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Mary B. Montrond

Michelle Montrond

Determined to make sure that Cape Verdeans in Onset stay connected to their roots, Wareham’s Mary B. Montrond (1925-2020) initiated multiple Cape Verdean outreach projects. After visiting Cape Verde in 2011, Mary set out to make 1,000 dresses, 100 dresses per island, for the young girls of Cape Verde, with assistance from the Busy Bee Quilters of Wareham. In 2019, she helped organize the Oakdale family reunion, a gathering of Cape Verdeans who grew up in Wareham’s Oakdale Village.

Mary (Baptista) Montrond (1925-2020) was a Wareham-born Cape Verdean woman who dedicated her life to improving her community while strengthening the roots Cape Verde has in Wareham’s Onset, MA. She was an active member of the community, and always gave back to not only Wareham, but also Cape Verde whenever she could. Mary created numerous opportunities to improve the community and did so up until her death. She was innovative and always had a soft spot for helping children in need.

Mary was born on November 25, 1925, to Frank and Candida Baptista, two Cape Verdean immigrants who came over from Brava in the 1800s. Growing up in Oakdale, a community within Wareham, Mary ended up quitting school in order to care for her siblings. Her first job was as a candy striper at Tobey Hospital, bringing books and treats to patients so their moods could be lifted. Later on, Mary was the personification of “Rosie the Riveter” as a tack welder on tank landing ships and as a factory worker at Aerovox and Cornell Dubilier in New Bedford. In 1944, she was employed at Hingham Shipyard, where she met her husband Anthony Montrond. Mary and Anthony wed in 1945 before he went to war. The couple would have eight children. In an aside, she helped introduce her husband to his own father. Mary was a stay-at-home mother, money was tight, so she would often walk to the rectory for money. When trying to buy a house, they would not sell to her because she was Black, but Mary was persistent, ironically enough signing the mortgage in pencil. Mary moved to East Wareham in 1963 and resided there until her passing on January 28, 2020.

Once all her children were out of school, Mary began to pursue more occupations and interests. She worked in the cafeteria at Wareham High School becoming a student and faculty favorite because she was known to always give out extra food. After retiring, she worked as a home health aide for the elderly. Mary was known to have a wonderful sense of humor while being a pious Catholic. Her daughter describes her as a “devout Catholic and a prayer warrior.” Mary had made a promise to her late mother that not only would she visit the family homestead in Cape Verde, but that she would also visit the grave of her uncle buried on Martha’s Vineyard, who had been struck and killed by lightning on his way over from Cape Verde. Mary constantly sent blue buckets to her cousins in Cape Verde from Fall River, full of supplies and necessities that they may not have had access to. Mary made sure to faithfully take care of those who were still back in Cape Verde. After visiting in July of 2011, Mary made it a personal mission to continue giving back on a larger scale to the islands and beyond. She set out to make 1,000 dresses for the young girls of Cape Verde, which would be an impressive 100 dresses per island. She was able to do this with cloth laying around her home, along with donations and assistance from her godchild and the Busy Bee Quilters of Wareham. She felt called to do this since Cape Verde is “90 degrees, 365 days a year.” Mary was able to improve the lives of so many children in Cape Verde because of this. She also took in multiple children from the Fresh Air Fund, an experience for children in underserved New York communities to go out and live with host families for a new and welcomed change of scenery. Siblings from the same family, spread out through the years, would stay with the Montronds. Traditionally, children would only stay two weeks, but it was common for the children staying with Mary to stay all summer. She was always more than willing to help children in need, having given these youngsters new experiences and a comfortable and welcoming home.

Inspired adventures unquestionably picked up later in life for Mary. In 1996 she went back to school with her husband and graduated with her GED. Crafting was her favorite hobby, she spent a lot of time fashioning pieces to add to her fully functional, award-winning Christmas village. It was so large and extravagant, people would travel just to see it on her front porch. Children from the nearby school would take trips with their teachers to see it and then later bring their parents by. So many people visited that she ended up keeping a guestbook for visitors to sign. For her 80th birthday, her daughter Michelle took her to Plymouth airport so she could fly a plane. Mary ended up flying over her own house! 

Mary was a real fighter, suffering silently from many illnesses and health scares, which never stopped her or interfered with her faith. She was a faithful member of the Cape Verdean festival and an active participant in putting forth her heritage and culture. She went out of her way to make sure the children were aware of their roots so they could have the opportunity to meet family from all over the country. Mary, her husband and two of their daughters, Michelle and Martha, once traveled to the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC to take part in a celebration for Cape Verde. Mary was adamant in keeping her heritage strong, which is why she helped organize the 2019 Oakdale family reunion, a gathering of Cape Verdeans who grew up in Wareham’s Oakdale Village, to come together in celebration. The last big event she attended was Mastru, a Cape Verdean feast held annually in July as a feast for St. John. Mary was a giver, a strong member of the community. Mary is memorable for her life’s work and devotion to her homeland, and for her determination to make sure everyone stayed connected to their roots in Cape Verde.

Lexus Rakoski-Calvin, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Class of 2022  (Elisabeth Arruda, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Faculty Sponsor) with Ann O’Leary, Emily Bourne Research Fellow

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