She Was a Doozy

The following column was written by The Christophers’ Jerry Costello:

If she had done nothing more than run the Dope Open, that would have been plenty. Her name is Mary Mulholland, and the Dope Open, which she started in 1968, went on for 42 years and was easily the most successful charity golf tournament in the history of the State of New Jersey. It raised more than $15 million, not only for drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers but also for battered women, domestic violence programs, and information sessions about AIDS.

But the Dope Open was only the tip of the iceberg for Mary Mulholland. She helped to build three separate hospitals, then worked to expand them; founded an adjunct of Catholic Charities, supported drug education programs, and brought in funds for cancer research. In all, she personally raised more than $50 million for the charities she supported in her lifetime.

Much of her work was done in her home Diocese of Paterson, and it was there, in Assumption Church in Morristown, that her funeral was held when she died in June at the age of 85. An obituary in The Beacon, the diocesan newspaper, provided the details, but it was left to the late Bishop Lawrence B. Casey of Paterson–who was Mulholland’s bishop at the time the Dope Open was founded–to provide the typically colorful last word. Admittedly bowled over by her super-efficiency, he said of her simply, “She’s a doozy!”

Mary Mulholland was that and so much more. Her lifetime of work with hospitals in the area–including St. Clare’s of Denville, where she was a founding member of the auxiliary and helped to run the Cancer Walk, which raised money for the hospital’s Cancer Center–won her recognition from the state’s medical society. She came by her interest in cancer research personally; on two occasions she battled the disease herself.

And, of course, the list goes on. Her work with military families made her an honorary member of U.S. Special Operations, and she founded Hope House in Dover, an agency of Catholic Charities, which helps all those struggling with life’s challenges. An attendee of the College of St. Elizabeth in Convent Station, she was presented with an honorary doctorate there, in humanities, for a lifetime of service to those in need–the poor, the suffering, the addicted.

Then there are the awards. Literally they are too numerous to mention here, but they include two Presidential Point of Light Medals and the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Pope John Paul II. She’s received awards from New Jersey’s governor, the State Senate, the Girl Scouts, the state Bar Association and the State Troopers, and was named Woman of the Year by the U.S. Secret Service. Though she was widowed, she had a full family life too, and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren all shared in her honors. With it all she found time to serve as grand marshal of the Morristown St. Patrick’s Day parade, and had the time of her life.

Maryknoll Father James Keller, who founded The Christophers, reminded us that it’s not just accolades and tributes that make for the love of people. Rather, he said, loving your neighbor as yourself means “doing for others as we would do for ourselves, regardless of the time spent or the inconvenience involved.” Mary Mulholland won on both points, going away.

Bishop Casey once called her, with deep admiration, “a doozy.” He wasn’t overstating the case.

About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.


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