At the end of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens closed the saga of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from miser to saint by noting that, in his new state, people commented that if anyone knew how to celebrate Christmas, Scrooge did. In our community, those words could be used to describe Madeline Mahoney of Burgess, who died last month at the age of 94.
To all locals, she always was known as “Mrs. Mahoney,” and her name usually was said in conjunction with her annual display of Christmas decorations in her yard at the corner of Jessie duPont Highway and Lampkintown Road in Burgess. In that setting, she put forth a presentation of lights that any passerby never could or would forget.
She left not a square foot of yard undecorated, covering the scene with a smorgasbord of lights, figurines and statues. Visitors would gasp at the sight and ask locals who she was. Each year the display grew and grew. Whenever a new Nativity scene or Santa with his reindeer appeared on the market, she was ready to put it to use.
For many, the festivities of the Christmas season had to include at least one passing in front of her house to see the old and the new. For the effort, one was not disappointed. She truly made Christmas “brighter” for all of us.
Madeline Curtis Mahoney, September 17 1927 – February 21, 2022, R.I.P.
Following the Kennedy assassination in 1963, Secret Service protection was extended to former Presidents and their families. The famous photograph of former President Harry S. Truman putting a nickel in a meter after parking his car would not be replicated. After his death in 1972, his widow, Bess, lived on in their family home in Independence, Missouri, for almost another decade, protected by the Secret Service.
One of the agents assigned to her was Dave Brissett, and Mrs. Truman’s safety was one of his first duties in his distinguished career of 25 years in the Secret Service. After settling in the Northern Neck in retirement with his wife, Chris, Dave became a regular shopper at Tri-Star Supermarket, where I enjoyed numerous great conversations with him.
Dave’s experiences comprised the stuff of which great novels were constructed by world-class authors, except that in his case the stories were factual and true. Among his many accomplishments, he was instrumental in the assignment of blame for the Pan Am 103 disaster over Lockerbie, Scotland, at a time when he was on loan to the Central Intelligence Agency.
From our chats, his experience that was most memorable was his tour as a young agent assigned to the protection of Bess Truman. Clearly, Mrs. Truman was not in immediate danger, and Dave was as much a companion for her as he was her protection. He spoke of taking her to the grocery store, and of walking up and down the aisles with her, pushing her grocery cart. He said she would ask him to reach for an item and ask how much it cost. Sometimes, when he would tell her the price, she would ask him to put it back, as she preferred to wait for it to be on sale.
That tale was one of his many vignettes that were part of his vocabulary. Dave was a native of Ogdensburg, New York, and a graduate of the State University of New York at Buffalo. He completed his graduate work in Criminal Justice at Central Missouri University, after which he came to be recognized as a leading expert in counterterrorism. In that arena, he served his country admirably, and he did it all modestly and without any thought of himself.
He truly was a model citizen.
David Carl Brissett, January 25, 1947 – February 15, 2022. R.I.P.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!