Never been bored!
Avoiding boredom is really simple. Just get heavily involved in work, politics, service organizations, church activities, cub scouts, and school. Notice that’s and, not or. Oh yes, and get married and have seven children. Start this lifestyle when you’re young and quit . . . when?
The question “when to quit” is the only part of this boredom-avoidance program that Maury Keaveny hasn’t figured out yet. After all, he’s still too young to really consider it. He’s only 81 years old.
Maybe it has something to do with his Irish-Scottish heritage. His father, John Keaveny, came from Ireland in 1915. His mother, Mary Ellen Nugent, came from Scotland around the same time. They got married in Philadelphia. Their first son, Austin, was born in 1917.
John’s brother Jim married Mary Ellen’s sister Lizzie. Then all four ended up in Sharon. Maury’s father worked in the steel mills. His Uncle Jim and Aunt Lizzie opened a grocery store on the West Hill, which later became known as Mrs. Mack’s Store.
“My parents wanted to rent an apartment on Vine Street, but couldn’t because they had a child,” Maury said. “The Flats was a well-to-do, growing place. A lot of proud people lived down there. They still have a reunion every once in a while.”
Maury was the fifth child – preceded by Austin, Katherine (who died as an infant, before Maury was born), Margaret, and Jack; and followed by Kathleen, Monica, Mary, Eileen and Joanne. He was born on Putnam Drive, a block-long street which runs off Forker, across from Buhl Farm and next to the Sharon Golf Course. At that time the area was part of Hickory Township .“
Some time after I was born,” Maury said, “that little square with Putnam, Pilgrim, and Puritan Streets was changed from Hickory to Sharon. So I was born in Hickory Township and grew up in Sharon – in the same house.”
Maury went to elementary school at St. Joe’s. There he met Patricia Jean Flynn, whose father, Cap Flynn, was a superintendent for United Natural Gas (later National Fuel Gas). After working in Brookville and Bradford, he was transferred to Sharon when Pat was in third grade.
While in high school, the need to work kept Maury from having the time to play sports or participate in other extra-curricular activities. He worked at Quality Food Market, where Steve’s Tees is now. He also worked at Snyder’s Sunoco station on State Street, across from the School of Nursing, and at Fryman’s Upholstery in downtown Sharon. In his sophomore year, he started working at Westinghouse.
“I was just 16 years old,” he said. “I worked from 3:30 to midnight, six days a week during the summer, and three days a week during the school year.
Maury worked at Westinghouse from March, 1944, until January, 1945. During that time, he was active in the Young Democratic organization, and was asked to drive voters to the polls for Franklin D. Roosevelt’s election – his first involvement in politics, at the age of 17.
In January, 1945, Maury joined the Merchant Marine. That could have turned out badly. During World War II, more merchant marines per capita died during World War II than in any branch of the military service.
“You were out there on a liberty ship with a three-inch or five- inch gun forward, a three-inch or five- inch gun aft, and the armed guard. I had a cousin from New York City who had joined the Merchant Marine in the 1930s. He was a first officer. He said get out and go home. I was too stubborn. I stayed.”
Maury trained at Sheepshead Bay, near Coney Island, New York. He spent his weekends with relatives in the Bronx, and only got home once during before he shipped out the Philippine Islands in May, 1945.
“We were sent there to prepare for the invasion of Japan. Our ship had five holds of food. I was in Manila Bay when the war ended on August 15.”
Maury got back to Sharon in June, 1946. In July, he was drafted into the army, along with many others whose jobs gave them deferments during the war.
“I had been deferred because I was in the Merchant Marines. Many of those who had deferments at places like Westinghouse also were drafted then to serve in the armies of occupation. The servicemen who were returning were able to fill their jobs.”
The Army sent Maury to Japan, but he wasn’t there very long.
“President Truman wanted to cut the budget, so the word came down that anybody who wanted to go home could get out. I already had 18 months in the Merchant Marine, so I got out. I was in the army just eight months.”
Arriving back on June 7, 1947, Maury was guaranteed to have his job at Westinghouse.
“My brother was my boss. There was an opening, so I never got to take advantage of the 52-20 club.”
