The Magic of Mary Megill
by Cate Murway
If you are fortunate enough to own a piece of Mary Megill’s original art, there is no doubt that one of the greatest benefits is the intense feeling that emanates from it, but the most important one by far, is simply the love of it. Her wall hangings can compliment, or contrast with, the surroundings in which it is displayed, or perfectly blend in with the décor, a finishing touch to an otherwise perfect room.
Mary [Cholosznecky] Megill’s [“I was very glad to get that name!] parents, Eugenia [Tymofijewycz] and Stefan Cholosznecky emigrated from the Ukraine in Poland, near Kiev. Her father was in the Army and they had lived in Munich, Germany before moving to England where Mary, meaning “wished-for child”, their only child, was born. Both her parents and their families worked mostly on farms, “they worked the land to survive.”
Mary never knew any of her parents’ siblings. They arrived in America April 28, 1954.
“I can still remember coming in through New York. I remember a lot of people and a statue and I remember getting an ice cream cone.” She had never had ice cream before.
Mary could only speak Ukrainian and German when she and her parents moved into housing in the 5th and Girard area in Philadelphia. “I don’t know what you would call them. All the immigrants lived in these pod areas. We had two levels and outhouses. We had to take out a steel tub and heat the water to take a bath.” Her father found construction work with James D. Morrissey and her mother worked in a nearby candle factory.
Her parents never spoke English at home. Mary had to learn the language “just listening to the kids talking.” She spoke one language at home and English on the street.
When they relocated to Feltonville, just south of Olney, her father purchased their first car, a maroon Ford Falcon to get himself to work in Conshohocken, where he did maintenance jobs.
“My parents were very frugal. I think this is when my artistic part came. I had to invent my own games and I always liked drawing.” She and her friends made their own paper dolls. “When I had a quarter, I would buy paper dolls at the ‘5&dime’ Woolworth’s on Rising Sun Avenue.” Her family’s rare splurges were shore trips to Beach Haven with packed lunches.
Meals were delicious perogies, stuffed cabbage and the healthy and nutritious classic borscht but “the best thing my mom made was vegetable soup.”
Mary walked to school, “the area was very safe then.” She attended St. Ambrose grade school “blue uniforms”, and then Cardinal Dougherty H.S. “green uniforms”, where she happily took four years of Art. “Sister Rita was very demanding. I wanted to do things my way. She was giving the grades, so I did it her way.” While others took HomeEc, she took the elective Art classes that she loved. She dabbled in oils, watercolors, acrylics and pastels but somehow always wound up with a camera in her hand.
Bus tokens were $.75 but “by walking to school, I could save my money.” She saved up all her money and went to the circus with the carnival rides on Erie and Allegheny with her friends and there were little shops on Fifth and Olney where she could purchase clothing.
“I had found a job while I was in High School.” A neighbor, Mrs. Posey worked at the Federal Eastern State Penitentiary on Fairmount Avenue as secretary/ typist. Some of America's most notorious criminals were held in those vaulted, sky-lit cells. “Mrs. Posey trusted me with her key to straighten up her house. When she was retiring, she suggested I take her job.”
As soon as Mary started working at ESP, she enjoyed “great money and two weeks paid vacation.”
She met her future husband, Harold Frederick “Hank” Megill at a “beef and beer” date, set up by a friend. Hank was a U.S. Navy veteran who had just returned from his four years of service. “Yes, I really liked him. He was cute with beautiful blue eyes.” They were married for 44 years.
Hank attended a trade school to learn aeronautics to be able to fix helicopters. He also worked for Philadelphia Electric fixing gas leaks and became a supervisor until he was forced to retire along with many others in order to save their pensions.
He started his own business, Megill Services, a heating and air conditioning company.
They had two children, Air Force veteran Joseph Patrick “Joey” [Kellie], and musician Nadine April Abigana [Brett], who blessed them with two grandchildren.
Hank became ill with Parkinson’s and Mary retired from the Bensalem School District where she worked as a Para-educator through the BCIU #22 in the Cornwells Elementary School. She needed to have quality time with her husband and they moved from their Bensalem home to Bristol Borough in 2002. “I feel at home here. ‘A hometown, Main Street type thing’. I like it here.”
They really enjoyed their shore trips together and time spent in their small Grady-White boat, ‘Seabird’ at the quiet and pristine Bradley Beach and Belmar Beach in NJ. While Hank fished, Mary snapped pictures. “I always liked taking pictures. It was like getting a present each time I opened the pictures in my computer.” She and her husband went to art shows, looking for works to decorate the walls, but nothing was as meaningful as their own memories they were creating.
She also loved nature. “I had learned a lot about sea gulls, ducks, birds, and simply the world, just by watching.”
Mary’s favorite camera is her newest model of the Canon EOS Rebel. “I had used my creativity to embellish photographs for gifts for neighbors and friends. I realized I could do more now.”
Mary is a member of the Artists of Bristol and a “Ways and Means” committee member of the Bristol Cultural & Historical Foundation. Author/Chairman at Historic Bristol Borough Economic Development Committee- Raising the Bar Bill Pezza noticed her imaginative flair and asked her to take pictures at RTB functions and local shots for usage in windows in available business locations
“She is very talented and she really knows what she is doing”, fellow artist Thomas Philip “Tom” Furey, III, complimented Mary’s work.
Some of Mary’s eclectic collection is displayed in the Centre for the Arts on Mill Street, changed up for each season. Her new creative venture will include canvas painting, painting over her picture on canvas paper, adding her own color to it. She employs various apps to produce an array of effects, but finds that sometimes, using no applications works best!
Mary Megill Photography designed some postcards, hopefully for use for the Margaret R. Grundy Memorial Library’s 50th Anniversary event that starts in May. Mary also fashioned two book jackets for local author, Jules C. Winistorfer for his “The Tockterman Papers - Wondrous Tales” and his “Ultimate Futures”.
She is currently “closet writing” a book of her own, inspired by one of her paintings displayed at the Labor Exhibit in the Arts Centre. She plans on writing about each character she incorporated in her picture. ‘Saturday's child works hard for its living’.
Stay tuned. Using her natural resourcefulness and enthusiasm, Mary’s magic is in magnificent motion!
“Life is like a camera. Just focus on what's important, capture the good times, develop from the negatives, and if things don't turn out – take another shot.”
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Harold Megill, 70, of Bristol Borough, passed away on Sunday, May 26, 2013 at Lower Bucks Hospital. Born in Hartford, Ct. to the late Harold and Vera Megill, he resided in Bensalem for 31 years and Bristol Borough the past 10 years. He was a U.S. Navy Veteran. Harold was the owner of Megill Heating and Air and also was employed at PECO for 24 years. He was a Boy Scout leader, Cub pack 132 for many years, loved the water and was an avid boater and fisherman, but most especially enjoyed spending time with his family and friends.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 44 years, Mary Megill, was the devoted father of Joseph Megill and his wife, Kellie and Nadine Abigana and her husband, Brett, adoring grandfather to Caeli. He is also survived by 1 brother, Kevin Megill and 1 sister; Celeste Reisinger and her husband, Keith.
Relatives and friends are invited to attend his Memorial Service on Thursday evening, May 30, 2013, 7:30pm at the Wade Funeral Home, 1002 Radcliffe Str., Bristol Borough. Friends may call 6:00pm until time of service.