By Sara Connors
Special to the Southern Gazette
After almost a full lifetime of giving back to others, a Marystown senior has been recognized by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador for her contributions to her community.
Annie Brennan, 88, commonly known as Mrs. Annie around the community, is one of five recipients of the 2019 Seniors of Distinction Awards. Exemplary seniors who have made significant achievements, shared their culture or talents or contributed to their community through leadership or volunteering are eligible for the award.
“I feel awesome about it,” says Brennan.
“Excited, really. It was an honour for me to receive it, because a lot of people my age get awards, but they’ve passed and don’t receive it. I was lucky enough to be alive and to accept.”
Lifetime of helping
Born and raised in Marystown, Brennan (nee Mallay) was the eldest living daughter of James and Margaret Mallay, who had 16 pregnancies. Besides briefly moving to St. John’s as a young woman to work at St. Clare’s Hospital to support her family, Brennan has lived in Marystown her entire life.
Brennan had 13 children with her husband Michael, a war veteran, who passed away in 1984, and has a total of 51 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
But family and friends say Brennan has been a mother to many more. For decades, Brennan has opened her home to those looking for advice, counselling or a shoulder to cry on - always with a cup of tea on hand. Whether it be recovering alcoholics, the mentally handicapped or physically disabled, people going through family challenges or simply those seeking a listening ear, Brennan’s home has been a refuge for all.
"When I put together her nomination, I referred to her as being like Mother Theresa. I feel like that’s the kind of character you get in my Aunt Annie.” — Karen McCarthy
Brennan’s formal volunteering dates back to the 1950s, beginning with the Red Cross. Brennan has also volunteered for decades with the Canadian Cancer Society, the Marystown Family Aid Committee, the Catholic Women’s League, the Lions Club of Marystown, the Mercy Associates, and the Royal Canadian Legion, as well as serving as a eucharistic minister and visiting sick and shut-in people in the community. Brennan’s work has earned her multiple awards and formal recognitions.
Brennan’s niece, Karen McCarthy, who nominated her for the Seniors of Distinction Award, says her aunt is an inspiration.
“Her entire life has been focused on helping other people," says McCarthy.
"The most amazing thing to me is the fact she’s never wanted anything in return. When I put together her nomination, I referred to her as being like Mother Theresa. I feel like that’s the kind of character you get in my Aunt Annie.”
Still dedicated volunteer
Though Brennan has slowed down her volunteering efforts in recent years, she hasn’t stopped. Brennan still actively volunteers through the Mercy Associates and plans on continuing to sell poppies for the legion, a role she’s taken part in for over 30 years.
Brennan says it’s those she meets along the way that inspire her to continue volunteering well into her 80s.
“I love working with people. I enjoy volunteering. Every minute I work, I enjoy it.”
Brennan’s daughter, Mary Mayo, says her mother’s tenacious and humble spirit is what has kept her active in her community.
“In many ways, she’s like women raised in rural communities, in that they go about and do what needs to be done and never expect or want any accolades for it," Mayo said. "She would never draw that attention to herself, but we have always felt she was exceptional.”
A formal awards ceremony for the award will take place on Oct. 1, which is International Day of Older Persons and National Seniors Day.