Obituary for Marie Helen Fanning

Marie Helen O’Boyle was born January 7, 1943 and died May 7, 2019. Marie, or (“Re-Re”) as she was known by the nieces, nephews, and countless cousins, grew up in Scranton Pennsylvania, the youngest of four children of Dr. James P. O’Boyle and Helen Cardiff. Dr. O’Boyle’s house was the center of a large extended Irish Catholic family in Dunmore. Weekends and summers were spent at the cabin in Moscow where Marie swam in the ice pond and hunted rabbits with her dad. Marie’s father was the head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Mercy Hospital in Scranton, PA, and as a young girl she accompanied him on his rounds visiting patients, including his work at the St Joseph's orphanage where she helped him care for children. Marie learned compassion and selflessness at an early age and spent the rest of her life caring for her family, and disabled and special needs children and adults.

After ignoring his antics through grade and high school, Marie met a more mature Bill Fanning in 1967 who remained smitten with her for the rest of her life. After a brief courtship, they married in a December snowstorm and went for their honeymoon to the beach, the Jersey Shore. Decamping to Vermont and then to Elk Mountain, Bill and Marie found the life long passion of skiing and the outdoors that they passed on to their children and grandchildren. As a special education teacher with degrees from Marywood and Villanova, Marie taught children in Philadelphia, Cherry Hill, Baltimore, and Alexandria. Marie’s former students appreciated her and were so devoted to her that her progress through grocery stores was often severely impeded. After the passage of the ADA, Marie worked placing adults with disabilities into the workplace; her stories about training one client to drive the elevator in the US Senate building were legendary.

Re-Re’s classroom management skills and organizational panache served her well in her other role as wife of 49 years and mother to five children spanning fifteen years. Marie created a well organized, warm, and loving home front while her husband Bill traveled for business. During that time, and in between working as a teacher, Marie made sure that all five kids made it out to school every morning with a good breakfast and a lunch. Dinner time was sacred and Marie used the opportunity of feeding her family and assorted guests to extract the day’s news and stories. Marie was a great listener, problem solver, and talker. Being Irish she loved a good story well told, had a great sense of humor and loved to laugh. She always seemed happiest surrounded by her family laughing and talking. Marie had a wide circle of friends and was a great walker. Although socially deft and always proper, Maries drank her coffee black and was fond of a little Jack Daniels before dinner. Marie played a mean game of tennis, loved dogs and hated cats. She was always reading challenging books and turned her children into lifelong book nerds by example.

At heart, Marie was a people person and so it was especially painful to see how the Alzheimer’s disease caused her to lose her ability to recognize the faces of her friends and family. Through the challenges of the last year, Marie remained calm, sweet, and unfailingly cheerful. Even through the fog of the disease, her sense of humor, sometimes just a look was all it took to communicate, was sharp and never left her. Her passing leaves a great void in the Fanning Family. Re-Re played many roles and will be missed by her husband, five children, thirteen grandchildren, and countless others whose lives she touched. She is surely surrounded by her extended Irish family catching up on the stories and laughing at this very moment."

The family will receive friends at DEMAINE FUNERAL, 520 s. Washington St., Alexandria, VA 22314 on Thursday May 16th from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday May 17th at Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 3515 N St. NW, Washington, DC 20007 at 10:30