That was a provision of the GI Bill that allowed every returning veteran to receive $20 a week for 52 weeks while they looked for work. Less than 20% of the money set aside for that was distributed. Like Maury, most returning serviceman found jobs quickly, or started into higher education.
He continued to date Pat Flynn, and they got married on October 9, 1948. Through the years, they had seven children: Patrick, Anne, Katherine, Mark, Monica, Christopher, and John.
While working at Westinghouse and raising his family with his wife, his interest in politics led him to run for Sharon City Council. He was elected in 1967, along with Harold Bell and Tom Bailey.
“That was first time three Democrats ran for council, and the first time three Democrats ran for school board. All of them were elected.”
During his second four-year term, he was elected council president. Two years into that term, in 1973, he ran for mayor.
“I came in second,” he said.
He served out his final two years on City Council. Then he got promoted to sales rep at Westinghouse.
“I was gone on the road quite a bit of the time. In 1977 they split us away from the Westinghouse plant on Sharpsville Avenue and moved us out to Reynolds. I was there until they closed in December, 1984. I retired then.”
“In March 1985, I got a call from South Boston, Virginia, where they had relocated the Westinghouse operation from here. Because of its remote location, they couldn’t find anyone to do the work. They tried to fill vacancy with a college grad who didn’t stay, and the work was piling up. They offered me a good package to work for six weeks, so I took it. I commuted, flying from Youngstown Airport, to Pittsburgh, to Lynchburg, and then drove a rental car for an hour. I arrived about 2 p.m., and still had to put in a full day’s work. I came back on Fridays. The six weeks turned into nine months. Then I went back down for another three months doing work for someone getting a kidney transplant. But the pay was good, and it worked out well.”
After that he still wasn’t ready to retire.
“I saw an ad in the paper for enumerator for Polk City Directory. It paid minimum wage, and I had to go door to door, mostly on foot, to confirm the listing for each address. I did Sharpsville, Hermitage, Sharon, Wheatland, West Middlesex, Grove City, Mercer, and Greenville. Did you know Wheatland has hills? They’re steep, and it was very hot. But it was a great experience.”
In 1987, Maury started working as a tour guide for Bortner’s Travel Agency. Shortly after that, Mercer County was having problems in the election office.
“Harold Bell wanted me to work there, but Bortner’s had just offered me a little more money and more travel. So I said I wasn’t interested in working at the election office.”
Three years later, the elections office was still having problems, but this time Maury was interested. He was hired, and worked there from 1990 to 1998. Then he worked in the Pro Shop at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course. In 2001, he ran for Jury Commissioner, and was elected. He is still in that position, completing his second term.
So it’s been a busy life. Especially when you consider the other things he has been involved in: 4th Degree Knights of Columbus, Cub Scoutmaster, president of the Holy Name Society, president of the Parent-Teacher’s Association, member of the Hibernian Society, member of the Kiwanis Club, lector at St. Joseph’s Church, active membership in the local AARP, volunteer at Sharon Regional Hospital . . . and who knows what else?
Maury’s wife Pat passed away on November 15, 2007, a month after their 59th wedding anniversary. Their son John, who has Down syndrome, still lives with Maury, as he has all of his life.
“John is great company,” Maury said. “He’s unique. He works every day at a paying job at MCAR, loves to bowl, and has started square dancing.”
Maury’s other children are scattered around eastern USA. Patrick is a retired Navy captain living in Charleston, South Carolina; Anne lives in Sharon and works at Huntington Bank; Katherine is a teacher in Fayetteville, Georgia; Mark works for a company called SKF in Birmingham, Alabama; Monica is a mother of two in New Castle; and John’s twin brother, Christopher, is a policeman in Fairfax County, Virginia.
“That gives me lots of places to visit,” Maury said, “but I don’t have time.”
And he probably won’t for a while. He is running again for election as Jury Commissioner.
“I feel good, so I figure why not?”
Maybe sometime he’ll figure that it’s time to be bored a little. But then again, probably not.
Excerpted from Lives of Quiet Inspiration, Volume 3, by Joe Zentis. Hermitage, PA: Green Street Press, 2009