Almost to the minute, Joseph W. Veccia ’88 can tell you when he proposed to Mary Babione ’88. It was 1975. They were seniors at Boca Raton High School. They were only 18—and it was technically their first date—so Mary’s rational response was, “You’re crazy. Of course I’m not going to marry you.”
For 60 days straight, he asked her the same question.
“Finally, she said yes,” he said.
Exactly one week after graduation, they were married.
“Even at 18, she knew what she wanted,” he said. “She was solid, very steady and calm. Mary was a woman among girls.”
She was Mary, full of grace. If you met her, you felt like you'd been touched by grace.
Joseph W. Veccia
On Dec. 16, 2016, after 40 years of marriage, three children and seven grandchildren, Mary died at the age of 58.
“She was Mary, full of grace,” Veccia said, “If you met her, you felt like you’d been touched by grace.”
The Veccias, who went to College of Boca Raton as young parents and graduated with degrees in mortuary science, bought Babione Funeral Home from Mary’s father in the late ’80s.
They worked at desks six feet from each other for four decades, growing the business until it encompassed 115 funeral homes in 18 states. They already had begun the process of divesting the business to live “happily ever after” when Mary became sick.
“I have done 20,000 funerals in my lifetime,” Veccia said, “and I have never seen 10 priests at the altar, with 900 people in the church. But that’s my Mary. Who else is so admired?”
The true measure of Mary’s grace unfolds in the stories of those she helped. There was the woman at Hospice.
“She told me, ‘Your wife bought me a car,’” Veccia said. “She had been in an abusive relationship and Mary helped her get out.”
There was the woman at the funeral home. Mary had helped her pay for college. And there were dozens more, strangers, neighbors and family members who had received advice, a hand up or spiritual guidance from Mary. She loved to help single moms in particular.
To honor her, Veccia has made a significant donation to establish the Mary Veccia Endowed Scholarship. He hopes it will benefit single mothers (or their children) working toward a Lynn degree.
“Mary would love this,” he said. “In his eulogy, my son-in-law said that Mary told him when she was diagnosed with cancer that she had lived a blessed life, even if it would be only 58 years. She said she had known more love in those years than most people could hope for in 100. I feel blessed every day that she chose to spend those years with me. And I’m glad her grace can go on touching people who need it.”