Remembering Lynn McMahon

Remembering Lynn McMahon
May 11, 2020 Anne Tan-Detchkov

Remembering Lynn McMahon

December 6, 1925-May 3, 2020

Our feisty, clever, plant-loving and incorrigible friend, Lynn McMahon, died on Sunday, May 3 at the age of 95.

Lynn had a slight stroke about two years ago and had been living in an extended care facility on Long Island. A couple of weeks ago she got pneumonia and then was diagnosed with Covid-19. When her son Ray asked, by FaceTime, if she wanted to go to the hospital, she lifted her head and gave an emphatic, “No!”

That is our Lynn, always sure of what she wanted. We were all blessed to know her, to love her, and to work with her for so many years.

Lynn grew up in the Depression and learned to save, recycle, and make things herself. She studied dressmaking and worked for Ma Bell as a telephone operator. She got married and had two boys. Like so many others who grew up during that time, she was a packrat! She always seemed to have the right tool for whatever was needed. Her second-floor pod at QBG was absolutely packed with fabric, patterns, threads, pictures, and more! Patty once told me that to get to her living room from the kitchen in her Flushing home one had to go out the back door, walk outdoors, and go into the front door of the house!

Lynn told us years ago that she became interested in gardening when she was very young after she bought 5 cents worth of marigold seeds, put them in the ground and was enchanted when the flowers grew and started to bloom. Gardening became one of her lifelong passions. Her involvement with QBG started in 1964 when she attended an African Violet Club meeting at the Garden. Soon thereafter she started volunteering at QBG, managing the telephone, the desk, the mail and helping whoever with whatever was needed including teaching children’s classes.

From her perch for decades in the lobby of the “old” Administration Building, Lynn kept her eyes on everything, and everyone. Her hands were always in motion, sewing quilt blocks, taking up straggling hems, re-attaching buttons, making little paper boxes, holiday ornaments, and lace (who MAKES lace?!) or amusing our kids. Lynn was always delighting and caring for people of all ages. She crocheted baby blankets when our kids were born and then crocheted bigger ones as they grew. She was always so thoughtful!

Lynn was also known as The Plant Lady of QBG. She answered questions from the public about tomatoes, roses, basil, broccoli, and more. She reassured homeowners that when pine trees lost needles in the fall this was normal. She was also a regular presence, with the rest of the QBG team, at the Queens County Farm Museum annual harvest event, where people always went looking for the clever and creative Lynn McMahon. Put plainly—Lynn had a following!

Lynn received many awards for her volunteer service, which extended for over 50 years. When I was driving her back from Manhattan once after she had received an award from RSVP (Retired Senior Volunteer program) she told me that as a child she would swing out and drop into the water where the Grand Central Parkway now is! As you can see through the picture above, she was beaming, especially proud of her Volunteer Service Award from the President of the United States! Lynn also worked at the Garden part-time starting in the mid-1990s, at around age 70, while still volunteering on Tuesdays, her day, until she was in her early 90s!

Over the years, we heard about how her granddaughter Lisa grew up at Queens Botanical Garden and then saw pictures of her children, Lynn’s great grandchildren, as they have grown. We heard about Ray Jr.’s desire to go to cooking school, and his triumphant graduation.

Ray, Ray Jr., and Lisa have all said how much the Garden meant to Lynn, and to them, as they knew she was among friends and was doing something she was passionate about. In the past couple of years, they brought Lynn to us, to attend staff and retirement parties, and for her to be able to be at the Garden that was her home-away-from-home for so many decades, and with her plant-loving friends.

She loved it when we called her incorrigible! And boy did she live up to the word! She was feisty! She was also so kind and generous, and, as her grandson Ray Jr. so lovingly says, a “force of nature”!

So, let us now celebrate Lynn McMahon, who came from a fourth generation Italian/Irish family to grace generations of people with her wisdom, wit, and presence at this Garden in Queens.

Susan Lacerte
Executive Director
Queens Botanical Garden