After a heroic struggle with brain cancer lasting nearly a year, Claire McGovern died in her sleep at home on January 16th under the loving ministry of dedicated hospice staff and her family. The outpouring of love and support from her family and friends is a tribute to her and to them.
Claire loved children and their education, and her life exemplified the origins of that word, “to bring up” and “to bring forth.” Her career, indeed her whole life, exemplified education in the truest sense of the word. After graduating from Little Flower High School in 1964 she began as a second-grade teacher at Holy Innocents Parochial school in Juniata.
She was an Instructional Assistant in the Early Childhood Education Program at the Chester County Intermediate Unit from 2002 until her “retirement” in 2012. The intervening years were spent as a loving mother and spouse, showing her family by example how to bring forth the best in themselves and others.
Claire spent her whole life assisting those in need of a helping hand on a one-on-one basis, as soon as she heard of their need, and through civic and church volunteer activities too numerous to list: feeding the hungry through The Lord’s Pantry; helping the elderly and infirm get where they needed to go through Saint Joseph’s volunteer driver program. She spent the entire night of the Downingtown flood transporting and keeping one elderly client safe from the rising waters, making sure she got to a hospital to receive her needed medication. Claire lived her faith: providing fellowship and service in the Hospitality Ministry, exploring her faith with other women through Walking with a Purpose, comforting the grieving through the Compassionate Friends, showing young women how to achieve their potential and how to serve others through the Girl Scouts and the Early Childhood Education Program at the Intermediate Unit. She loved life, she loved others, she loved God, and she loved a good time with her family and many friends. Her entire life was an education on how to live a meaningful life to the fullest.
You can never know someone fully, but knowing their background can help you begin to approach that goal. Those of you who knew Claire McGovern knew how zestfully she embraced and enjoyed life. She loved dancing and was an excellent dancer. She enjoyed getting together with her friends to enjoy good company, good food and good wine. Those of you who knew her in later life would probably enjoy learning a little more about her earlier life.
Her first full-time job was as a teaching cadet in the parochial school system, which meant that after graduating from Little Flower High School she was given a second-grade class of over 50 students at Holy Innocents Parochial School while she took college classes at night, eventually earning an Associate’s Degree. She scandalized the sister principal by letting the boys and girls go into the cloak room at the same time to get their coats after class, ignoring the heretofore strictly enforced gender segregation-- “Lead us not into temptation.”-- Some of her students have stayed in touch with her to this day.
Kevin, her husband of 53 years, liked to refer to her as my “mail-order bride.” They met while moonlighting at Sears Credit Central, where she was warned about chatting too much with her male coworkers. She and Kevin carried out a clandestine courtship in far from perfect French for months. When they announced their engagement, their flabbergasted co-workers did not even know they were dating.
Claire was always up for an adventure. Newly married to a penniless graduate student, rather than a more conventional and shorter honeymoon, she chose to hitchhike around Europe for an entire summer staying in youth hostels and living out of a backpack. When new friends invited them to join them hiking on the Appalachian Trail, she and Kevin ordered gear from Sears and set out the day after they got it. It went down to 6 degrees the first night. She was the only one who slept like a baby because she didn’t know how cold it was. Everyone else tossed and turned all night. Waking up with her breath frozen around her face onto her mummy bag and her canteen frozen solid did not deter her from future trips.
Claire faced the final painful journey of her life with the same grit, determination and good will, and she can say with St. Paul, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” We trust that there is in store for her the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to her on that day—and not only to her, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
She is survived by her loving husband, Kevin J. McGovern, her daughter, Patricia Morrissey (Paul), her son Kevin A. McGovern (Rachel Peazzoni), and her grandchildren Joshua T. Morrissey, Lily R. Morrissey, and Leo R. Peazzoni; her sister Nancy Keegan (nee Alexander), and her brother, John Alexander. She was preceded in death by her son, Paul J. McGovern; her brother, Edward Alexander; her father, Edward R. Alexander; and her mother, Claire Dolores Alexander (nee Le Compte).
Relatives and friends are invited to her Visitation 9:30 AM to 11:00 AM, Saturday, January 27, 2024 at St. Joseph Church, 332 Manor Ave, Downingtown, PA 19335, followed by her Funeral Mass at 11:00 AM. Interment is private.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Penn Hospice & Home Care Services, 150 Monument Road, Suite 300, Bala Cynwyd, PA 19004.