Margaret Giles, 94: Loved spending time at Higgins Beach

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PORTLAND — Margaret Connolly Lee Giles died Feb. 13.

Giles was born March 27, 1921, at the Maine Eye and Ear Infirmary, to Martin and Sarah (Bannigan) Connolly. She grew up on Greenleaf Street at the base of Munjoy Hill, across the street from Monroe College. She attended Cathedral Grammar School and graduated from Portland High School in 1941.

Giles was known for her work ethic, and was sometimes referred to as “The General.” She began her work life “shaking farts out of the sheets” at the Greely Laundry Company, formerly located on Washington Avenue. She was a telephone operator at the American Telephone and Telegraph Company, worked at the South Portland Shipyard during World War II, was a meter maid for the Portland Police Department and a switchboard operator at the Osteopathic Hospital of Maine. Giles retired from the hospital in 1980.

Giles married James E. “Big Jimmy” Lee in 1945, when he returned from the war. They lived for many years on Caleb Street in the city’s Summerville section, now known as Westgate. Giles’ husband, a Portland firefighter, passed away unexpectedly in 1966, leaving her to raise two young children alone. But until her dying day, there was nothing more important to Giles than her children. She also had a special love for her grandchildren and step-grandchildren.

After 13 years as a widow, she married Howard Giles of Saco, with whom she had worked at the shipyard. The couple had two wonderful years together traveling and socializing before he succumbed to cancer in 1982. Giles spent countless hours at her husband’s side during his illness.

Giles loved spending time at Higgins Beach, which was a huge part of her life. She enjoyed swimming and the camaraderie of the “Clubhouse” community center. She went there as an adolescent with her friends, and went out on a limb to purchase a cottage, “Between Us,” in 1961. Giles created a wonderful place for her children to spend summers and eventually take up full-time residence.

Giles also loved “fine” Maine cuisine, including Italian sandwiches, Za-Rex, B&M Baked Beans with Jordan’s red hot dogs, and Bruno’s eggplant parmigiana. She particularly enjoyed fresh Holden crab meat, which “had to be right off the picking table.”

She volunteered in the Cheverus High School community, at St. Joseph’s Manor, St. Maximillian Kolbe Church and St. Patrick’s Church. Giles donated to St. Jude’s and sent support to her relatives in Ireland. She was always available to pick up a sick child or transport them to music or dance lessons and athletics. Giles will truly be missed.

The family would like to acknowledge the VNA Hospice team for their support.

In addition to her husbands, Giles was predeceased by two brothers, Francis Connolly of Portland and James Connolly of Detroit, Michigan and seven siblings who died in infancy.

She is survived by a daughter, Regina L. Day, of Scarborough and Bellingham, Washington; a son, James M. Lee, of Scarborough; two grandchildren, Ceile and Kevin; five step-grandchildren, Caroline, Rebecca and William McCandless, and Molly and Julie O’Rourke; as well as numerous nieces and two nephews.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated Feb. 18, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Church in Scarborough; burial will follow at Calvary Cemetery.

Memorial donations may be made to the Center for Grieving Children, P.O. Box 1438, Portland, ME  04104.