Therese Celine McNamara McAndrew
12/27/1928 — 1/10/2021
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” Wm. Shakespeare
Two days after Christmas in 1928, Therese Celine McNamara entered the world, the 6th child (of 11) of John and Rose Mary (Sheehy) McNamara in Chicago. Therese grew up in Davenport, Iowa surrounded by lots of music, Irish culture, and of course her many siblings.
Therese met John Louis McAndrew, the love of her life, in Davenport. Therese was beautiful and John was no fool; he later admitted that what caught his attention was how ‘she was so put together’. They shared a formative Catholic faith, and Therese knew that John was a keeper when he willingly joined in the McNamara family prayers before going out on a date. They married while John was still in Dental School and had their first child before his graduation. John enlisted in the Army for his dental internship and they were posted to Fort Lewis, Washington. In 1956, they moved to California where John established his dental practice.
Therese and John had children everywhere they went—1 daughter in Iowa, 2 sons in Washington, and 2 sons and 3 daughters in California. When she moved to California to support John’s career, Therese didn’t know anyone. So she got involved in the Dental Auxiliary, St. Cecilia’s Parish, The Assistance League, her ‘Potluck Group’, and numerous other civic organizations where she developed life-long friendships and shared her passion for helping others.
As life became more complicated with more children, Therese’s organizational skills flowered. She developed systems for everything, including keeping all canned items stored alphabetically in the pantry so the children could put away and retrieve them. After some years living in California, she came to the gradual realization that readily accessible fresh fruits and vegetables were actually better than canned goods.
Since every one of her eight children took piano lessons willingly, she prepared schedules which, along with daily chore assignments, were posted on the refrigerator; two children practiced piano before school (the 5:45 am start time always felt like punishment), and the remaining children after school. Her family and friends learned that there were two ways to do things, the “Therese way” and the wrong way.
In her 40s when her youngest child was learning to swim, Therese learned too. She became a daily swimmer and participated in Masters Swimming until she was 90. She learned and taught her children the importance of regular exercise, hydration, and good nutrition, despite her own weakness around a bag of potato chips.
Therese’s life was guided by her Catholic faith. She was active at St. Cecilia Parish in Tustin where she attended daily mass for decades. She was also actively involved in: the Holy Family Retreat Association (HFRA) for married couples’ retreats, Serra Club supporting vocations to the priesthood, Casa Teresa (from its founding in 1976), a home for pregnant women in crisis, Cursillo Retreats and ongoing gatherings with her ‘groupies’. In 1988, she was named the ‘Catholic Woman of the Year’ in the Diocese of Orange for her life of service and ministry. She went on to serve in the Diocesan Detention Ministry until she was 90. Every Monday, she would arrive at the jail with a message of God’s unconditional love for the incarcerated men who were not feeling very loveable. They recognized her compassion in the tears that often flowed as she witnessed to her faith.
Therese is survived by her 8 children, 14 grandchildren, and 7 great-grandchildren. Children: Anita Harmon (Greg), John (Maureen), Tom (Deborah), Paul (Cathy), Eileen, Molly Thompson (Al), Steve ‘Esteban’ (Georgina), Nora Maginnis (Mike). Grandchildren: Dan, Nick, and Wyatt Harmon; Matthew, Luke, and Brian McAndrew; Ellen, Nate, and Johann Myers; Megan, Kate, Lin, Kevin, and Tricia Thompson; Osiris Sanabria Robles. Great-grandchildren: Jack and Ben, Henry and Louisa, Maura, Vanessa and Kobi. She is also survived by her loving caregiver, Zaida Pizarroso, who provided loving compassion and dignity as Therese declined. Zaida also made sure that Therese was always stylishly accessorized, beautifully coiffed and adorned with lipstick.
Therese is joined in Heaven with John (+ 9/16/2020), her husband of 69 years, her parents John and Rose McNamara, and her sisters and brothers: Jack (Isabelle), Anita Rose, Gladys Johnson, Mabel Heaton (Joe), Rosemary Noth (Jim), Jude (Betty), James, and Frank (Margaret). She is survived by her sister Joan Marie (Frank), brother Paul (Evie), and sister-in-law Hallie.
Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated outdoors at St. Cecilia Church in Tustin, CA on Saturday Feb. 13 beginning at 10:45am with a decade of the Rosary (masks required). Livestream available at:
Interment will follow at Holy Sepulcher Cemetery in Orange. In lieu of flowers, please honor Therese’s memory with a donation to Casa Teresa at casateresa.org, NAMI- National Alliance on Mental Illness at nami.org, or St. Cecilia Church at www.stcecilia.org.
Therese will be remembered by family and friends alike for her unfailing faith, strength of spirit, love of entertaining, and elegance. Wear a hat and some lipstick in her memory.
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