Marbeth 'Toots' O'Grady
Published: Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, October 27, 2012 at 4:35 p.m.
Marbeth “Toots” O'Grady assembled machine guns for a living during World War II, lived as a prison guard's wife on Alcatraz and regularly dressed with gloves, hat and high heels when shopping in downtown San Francisco.
O'Grady, who lived for four decades near downtown Santa Rosa, died Oct. 21 in a senior care facility in Placerville. She was 91.
Her family said she excelled in caring for others, including her ailing mother-in-law and sister-in-law, plus at least a half-dozen foster children. She was quick to listen and slow to pass judgment.
“She never was one to criticize,” said her daughter, Nancy McKeever of Placerville.
A native of Kentucky, she moved with her family to Michigan during the Great Depression so her father could find work in the automotive industry.
During World War II, she took a job in a munitions factory, joining the women of her generation who entered manufacturing to produce war materials while the nation's men went off to battle.
She met her future husband, Army MP Jack O'Grady, at a USO Valentine's day dance in Michigan after he picked her name out of a hat. After the war, the couple moved to the City by the Bay, where she had dreamed of living ever since she'd seen the 1936 film “San Francisco” with Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald.
She lived on Alcatraz for a few years while Jack O'Grady worked there as a prison guard. Her husband went on to become a San Francisco police officer.
In the City, she owned a beauty shop for a few years, then stayed home to rear her two children. When her son and daughter grew older, she worked as a beauty salon receptionist in department stores such as Joseph Magnin and I. Magnin & Co. She was a tasteful dresser, a requirement for the jobs.
In the early 1970s Jack O'Grady retired and the couple moved to a home on Charles Street in Santa Rosa's Burbank Gardens neighborhood. Her husband died in 1992. She remained in Santa Rosa until she moved to Placerville last year.
O'Grady enjoyed walking and caring for her roses. Her family dubbed her the “queen of Thanksgiving” for her enjoyment of the holiday. She complemented her annual turkey dinner with homemade dressing, cranberries and typically three different pies.
She had a special bond with her one grandchild, Emmet O'Grady of Santa Rosa.
“She always made him feel important and cherished,” said her daughter-in-law, Nancy O'Grady of Castro Valley.
Other survivors include a son, Edward O'Grady of Castro Valley, and two brothers, Curtis and Keith Kelley, both of Flint, Mich.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at First Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception at 12:30 p.m. at the Oakmont Golf Club.
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