Happy Birthday! By Jeanne Schwass
Local Centenarian Celebrates 100th Birthday
By Jeanne Schwass
Mary-Louise Leach was born in San Francisco in 1920 and celebrated her 100thbirthday this January. She and her husband, Timothy J. Lynch, Sr., raised seven children, first in Pleasant Hill and then in Lafayette. They were part of the "tent" people who founded Christ the King Parish. Mary-Louise always loved to read and made calls on behalf of starting the new Pleasant Hill library. She was an active volunteer and fundraiser for all of her children's schools. She also volunteered with the Padua Unit of Catholic Charities at Christ the King parish and eventually went to work for Catholic Charities in Oakland.
As a teenager, Mary-Louise was a fan of Greta Garbo, Montgomery Cliff, Tyrone Power, and Marlene Dietrich, and often went to the movies, which cost only 25 cents at the time. She knew her husband, Timothy, was “the one” right away and never thought of dating anyone else after meeting him at a picnic in Burlingame. A mutual friend mixed up their last names and introduced them as Mary-Louise Lynch and Tim Leach. “We had a good laugh over that!” After the picnic, the two went out to eat with friends and didn’t get home until after midnight, talking and getting to know each other. She discovered they were both interested in acting, and Tim wound up joining her theatre group where she had the starring role in The Upper Room. They announced their engagement on October 3, 1941, during WWII but before Pearl Harbor.
Mary-Louise describes her husband as “very involved in his community. He was a big, tall Irishman with a beautiful tenor voice. He loved his Irish heritage and was so proud when he’d sing the Irish ballads and talk about Ireland, even though he was the first generation born in the U.S. A. He tried to be a good father and was proud of each of his children.” She went back to work at age 59 after raising seven kids. She had been involved with Catholic Charities for years as a volunteer fundraiser and started a career in the fundraising department of Catholic Charities in Oakland before moving on to accounting. She is still friends with some of her co-workers today.
When asked how she became successful and dealt with hard times, Mary-Louise says, “I believed in myself and what I was capable of. I always had a deep belief in God to help me through what I needed to get through.” She says the three events that most shaped her life were: 1.Growing up during the Depression. “Iwas young and didn’t think we were poor. It was just our normal.” 2. Becoming a mom. 3. Going back to school at age 58 to get a high school diploma. “It helped me see I was a lot smarter than I had believed. I didn’t just want my GED; I wanted my diploma, so I enrolled in night school to get it. I was chosen as valedictorian and had the privilege of giving the valedictory address to my class, with my family watching.”
With regard to parenting, Mary-Louise says, “It was important to do the very best with each child. Each of my kids deserved attention in a different way, and I tried to make time for each one. I felt very strongly about being there for my kids and was involved in five different PTA’s at one time, attended school functions, and participated in fundraising at Christ the King School, Carondelet, St. Mary’s HS, and St. Mary’s College. She would like to be remembered as loving, compassionate, and generous and says her love has encompassed every one of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She thinks what the world needs now is more love and understanding.