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When Molly Wiellette wanted to know about somebody — and she wanted to know about everybody — it was for the joy of connecting the “people dots.”
There was no self-interest in her curiosity and she brought an authentic curiosity to every situation. In doing so, her daughter Elizabeth Wiellette says, she made others feel interesting and vital.
" 'Oh, you work at Mass General? Now my sister’s best friend used to work there. Do you know…?' " Elizabeth Wiellette says. "She would see the world as a spiderweb of connections among people."
Maybe the interest came from a debutante upbringing which required the art of conversation. Maybe the interest came from early loss. Molly and her twin sister lost their father when they were two months old, and their mother when they were in college.
"She would see the world as a spiderweb of connections among people."Elizabeth Wiellette
With her own children, Molly was interested but never intrusive. She wanted to know Elizabeth and her sister, their decisions and life motivations, but without forceful parental guidance.
“I mean, she was there for us as a mother, for sure, “ Elizabeth remembered, “like providing us the things that only a mother would, ya know, and definitely unconditional love. We would always invite her to our parties, and she was friends with my friends, and that was all because I liked her, not because I owed her something as my mother.”
Connecting the people dots brought many into Molly’s life: Iranian teachers, Hungarian figure skaters, New Zealand travelers. Then there were friends from yoga, the book clubs, the libraries where she worked for 25 years. She folded new people into her life and never forgot their details. When she became ill with mesothelioma, she began to cede over the belongings in her large house, with great intent.
“Oh well,” Molly would say, “I remember that your friend Jesse’s daughter really likes fantasy, so here are my favorite fantasy books from my young adult collection.”
"We would always invite her to our parties, and she was friends with my friends, and that was all because I liked her, not because I owed her something as my mother."Elizabeth Wiellette
After surgery, Molly moved into an apartment above Elizabeth, where she entertained a coterie of knitters and book-lovers, tea-drinkers and conversationalists. Elizabeth had known their stories, but popping upstairs on any random day, now, she came know them.
“I got to meet all these people,” she said, “which was just really fun, and understand how everyone fit together — cause I’d not always been clear on who went to Swarthmore with you and who was at the Winchester Library and who’s in the St. Botolph Club book club.”
When Molly died, so many attended the Memorial Service that they needed to move it to a larger room. All those dots coming together might have pleased her. Certainly she would have wanted to know more.
Molly Wiellette died at home in South Boston last January. She was 74 years old.
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This segment aired on September 28, 2016.