Margaret Rose Buckley, A Teacher Heartened By Children And Faith

Download Audio
Margaret Rose Buckley (Courtesy Teresa Rodriguez)
Margaret Rose Buckley (Courtesy Teresa Rodriguez)

When Margaret Rose Buckley broke her hip at age 80 — and reluctantly allowed her niece Teresa Rodriguez to take her to the hospital — it was the first time she’d been to a doctor in over half a century.

After 38 years teaching third-graders in East Cambridge and tending to her vast brood of nieces and nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, life was bursting with purpose and far too full to bother with flu shots and screening exams.

Margaret was born and raised in an Irish Catholic enclave in North Cambridge. She attended parochial school and high school; faith was her steady companion. Into her 80s, she drove herself to services every morning.

“If you had a friend who was going through a hard time,” explained Teresa, “she’d want to know their full name, so she could pray for them in church.”

Children were also steady companions.

“She taught so many generations of a family. She actually taught kids and their parents, and even grandparents. And she was very dedicated,” Teresa marveled. “I don’t think she ever got to work after 5:30 in the morning.”

Then there were the children in her extended family: nine nieces and nephews, for starters.

“She loved to take us out. She didn’t have kids of her own, so we were all her kids. She’d take us out to maybe Castle Island or we’d go to Charlestown, and she’d be stopping to read every marker. We’d be like, 'Margaret, this is not a field trip. Please do not make us read the historical markers' — we just wanted to go swing on the swings!”

Margaret Rose Buckley (Courtesy Teresa Rodriguez)
Margaret Rose Buckley (Courtesy Teresa Rodriguez)

Margaret was committed to her no-nonsense habits, but somehow, thrift and generosity co-existed in her without contradiction. She wrapped family presents in the Sunday comics (it was like two gifts in one), and at restaurants, insisted on taking home leftover rolls and butter.

“She loved coupons,” Teresa laughed. “My god, she was a maniac for coupons. She’d drive 30 miles away to use one coupon. She got one of those 'Entertainment' books one year, where it’s like a book of coupons. We were like, 'Oh, put it away, please! We don’t want to try some random olives from someplace 20 miles away because you got a coupon for it!' But she loved that.”

At the same time, when Teresa began to help her with taxes, she discovered the dozens of charities Margaret gave to, including the [Mount Saint Mary's] Abbey in Wrentham, summer camps for needy children, Wildlife Conservation, Habitat for Humanity. And the woman who wrote grocery lists on the backs of tea bag wrappers also set up bank accounts for each niece and nephew.

Margaret lived by two favorite maxims. The first was religious: “We are spiritual beings with a physical element." The second, from the entranceway of a school, was also religious — but in a different way, as Teresa remembered:


“ ‘To the child, the utmost respect is due.’ She really believed in serving young people and how that really enriched her own life, and I don’t think it was a one-way thing.

"I think she saw it as something that gave her this amazing, beautiful life."

Margaret Rose Buckley died last June in Cambridge at age 82. She was buried in North Cambridge, not far from where she was born.

To nominate someone for remembrance, please email

This segment aired on March 29, 2017.

Headshot of Elissa Ely

Elissa Ely Creator of WBUR's The Remembrance Project
Elissa Ely is a community psychiatrist in Massachusetts and the creator of WBUR's The Remembrance Project.



More from The Remembrance Project

Listen Live