Marian toal


Marian Toal will celebrate her 105th birthday on July 4.

By Peter McDermott

You can find Tyrone’s Marian Toal in the Census of Ireland, 1911.

And you can also find her at the United Hebrew home in New Rochelle, N.Y., where she is a resident.

“She’s very sharp,” said Belfast native Joe Kennedy, who volunteers there. “I’m surprised. She seems to be doing remarkably well.”

Surprised maybe because Toal will turn 105 on Saturday.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

She has no age listed for the Census taken on “the night of SUNDAY, the 2nd of APRIL,” for she’d only been born on July 4, 1910.

Then she was Mary Ann Early. Whether the enumerator or her parents decided that was how her name was spelled, it’s not clear. Whatever the case, the future Marian Toal arrived in New York in October 1929, a couple of weeks before the Wall Street Crash.

“She shouldn’t be blamed,” quipped her son Terence Toal Jr. to the Echo on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

In 1935, the farmer’s daughter from Rock married Terry Toal, a native of Carrickmore, who was involved with the New York City medallion taxicab industry. The family continued to be closely connected with that business and the Yonkers bar and restaurant trade, too.

“Until quite recently, she was active in a lot of organizations in the community,” said Kennedy, a past grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in New York City.

Toal, who was widowed in 1967, was still living independently in her own apartment at age 100 and residing part of the year in Boynton Beach, Fla. “She gets around,” her son said in 2010.

In more recent times, the centenarian had been confined mostly to a wheelchair, though Kennedy reported that she takes a walk around twice a day at United Hebrew with staff assistance.

“They look after the residents extremely well,” he said, adding that Toal's son and her friends are regular visitors.

“To think that she came over to this country and did so well and survived is incredible,” Kennedy said about the grandmother to eight and great-grandmother to 12. “She is a fine example of the kind of woman Ireland produced and still does.”