Mary-Margaret Almonte, at 53; devoted mother; innovative, award-winning educator; philanthropist; artist/photographer After a long and courageous fight with cancer, Mary-Margaret (Batanian) Almonte passed away on May 12, 2015 at the Kaplan House Hospice in Danvers, Massachusetts. From Cape Ann to Salem to Marblehead to Stoneham to Malden, her personal and professional life broadened over the years of her adult life until it embraced a large and diverse group of friends, associates, and family. Mary-Margaret was spirited, ambitious, and energetic—everyone in her orbit admired and benefited from her creativity and her loving heart. She had gorgeous green eyes and dressed and accessorized (what shoes! what earrings! later, during chemotherapy, what scarves!) with colorful exuberance and flair. She was bold and dependable, with a bright laugh and an eager curiosity. Her small Malden apartment, which she shared with her beloved younger son Elisha, was decorated in framed photographs of places and people she loved and inspirational quotes, including favorite Biblical verses. She was a marvel of beauty, grit, generosity, courage, faith, and perseverance. Born in Toledo, Ohio on February 19, 1962, she came from a large family of many siblings—she was the third child. She was proud of her Armenian heritage and mastered a traditional recipe of stuffed grape leaves that she shared with large gatherings of her own family and with others. Majoring in painting and design, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowling Green University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Later, on the East Coast, she earned a Masters in Teaching English as a Second Language from Salem State University in Salem, Massachusetts. She was currently enrolled in the Master of Mental Health Counseling at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. She was employed by Malden Public Schools as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher. Her present position was English Language Learner Curriculum Specialist. In these positions, she touched and enriched the lives of many students of many nationalities and cultures. In 2011, Mary-Margaret received the Linda Schulman Innovation Award for her work in promoting literacy through family and community connections. In 2012, Mary-Margaret was honored as “Teacher of the Year” by the Massachusetts Association of Teachers of Speakers of Other Languages (MATSOL) organization. She brought a high level of integrity, innovation, vigor and creativity to her work; she was deeply respected by her students, colleagues and administrators. Mary-Margaret was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2009. She was treated primarily by Dr. Carolyn Krasner at Mass General Hospital. In addition to episodes of chemotherapy, she participated in a trial drug program; it prolonged her life—and her data as well as written testimony to the FDA will help Dr. Krasner and others treat ovarian cancer and save lives in the future. Throughout her struggle, Mary-Margaret met, bonded with, and encouraged other cancer patients. She began to notice that many were struggling to afford needed medications and supplies; this led to her creating the nonprofit fundraising foundation Healing Hope. Healing Hope donated pharmacy and food-store gift cards to cancer patients struggling with the limits of health insurance. She put this favorite quote of hers on the Healing Hope materials: “A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. In faithfulness, He will bring forth justice…” (Isaiah 42:3) With her passing, her sister Cathy Reichow will take the reins and continue Healing Hope fundraising in Mary-Margaret’s memory. Donations will be managed by her church (see below). She also blogged for friends, family, colleagues, and her church community, candidly sharing information and anecdotes with sharp intelligence and humor. Her greatest hope was that Jesus would save her from cancer either temporarily through healing or eternally through death and new life. In His mercy, God has delivered her once and for all. She is survived by her two sons, Jamie Fisher (whom she always called her “mensch”) and Elisha Almonte. She was a nurturing mother who taught her children responsibility, perseverance, integrity and determination. She was also a lot of fun, taking them on various adventures from downhill snow tubing to Disney World and Florida beaches. Over the years there were also many trips to Ohio and the Pacific Northwest to visit family, for holidays and in the summer months. She relished “Family Camp” in the Cascade Mountains of Washington, where she tried horseback riding and ziplines. (Of the latter, she declared, “Afraid of a zipline? Not after a cancer diagnosis, a zipline doesn’t scare me!”) She took and framed lots of pictures from these various trips—her sons have an ample photographic record of everything they enjoyed together. Their mother’s passionate devotion was a precious gift to both of them. Mary-Margaret is also survived by her parents, Floyd and MaryLou Batanian, and siblings Cathy (husband Dan), Jeff (wife Laurie), Suzanne (husband Anel), Matthew (husband Mike), Tim (wife Laura), Jonathan (wife Laura), and sister-in-law Patricia (husband Giovanni), as well as many nieces and nephews and four great-nieces and nephews. She is also survived by dear friends Kathleen Kearns, Teri Chace and Marlane Codair. Heartfelt thanks to the Oncology Department at MGH, especially Dr. Carolyn Krasner and nurse Laura Sullivan; and Mary-Margaret’s friends, students and colleagues at Malden Public Schools—especially her Beebe School family, who provided meals, transportation to and from MGH, and care for her and Elisha while she was in and out of treatment. The family also wishes to recognize the support and care from Susan Vatalaro, Paul Teixeira, Jennifer McCabe and Andrea Ribiero. Special thanks to Pastors Anders and Christina Eliason from Freedom Hill Community Church in Malden. Thanks, too, to the staff of Kaplan House Hospice in Danvers, especially the nurses Dan and Jeannette; she felt no pain under their excellent care. “Celebration of Life” memorial services will be held at Freedom Hill Community Church in Malden, Massachusetts on Saturday, May 16 at 1 pm, and at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Oregon, Ohio at a date to be announced later. Burial arrangements will be private; to express written condolences, please visit www.bostoncremation.org. In lieu of flowers, per her wishes, tax-deductible donations to Healing Hope will be gratefully accepted and used to help other cancer patients. Please write checks to Freedom Hill Community Church, write “Healing Hope donation” on the memo line and mail to 77 Kennedy Dr., Malden, MA 02148.
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