Surnames/tags: Morley Wright
Written by Caitlin McCann on August 3rd, 2020
My mother, Janet Maureen Cargill McCann, met Mary when the Cargill family lived in Fall River, Massachusetts. They were neighbors. My mother was nine years old and she spent a lot of time with Mary as an excuse to leave her own overcrowded home.
When my mother was in high school, she said that she had even dated Mary’s son, Mark, for some time. She described him as being abusive although she never went into any details. One of my mother’s sisters had told me that there was sexual assault involved but my mother never confirmed it herself.
The Cargill family moved down to Florida where Janet finished high school but she kept in contact with Mary and Bill. They would pack up their RV and travel with my mother all over the United States. Janet has hundreds of Polaroids of mountains, waterfalls, forests, and canyons with the married couple.
Their relationship wasn’t perfect. Mary and my mother would get into fights and Mary had a nasty temper. She would say the cruelest things and refuse to apologize for them later.
One memorable story was when the two women got into it while driving across the country. I believe they were in Georgia or Virginia when Janet said something that prompted Mary to kick her out of the car on the side of the road and left her there by herself. My mother was in her late twenties and called my dad, who was her boyfriend or fiance at the time, on a payphone to ask him to drive up from Florida to pick her up. I have never heard the end of the story because my parents get so enraged even today about the incident. But somehow their relationship survived even this.
I’m unsure of the circumstances but eventually Mary and Bill moved down to Florida. They lived in an RV Park in Largo called “Rainbow Village” on 66th Street. They had two plots of land for most of their time there, one for their RV and one for a small home that they lived in. They were already living there by the time that I was born in 1995 and so the Wrights were always a part of the family even since I was a little kid.
Mary’s mother, Isabel Blair Morley, lived in their small home but I’m not sure when she had moved in with them. Mary and her mother would fight a lot and even as a child, I would be shocked at how rude Mary was to Isabel. I’m sure there is more context that I never got to see but it was still quite appalling, especially since everyone considered Isabel to be an incredibly kind and gentle person.
I would often spend time with the Wrights as I was growing up either as a day trip so I had a babysitter or for entire weekends. I have a lot of great memories with Mary and Isabel from that time. Bill was almost always gone when I was over. He drove an eighteen wheeler and would make cross country trips quite frequently. Mary also drove huge trucks of goods all over America but when Isabel lost her mobility, her daughter stayed at home more and more to take care of her.
Mary also had a dachshund named Maxie for the longest time. He was a sweet dog who was very patient with me even when I was an annoying toddler. He lived a long, happy life and when he passed, Mary was absolutely devastated. Almost immediately, she adopted another dachshund named Jenny and then just a year or so later, a second named Holly. Jenny was very energetic and lively. Holly had grown up in an abusive household and her previous owner had broken her back. So she was very adverse to touch. As she got older, her chronic pain became worse until she was unkind even to Mary and Bill. She passed not long after Mary did. I’m not entirely sure what happened to Jenny. She might still be with Bill up in Massachusetts but I'm not sure.
Here are some of the memories I have of and with Mary specifically from when I was young:
- Mary had hundreds of old and new paper dolls. We would spend hours cutting the clothing out, arranging the clothes, and posing the paper dolls for pictures.
- Every Christmas time, Mary and I would make these cookies out of dough from Winn Dixie. Each cookie had a design stamped into them so that even when they were completely baked, the design would remain. I haven’t had one of those cookies in years but I can still remember the specific taste they had.
- Mary loved the outdoors and would always watch VCR tapes with me made by National Geographic or a movie like “Homeward Bound”.
- Whenever I came over, we would always make hotdogs, which we would cut into small pieces, and Kraft stove-top macaroni. We would eat dinner, which she always called ‘supper’, on these off navy blue tv trays while watching a show on their tiny tv.
- Mary was a horribly scary driver. She had eye issues that she kept from my mother so that she could drive me around as a kid but I remember hanging onto whatever I could, expecting us to get into a car accident any second. I was really grateful when I was finally able to drive so that I could drive her around instead.
- One day, I was at Busch Gardens, an amusement park in Tampa, Florida with Mary and Bill. I was between the ages of 5-8 because I was old enough to ride some roller coasters but not all of them. There was one wooden coaster called “Gwazi” which has since been replaced by “Iron Gwazi” that Mary and I decided to ride on together. When we sat in the coaster car and the lap bar was lowered, it stopped at a comfortable place for Mary’s body but since I was a very small child, there was a ridiculous amount of space between me and the safety bar. Thankfully, the coaster didn’t go upside down but it was a very rough and fast ride. On one sharp turn, my body was flung from the car and if Mary hadn’t grabbed me by the neck of my shirt collar, I might not have survived the fall back to the ground. I remember this so clearly- the feeling of the wind, me sobbing telling Mary “Please don’t let go!”, getting choked by my own shirt as Mary held onto me until the ride ended. The attendants were some poor teenagers and Mary and I ended up comforting them after the coaster stopped and to this day, neither myself nor Mary ever told my parents about this incident.
- Mary owned hundreds of Yankee Candles but I can’t remember her burning a single one.
Mary talked a lot. She was loud and unapologetic about interrupting others. She didn’t talk about her past much but when she did, it was always very sad. She had been married previously and she refused to speak about the father of her two kids, David Smith. Mary had said that he beat her severely, even once throwing her down a flight of stairs when she was pregnant.
I have never met her children, Mark and Amanda. Mary never really had nice things to say about her son but she did talk about her daughter favorably. There was also a young man named Adam that she would bring up to me. He played the guitar and she got a tattoo of a guitar on her ankle in his name. I think he is a grandchild but I’m not sure. I never met him either.
Isabel passed in 2010 and I believe Mary had been ready for her to go for years. Both women had the same spinal issues which led them to slowly become hunched over the years until they couldn’t straighten their spines. I know that Mary had severe Rheumatoid arthritis as well. I think that taking care of her mother in such close quarters served as a reminder to Mary of what her own future would look like and so she became increasingly bitter about being her mother’s nurse until her passing was seen more as a relief than anything else.
As Bill got older and his mind started to fade, he spent less time on the road and more and more time at home. So the issues in their marriage really started to come to a head. Mary would yell and throw things at him. I had seen them get into some really awful fights and I have heard from my mother that sometimes those fights became physical when Mary attacked Bill with either her hands or some kind of household object. I can’t personally confirm this but I do believe it.
There were also rumors that both Mary and Bill had cheated on each other but I’m not sure about that either.
As I got older, I started to see Mary as a more complicated person rather than a fun, weird grandma/aunt. I started distancing myself from her of my own volition because I felt uncomfortable with how she treated Bill and how she would try to manipulate me. I still have a lot of love for this woman because she was integral to how I grew up and I learned a lot of great things from her, but as an adult I have to acknowledge that she wasn’t that great of a person, even actively hurting those she cared most about.
Mary ended up going into a senior living facility that was also set up like a hospital and things became complicated. Her family didn’t really want anything to do with taking care of her as far as I could tell and legally my mother couldn’t do much since she wasn’t blood related. Mary really suffered in the end with very few people around to care for her or visit her and I can’t help but think some of that was her own doing. She passed away in 2017, just 7 years after Isabel. I don’t believe a service was held in Florida and if there was, I had already moved to Japan and had missed it.
I’ll include some images from my personal collection. These are free for other people to use for genealogical purposes with the caveat that you don’t sell them or post them on sites such as Ancestry.com without proper credit or linking to her profile on WikiTree.