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Will the Real Mary Rose McGill Please Stand up?


In this Blog:

A Tribute to Mary and Mary Rose

Remember this: Mart Rose’s Poem

Mary Rose’s Sausage Cheese Casserole

Notes from Joy

The BOOB Girl Books


Who is the Real Mary Rose McGill?


“Do you base your characters on real people? People you know?”


“No, I don’t. I wanted to be Hadley Joy Morris Whitfield - - tall, elegant, wealthy, sophisticated, a real socialite. But I turned out to be more Robinson Leary- nerdy, heady, an easy crier, a bit of a worrier, more of a jeans and Creighton Blue Jays sweatshirt than expensive pant suits.”


Then a lady in the audience said something important.


“It’s amazing – each woman is all four women.”


Right! If someone had told me I had to write a book about four women who were every woman I would have said it was impossible. Then I thought about it.

We have the feistiness of Maggie Patten.

We have the sophistication of Hadley Joy Morris Whitfield.

We have Robbie’s intelligence.

And I would add – we have Marge Aaron’s street smarts.

We also have the innocence of Mary Rose McGill.


So, having not for a minute tried to model characters after real, live people, I was surprised when one of my VSBFF (Very Special Best Friends Forever) Mary Vondra insisted that she was Mary Rose McGill and her husband, Tom Vondra, was Wiley.


I had co-opted their last name because Wiley Vondra was a great name, but in no way did I see my friend, Mary, like my character Mary Rose.


When the play, The BOOB Girls: The Musical premiered, Mary and Tom’s daughter said, “It was great watching Wiley Vondra watch Wiley Vondra.” Other people saw it.


I will admit that Mary Vondra in some ways is, as Mary Rose, a sweet Catholic girl. She bakes fantastic cookies, buys perfect gifts, and is a loyal, trustworthy friend.


But the real Mary Vondra is much more than a fictional character.


My VSBFF is a nurses’ nurse, an educator, an advocate a researcher and presenter whose work changed how the region saw Shaken Baby Syndrome.


Unlike Mary Rose McGill, who has a frustrating time with her children, the real Mary Vondra is a role model, especially for her daughters.


My VSBFF facilitated the first groups of “little's” at Ted E Bear Hollow, our center for grieving children. Tom Vondra built tiny caskets and grave markers and funeral coaches so children who did not have very many verbal skills yet could play funeral and demonstrate how the loss of a mommy or daddy or a grandparent or sibling had affected their lives. They thrived. We named a room after Mary.


The two Marys were alike in that when each baked cookies she wiped her hands on her butt so her jeans had flour marks on the back. They are both devoted to their church and their faith. And they are survivors.


My Mary had a horrendous health issue. Her jaw suffered surgeries and all kinds of treatments to get rid of a super pesky growth.


“I know how cancer patients feel when they realize the doctors have given up on them,” she said one day.


But Mary Vondra was always beautiful!


So, when I was writing something about women’s perseverance, I called Mary. “How do you stay so beautiful when you have so much pain and frustration?” I asked.


Her reply was classic Mary. “I always try to look better than I feel.”


Her jaw seemed to shrink and draw in on itself. It was difficult to talk. “I look like a chicken,” she said once at our Table 12 meeting where five of us had lunch together once a month. A beautiful chicken.


It became difficult for her to walk. Her back hurt. Her foot bothered her. She grabbed a cane and hobbled off, outracing us all.


And Tom Vondra? Nothing like Wiley!


Well – okay- tall and thin with a sharp sense of humor.


But Tom, like Mary, was a role model to his kids, especially their sons. He was an accomplished pianist while Wiley Vondra had maybe tried a harmonica once. Tom was handsome and would not be in a brown leather vest and Stetson except when they dressed up as Mary Rose and Wiley for a book launch.


So, the conclusion I have reached is that yes – somewhere deep in my subconscious muse Mary and Tom Vondra turned into Mary Rose McGill and Wiley Vondra.


They fit.


They still had the romance. They still had the playfulness and they still had the sense of adventure.


I trust my subconscious and my intuition and the four Vondras, real and fiction, have blended into each other.


Tom Vondra died last month.


But he lives on in a simple series of books where he fusses with Mary Rose about chickens in the pen at Meadow Lakes, watches in amazement as she gives bad guys groin kicks that dislocate knees, and proposes with a jade ring from Alaska. In the end all four ride off into a Norman Rockwell snowfall.


Tom really was the real Wiley Vondra.



Thank you for the inspiration, old friend.




Remember this?


Mary Rose’s Poem

The Burned Out Old Broads at Table 12


Older women are beautiful.

Just look at us!

Our faces are sculpted and chiseled by

Joy and sorrow, tears and laughter.

Our hair is blown thin by winds of experience.

And there is so much knowledge and wisdom in our heads

Our heads can’t hold It all.

It has to trickle down through the rest of our body

And that’s why we get thicker as we age.




Mary Rose’s Sausage Cheese Squares

Wiley’s Favorite


1 package refrigerated Crescent rolls

1package fully cooked frozen sausage links, thawed and cut into ½ inch pieces.

2 cups shredded Monterey Jack Cheese

¾ Cup Milk

2 tablespoons chopped green pepper

Salt and pepper


Unroll dough; place in an ungreased 13x9-in. baking dish. Press onto bottom and 1/2 in. up sides to form a crust. Top with sausage and cheese. Beat eggs in a bowl; add remaining ingredients. Carefully pour over cheese.


Bake, uncovered, at 425° for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Cut into 12 pieces.



A note from Joy


My friend, Judy, and I were in the backseat, Emmet and Ted in the front – the typical boy/girl thing of automobiles. We were headed to pick up dinners at St Benedict the Moor’s Friday fish fry and Judy and I were trolling for bigger fish – heavy duty thoughts.

“It’s like a shadow,” I said. We were talking about that strange kind of darkness and sadness that slips over us now and then. My shadow is always in the form of a rather classy grim reaper with whom I have a rather exotic love affair, and it’s like the poem – “I have a little shadow. It goes in and out with me.” I think the Shadow gets stronger as we age, whether we admit it or not. As I wrote my tribute to a VSBFF the Shadow was standing right beside the spirit of Tom Vondra. Death is a constant visitor when you are in your 80’s.



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