and graduated from Gardner High School in 1960. Mary earned a bachelor's degree in sociology from Fitchburg State College in 1980, while raising three sons, and later earned a nursing degree from Mount Wachusett Community College.
Mary worked as a legislative aide for state Rep. Raymond Lafontaine during the early ‘80s. At the same time, she was a member of the Democratic City Committee and volunteered on the campaigns of several political candidates, including former Lt. Gov. Evelyn Murphy.
As her sons – Mike and the twins, Dale and Dave – became more involved in youth hockey, Mary traded her City Hall office for a much different space at the Gardner Veterans Skating Rink. She owned and operated Mike’s Pro Shop – named after her oldest son – for many years. She was also respected voice on the board of directors of Chair City Youth Hockey.
After retiring from sharpening skates, Mary returned to school again in her mid-40s, this time for nursing, and worked for two decades for the Gardner Visiting Nurses Association and in the special procedures and oncology departments at Heywood Hospital.
Mary was a former member of the Board of Trustees at Mount Wachusett CC and rode horses, including Winnie, into her late 60s. She loved to travel, especially with her best friend Lucille, and spoke fondly of their recent visit to her native North Carolina.
Mary was predeceased by her husband of 47 years, Rudolph Nordman, her parents, Elizabeth (Gould) Phelan Greenough and Patrick Phelan, and a brother, Richard Phelan and his wife Phyllis.
She is survived by a brother, Patrick Phelan, and his wife Linda of Seabrook, New Hampshire; three sons, Michael Nordman and Betsy Nordman of Sandwich, David Nordman and Heather Smith of Worcester, and Dale Nordman and his wife Katie of Worcester; a step-daughter, Catherine Sawicki, and her husband George of Westminster; three step-sons Wayne Nordman and his wife Denise Nordman of New Port Richey, Florida, Jack Nordman and his wife Julie of Gardner, and Kevin Nordman of Athol; 13 grandchildren, Andrew Nordman, Olivia Nordman, Kayla Nordman, Connor Nordman, Alexis Nordman, Liam Nordman, Annika Nordman, Henrik Nordman, Melissa Ferguson, Bethany Salit, Kate Nordman, Peter Nordman and Jared Nordman; several nieces and nephews; her caretaker Kim Gelineau; and her cocker spaniel, best friend and companion of five years, Lucy.
Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, March 17, 2021, in the Mack Family Funeral Home, 105 Central St., Gardner. Burial will follow in Wildwood Cemetery. You are invited to view by webcast from the funeral home’s website by selecting the media tab under her service notice. A calling period will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers, Mary requested that memorial donations be made in her memory to the Scleroderma Foundation, St. Jude’s Hospital or Gardner Animal Shelter.
To send an online condolence please visit www.mackfamilyfh.com.
Mack Family Funeral Home, 105 Central St., Gardner is directing arrangements.