Cecelia Amy Coleman McGrath

Cecelia Amy Coleman McGrath
07/25/1926 - 02/20/2021


Cecelia Amy Coleman McGrath died late in the afternoon on Saturday, February 20, 2021, at the Oaks Health Care Center in Denville, N.J. Cissy was 94. Hospice arrangements allowed her only child, John, to be with her every day in the week before her death. She was able to speak with her family and closest friends, including her great granddaughter, who was born last July.

Memorial services were postponed out of an abundance of caution during the pandemic. A service of remembrance will be held this Saturday June 25 at 11 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 4 Madison Avenue, Madison, New Jersey. Arrangements for interment will be announced at a future date.

The consistent themes of Cissy McGrath’s life were family, friendships, faith, learning, literature, and music.

Cissy cherished every moment with her family, especially her son John and his wife Vicki, her grandchildren Margaret Cecelia (“Mickey”) and John Abbot Coleman (“Jack”), and Jack’s partner Anne and their daughter Frances. Family for Cissy also meant valuing close relationships with extended family, friends and co-workers. She lived for many years in Madison, N.J., forming close bonds with neighbors, parishioners at Grace Episcopal Church, and fellow teachers at the Madison Junior School, where she taught for 22 years. In addition to English and American literature, Cissy had a lifelong love of classical and sacred music.

Cecelia Amy Coleman was born on July 25, 1926, in Boonton, N.J., to Caroline Cecelia Snyder and Byram Earl Coleman. Challenges of the Great Depression led her family to move to Netcong, N.J., where she graduated in the High School Class of 1944. She loved to read – especially Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost – and decided on a career teaching English. After receiving her bachelor’s degree from Albany State Teachers College in 1948, she taught for three years in Chester, N.Y., and then went to Bucknell University to earn a master’s degree.

A great adventure began in 1952 when Cissy decided to go overseas and teach English at the Lago Colony American School of the Esso Oil Refinery in Aruba, Netherlands Antilles. She met John Francis McGrath, a civil engineer with Esso in Aruba, and they married in September, 1954, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, N.J. Just after their son was born in January, 1956, her husband was diagnosed with terminal lung and bone cancer, and he died that July.

At the start of her life Cissy attended both the Presbyterian Church in Boonton with her father and St. John’s Episcopal Church with her mother, but she decided in the 8th grade to be confirmed as an Episcopalian. She remained active in the Episcopal Church for the rest of her life. After her husband’s death, Cissy returned with her son to live with her parents in Netcong, and they became members of St. Peter’s Church in Morristown. Her father died suddenly of a stroke in November, 1961. She helped her mother cope with this loss and then became her mother’s caregiver through a series of illnesses until her death in May, 1965.

A different kind of adventure began when, in the summer of 1965 after her mother’s death, Cissy moved with her son to Madison, N.J. She returned to her love of teaching English. She joined the staff at the Madison Junior School, where she remained until her retirement in 1987. In addition to literature, she enjoyed instructing her students in the intricacies of English grammar. She began her career in Madison teaching 8th graders but decided to switch to the 7th grade in the middle of her Junior School years. Her fellow teachers remember her kindness to colleagues and students alike. One principal at the school, knowing her ability to welcome newcomers, put all the new students in her seventh grade homeroom every year.

In 1965 Cissy and her son joined Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, where she was part of Bible Study, the Thursday morning early Eucharist and breakfast group, the Flower Ministry to homebound parishioners, the Altar Guild, and the dedicated group of office volunteers. She remained a member of Grace Church until her death. She was an enthusiastic supporter of the arts and the music program at Grace Church, beginning when her son joined the choir under Helen Thomas in 1965 and continuing when her grandchildren Jack and Mickey joined the choir under Dr. Anne Matlack in 1991 and 1994. Her grandchildren also joined the Harmonium Choral Society under Dr. Anne; Cissy always enjoyed and applauded their concerts. In addition, with her love of literature, she regularly attended performances of the Shakespeare Theater of New Jersey. And, whenever possible, she enjoyed worshipping at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Millington, where her daughter-in-law (the Rev. Victoria McGrath) is the Rector.

At the Oaks continuing care community in Denville, where she moved in 2005, Cissy found new friendships and new ways to help others. She was a member of the Residents Council, the Worship Committee, the Activities Committee, and the Book Club, and she was so happy to find new bridge partners.

Even after her move to Denville in 2005, Cissy stayed in contact – as much as possible – with friends and colleagues, including regular lunches with her fellow Madison Junior School teachers. And family always was her first love. Throughout her life, she regularly visited and kept in touch with her uncles and aunt, her brother George, her cousins, and their families. She was the last of a group of six first cousins, the children of her father – a pharmacist – and his twin brother Roy and their younger brother, Charles (“Charlie”), who were mechanical engineers. The Coleman brothers had one sister, Clara (“Nantie”), who was an elementary school teacher in Glen Rock, N.J., where a school is named in her honor. And family included Cissy’s special bonds with friends from Netcong High School, especially Pat Salmon and Nancy King, and friendships with the Henderson, Walsh, and Megargel families.

Cissy’s declining health led to her care at the Oaks Health Center in March 2019, and the pandemic lockdown beginning in March 2020 added an extraordinary degree of challenge. The staff at the Oaks cared for her wonderfully under these difficult circumstances, including daily phone calls with her son until hospice arrangements allowed him to visit in the final week before her death.

In lieu of sending flowers, memorial donations may be made to All Saints’ Church in Millington {www.allsaintsmillington.org}, to Grace Church in Madison {www.gracemadison.org} or to the Harmonium Choral Society {www.harmonium.org}.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep / But I have promises to keep / And miles to go before I sleep…   – Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”

To send the family a condolence, please visit, www.www.bradleyfuneralhomes.com.

Funeral Home:
Wm. A. Bradley & Son Funeral Home
Saturday June 25 at 11 a.m. at Grace Episcopal Church, 4 Madison Avenue, Madison, New Jersey
Memorial Gifts:
Donations in Cecelia's name may be made to: All Saints' Church, 15 Basking Ridge Rd. Millington, NJ 07946 (www.allsaintsmillington.org), Grace Church, 4 Madison Ave. Madison, NJ 07940 (www.gracemadison.org), Harmonium Choral Society, P.O. Box 1317, Morristown, NJ 07962-1317, www.harmonium.org)
Bradley Funeral Homes
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