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Emily Fahy died March 15 in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. She was 89. Her husband of 41 years, John, died June 12. He had cared for her full-time and fiercely the last 10 years of her life, and was on his way back from tending her grave, when his car skidded into oncoming traffic. He was 79.
Emily was born in Jamestown, New York, to Albanian parents who spoke little English and could teach her less. She ran away from first grade on opening day because she couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. Her parents were highly protective of their only child -- no roller-skating, no bicycle riding -- and though she wanted to study design, after high school she was introduced to a traditional Albanian man from a good family, and entered a life of domesticity.
She and her first husband were married for 27 years and had three children. He was a quiet man, a precise man, who ran an Auto Sales store with his brothers, and once grew a pumpkin over 100 pounds for his children. Emily was also precise -- she could roll complicated Albanian pastries with effortless wrists, and sewed like a master seamstress --though she grew looser when teaching family the Middle Eastern line dances she loved. At various times, she worked in sales for Jordan Marsh and Filene’s, where she looked at the fashions with an appraising eye.
She met John when they played in adjacent corporate bowling leagues. He was Irish, 10 years younger, the eldest of five -- a prankster, a political conservative, and a former Army chef with a fondness for meaty dishes. Later in life, when he cared for Emily in her dementia, he would produce three-course breakfasts for her, with flowers on the table.
They knew one another for about eight years before the highly protected child and traditional Albanian wife left her husband -- most untraditionally --and married John. She wore a salmon-colored gown; he wore a paisley tuxedo.
They traveled, they cooked, they raised her youngest daughter. After 37 years as manager in a gas company, where he was famous for the eloquence of his written reports, John retired early, and continued, as he described it, to fall in love with her black eyes. “We’re two little old people here at the flat edge of the earth,” he said of their house, where Fox News was on constantly at high levels, and they wanted for nothing, because they had one another.
Emily’s children tried to persuade John to accept help caring for her the last years of her life. But he was driven by love and desire. “That’s my job,” he explained. He was with her for the last quiet breath.
After she died, when he visited the cemetery, he always watered and weeded the flowers on her grave. Sometimes, he watered and weeded the nearby plot of her first husband as well.
Did you know Emily and John Fahy? Share your memories in the comments section.
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