Mary E. (Legere) Saillant, 89, a retired bookkeeper, passed away Saturday, November 16, 2019. She was the wife of the late John D. Saillant.
Born in Providence, she was a daughter of the late Francis D. and Mary E. (Arsenault) Legere. Mary was born in the late summer of 1930, the oldest of four children. Her parents had made their way to Rhode Island via Prince Edward Island and Maine. They lived in the North End of Providence in what she called a tenement flat. She grew up poor but said she didn’t really know it because everyone was poor. It was the Great Depression so they “made do.” They didn’t have much but what they did have they took great care of, and if something broke they fixed it, and if it was beyond repair they used it for parts or turned it into something else.
Mary went to St. Mary’s Academy-Bay View. She was a great student, top of her class. The only regret she ever mentioned was that she didn’t go to college. They didn’t have the money. She would have excelled. Instead, she went to work right away for Jack Dunnigan at Lincoln Finance.
She was truly beautiful, actually stunning, and a sharp dresser – smart, lovely, a hard worker. Stories are told of the lawyer who shared offices in the building and did his best to get her to go work for him, but Mary was loyal. She became a bookkeeper and loved it. The boss’ wife, Sally, liked her so much she introduced her youngest brother, Jake, to her. Mary said she used to wonder why Jake would always be hanging around the office. Nobody else wondered. Jake and Mary eventually married and had five children.
Jake built Mary a little house in Edgewood. They lived next door to Mary’s sister, Shirley, her husband Walter and their six children and kitty-corner to Jake’s sister and brother, Ginny and Charlie. Sixteen relatives, kids outnumbering the adults. A corner of happy chaos. They belonged to St. Paul Parish. All five kids went to St. Paul School. Theirs was a childhood filled with parish picnics, painting and piano lessons, hide and seek and manhunt at dusk, riding bikes to Beachmont Field to play baseball in the day or to watch for bats at night, lazy summer days at Roy Carpenter’s Beach, every single Disney movie at the Park Cinema or the Drive-in, soft-serve ice cream cones at Jenny’s, cookouts, clambakes and birthday parties, summer camps, trips to Storyland in New Hampshire, endless adventures in Roger Williams Park and Zoo, ice skating at the shipyard or on the lake when it froze over, and glorious toy-filled, midnight-mass-going Christmases right out of The Wonder Years. Jake went along, but Mary made it so. She clipped a lot of coupons and gave her kids the childhood she never had.
They grew out of the little house on Villa Avenue and moved to a bigger place on Shaw Ave. – Mary’s dream home. She planted a beautiful flower garden. She went to yard sales and thrift stores, taking along her daughters who looked for vintage clothes, while she collected china teacups and pitchers and creamers from every country. They weren’t always perfect but she didn’t care because they were beautiful. Jake replaced the slate roof, so Mary took the slates and painted “Welcome” signs with flowers and birds. She sold them or gave them away. She baked. She cooked. She sang and danced around the house. She read. And read. And read. The kids grew up, moved out. She hosted wonderful family parties there. Thanksgivings, Christmases, graduations, bridal showers, baby showers. When the kids had kids of their own she was the best Nonny. She had 12 grandchildren. She babysat. She picked them up from school. She always remembered birthdays and Christmas and graduations. She loved them and they loved her.
When the big house became too much to handle, Mary and Jake retired to a little house in Warwick, where Jake built birdhouses and Mary painted a little “Birdhouse for Sale” sign for him to hang outside. She had him buy lots of feeders and birdseed. She turned old bread into crumbs and threw them on the deck. She loved to watch the birds in the backyard.
As Mary got older she lost the use of her legs. She had world-class arthritis. She became wheelchair bound, but that did not diminish her. She bore her infirmities with dignity and grace. She still baked muffins and made soup. She just needed a little help. She still remembered everyone’s birthday. She took great joy in her great-grandchildren. She did her best to keep Jake in line. That wasn’t always easy.
One day even the little house in Warwick became too much. Mary and Jake moved to Scandinavian Home. There they shared a little apartment in the assisted living side and made a lot of new friends with the staff there who truly adored them. They weren’t in the best of health, and they were tired. Jake passed on October 1 and 45 days later, in a small room with flowerpots, miniature bird figurines and tiny wooden birdhouses on the windowsill, an unfinished book, The Secret Garden on the table, a framed Prayer of St. Francis on the wall, Mary, surrounded by her five children and her daughters and sons-in-law, joined Jake in Heaven. Her final resting place will be in the family plot at St. Ann Cemetery in Cranston. Everyone left behind is heartbroken.
Mary was the loving mother of John D. Saillant Jr., Dennis W. Saillant (Susan), Michele S. Boyd (Patrick), Margaret S. Chace (Thomas) and Patrick C. Saillant (Carolyn); loving grandmother of Cèline, Clèmence, Théophile, Corey, Christina, Kyle, Emma, Cara, Samantha, Elena, Daniel and Andrew; loving great-grandmother of Noah, Oliver, Ella, Lincoln, Jackson and Reagan; loving sister of Shirley Cornell, Francis Legere (Helen) and the late Jean Legere. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, grandnieces, and grandnephews.
Her funeral will be held Friday, November 22 at 9 a.m. from Thomas & Walter Quinn Funeral Home, 2435 Warwick Ave., Warwick, with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in St. Paul Church, 1 St. Paul Place, Cranston. Burial will be in St. Ann Cemetery, Cranston. Visiting hours are Thursday, Nov. 21 from 4-7 p.m.
For information and condolences visit TheQuinnFuneralHome.com.