DAUGHTER, SISTER, wife, grandma, friend, confidant.
Of all the hats she wore in her life, I believe “mom” most accurately depicted Debbie Madden.
Years ago upon meeting her, I realized those of us even vicariously involved in grammar school girls’ basketball were ... well ... overmatched by “Super Mom.”
As though she wasn’t involved adequately enough in her children’s education at the former St. Jo-seph’s parochial school — cafeteria volunteer, Parent-Teacher Organization treasurer — she served as the girls’ basketball coach.
Though I didn’t realize it until recently, I shouldn’t have been surprised — Deb was a Farrell girl.
As such, she was a good, and perhaps more importantly, respected coach who was able to derive the most from her players, without being hurtful. She also had the intuitive sense to understand the impact on the psyche of losing on opponents. Following games, she went out of her way to be kind and complimentary to kids whose adolescent innocence was fragile and tenuous.
Of this I can speak from first-hand experience, and it’s one of my two most favored recollections of her.
The other Debbie Madden memory relates to her enduring legacy: Not only how much she loved her kids — Kelly, Bill Jr., Andrew and Leanne — but how she helped her husband Bill raise them.
Leanne, a protegé at St. Joe’s, morphed into an excellent player at Kennedy Catholic High. During her senior season, Leanne led the Lady Golden Eagles to a PIAA playoff victory by converting several late-game free throws.
Approaching her afterwards and inquiring about her heroics at old Memorial Field House on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus, Leanne’s first words were “thank you,” followed by praise her teammates. She never spoke specifically of herself or her performance; instead, she was humble and dignified, belying composure and maturity found in most 17-, 18-year-olds. That was a direct reflection on her upbringing by her parents.
I never told Deb how much those two anecdotes meant to me, personally, and for that I regret not making the effort. But I’m thinking now — after her recent passing, from her heavenly vantage point — she now knows.
I read in her obituary how much she enjoyed being outdoors, tending to her garden.
The flourishing fruits of her labors were not roses, tulips or lillies; rather, they’re her four children, two grandsons, and those of the rest of us fortunate enough to have known her and who now realize she was one of a kind.
If the game of basketball is the metaphor, her death is our loss. But while time on the clock was winding down these last, few years, remember: Debbie Madden’s life was a win — for all of us.