A good woman, passing

Remembering Mary Ann Flanagan

The author is a frequent contributor to the CN&R and other publications, as well as an adjunct English instructor at Butte Community College.

I first met Mary Ann Flanagan in the early 1970s, when we were both 20-somethings, new arrivals in Quincy at a time when the nation was still deeply divided over the war in Vietnam.

Her husband, Jerry, had recently been elected district attorney for Plumas County, becoming the youngest DA in the state. I liked him right away, and anyone who ever liked Jerry also liked his wife because they were, in every conceivable way, a package deal. If ever two were truly wed, it was surely they.

Mary Ann (known to all by her nickname, Dubie) died recently up in Oregon, where the Flanagans moved after he retired from working in the Butte County DA’s Office, where he became Mike Ramsey’s chief deputy in the mid-’80s.

Those of us who knew them will never forget them, or the times we shared.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Even as I finished writing that sentence, I realized it was hollow, the kind of thing that comes to mind in the presence of loss. The truth is that I’ve already forgotten much of what I shared with the Flanagans, those evenings and those conversations about issues of the day that are no longer urgent, replaced in the passing parade of events, just as we are being replaced by the press of years.

I do remember we all drank a lot of beer, and we laughed a lot, and I remember Jerry, standing, with a Budweiser in his hand, with that rubber band he wore on his wrist as a trademark.

Like many wives of voluble men with public lives, Mary Ann took a back seat, saying little, but her quiet presence was the essence of that house, and her presence was part of his presence, too.

Mike Ramsey said: “Mary Ann was the yin to Jerry’s yang. She was a kind, gentle and quietly intelligent lady who kept Jerry centered. … I’ll always remember the days in the early ’90s when she and Jerry would take up a table in the window of one of the downtown bistros and use cardboard numbers to rate the Halloween costumes as they walked by.”

Ramsey’s memory coincides with mine. Mary Ann Flanagan was a kind and good woman. A loving mother who raised two fine sons. A most loving wife. Words will never do justice to a life like hers, a life that gave so much to so many, and a loss incalculable to those she gave the most.