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Pilgrim Senior Center Bench Dedicated to Kathleen McNamee’s Memory

Warwick, RI – Kathleen McNamee’s 23 years with Warwick Senior Services created a culture at the City’s Senior Centers where all seniors were important, a legacy the City honored Wednesday with a bench at Pilgrim Senior Center in the late Senior Services director’s memory.

“It’s really touching,” said Anna Greeley, McNamee’s niece, who used to volunteer at the Senior Center when her aunt worked there. “She dedicated so much of her life here. We really appreciated it. It’s very special.”

McNamee retired in 2009 as Senior Services Director, a position she’d held since 1997. She died June 10 of cancer.

“For us it’s good to see her accomplishments acknowledged,” said Anna’s mom, Susan Greeley, McNamee’s sister.

McNamee served on Mayor Francis X. Flaherty’s Senior Center Building Committee and was instrumental in building support for the bond referendum to build Pilgrim Senior Center, which opened in 1990.  During her tenure as director, she expanded programs to include health and social services, providing a continuum of care for seniors.

Due to McNamee’s efforts, Buttonwoods and Pilgrim Senior Centers received National Accreditation through the National Institute of Senior Centers.

McNamee also established the Friends of Warwick Senior Centers, a non-profit agency, which helps fund the center and also enabled the centers to receive accreditation.

“She was, I have to say, of anyone I worked with, the hardest-working person I ever knew,” said Patty Martucci, who worked as a center manager for the Jonah, Buttonwoods and Pilgrim Senior Centers with McNamee for 18 years.

When McNamee set out to make the senior centers appealing activity hubs for elders, Mayor Scott Avedisian said, “Before you knew it, there was line dancing, and aerobics and all sorts of exercise classes and it was, this whole, wonderful mix of asking the people who came through the door, ‘What do you want to do, and how do you want this place to serve you? What an incredible evolution we went on.’ ”

The driving force behind that, Avedisian said, was always McNamee. Though some people can lose interest after decades performing the same job, McNamee never did, Avedisian said.

“It was always, ‘What can we do to make it better?’ Avedisian said.

She brought health care workers into the center to work directly with elders, and made sure the centers got accredited and maintained that standing, he said.

“It was her conscious decision that everyone who walked in the door had value and was important,” Avedisian said, that earned her the job in the first place, and remains a guiding principle in Senior Services operation today.

“We know that she continues to inspire all of us to work harder,” Avedisian said. “We’re here today to really say a great ‘thank you’ to someone who always led with her heart, and always made sure that everyone else was moving in the same direction,” he said.

“I know that she was loved by the seniors, and that they considered her a part of their family as much as she considered them to be part of her family, and what a wonderful legacy and what a wonderful gift to the this community,” Avedisian said.

Susan spoke of her sister’s kind and generous heart, and her penchant for sharing the fruits of her baking with family and friends, especially pies. Susan thanked Avedisian and Meg Underwood, director, Warwick Senior Services, for their efforts to honor McNamee’s legacy.

“Thank you for this wonderful way to remember Kathy,” Susan said.

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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