by Pete Mazzaccaro
Frances Maguire, a longtime Wyndmoor resident, philanthropist and artist, died at her home on Wednesday Feb. 12 from cardiopulmonary failure. She was 84.
The mother of nine and her husband, James L. Maguire, were generous donors to education and arts and were patrons of both the Woodmere Art Museum and Chestnut Hill College, among many other institutions in the region.
Known to friends and family as “Frannie,” Maguire was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Northwest Philadelphia. She graduated from Merion Mercy High School and Gwynedd Mercy College, where she later returned for a nursing degree.
While still a senior at Gwynedd Mercy, Maguire married her husband James on Thanksgiving, 1957. The couple would settle into their Wyndmoor home in 1969, where they lived for 50 years.
James Maguire was the founder of a national insurance company known as Philadelphia Consolidated Holding Corp. That business merged with Tokio Marine Group in 2008 for $5 billion. The money left the Maguires very wealthy, a wealth they were not shy to share with programs for art education, catholic schools and other charities. This was no doubt driven by the couple’s devout Catholicism and Frances Maguire’s genuine compassion for others.
“My mother was love personified,” said her daughter, Frances Glomb. “She lived her life by loving and by doing for others. The love she had was so remarkable because every person she encountered always felt her warmth and genuine love for them."
The couple’s donation of $50 million to St. Joseph’s University in 2017 is the largest in the school’s history. The Maguires funded scholarships at Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts, Gwynedd Mercy Academy’s School of Nursing, Drexel University and Chestnut Hill College. These gifts were more than simple monetary donations. Many leaders at the schools and museums that received gifts from the Maguires recall Frances’ personal attention to the programs they supported.
“Over the years as we played tennis and golf together, I came to know a woman filled with amazing grace; talent; love of family, friends, and life,” said Gwynedd Mercy President Emerita Kathleen Owens. “Her interests and commitments were vast and intertwined, whether the arts, education, athletics, homelessness, faith, and so much more—she embodied a spirit of selflessness and inclusion that allowed so many of us to know a woman who is a model for all to emulate.”
“Frannie Maguire, a gifted artist, lived her life as if it were a work of art,” said Chestnut Hill College President, Carol Jean Vale. “Creative, imaginative, humorous, she was one of the kindest, sweetest, gentlest, most generous women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. Her life enriched our world.”
Maguire was also devoted to Germantown’s Face to Face, a local charity that provides food and other services to the poor and homeless. The Maguires founded the annual Turkey Trot 27 years ago to provide financial support for the organization.
“I can honestly say that all of the generosity that Jim, Frannie and the Maguire Foundation have bestowed upon Face to Face truly feel like gifts of love, given with great care,” said Face to Face’s Executive Director, Mary Kay Meeks-Hanks. “Their humility and simplicity speak volumes about the people of integrity they are. Frannie lived her life with the heart of a mother. Her focus was always on the person she was with and made each feel special and valued. I am so grateful I had the privilege of knowing her.”
What was truly special to Maguire, however, was art. It was a pursuit she took on later in life, having enrolled in classes at Pennsylvania Academy of the Arts and taking classes while her husband traveled for business. She flourished as an artist, as both a painter and as a sculptor. She had in recent years become a fixture at Woodmere Art Museum and participated in many of its studio classes. The museum has two of her works in its collection and had included her in a recent show.
“Her creative approach was shaped by her deep admiration for the work of Philadelphia artist Arthur B. Carles, who lived nearby on East Evergreen Avenue,” said Museum Director, William Valerio. “In this respect, she is part of a lineage in the arts of Philadelphia that includes Carles’ own students – Jane Piper and Quita Brodhead – and the artists of a next and current generation, notably Bill Scott, Jan Baltzell, Kassem Amoudi and Liz Osborne, who were all Frannie’s teachers.”
Valerio said Maguire was more than a fixture at the museum. She was a friend to many at the museum and a big part of the family of the small staff and artists at the Hill institution.
“A person of inner radiance and faith, Frannie saw art as an expression of the human spirit,” he said. “There was no greater pleasure than to stand in front of a painting or sculpture with her and discuss how she saw a journey take shape through line and color, forms and subjects.”
In addition to her tremendous commitment to arts, education and other charities, Maguire was a dedicated mother to eight children. A ninth, Edward, her third child, died as an infant.
"More than anything, Mom loved family and any reason to get together to celebrate life was what she lived for,” said her son James Jr. “If it involved family, you name it, and she wanted to celebrate it! Life is a gift, and family is a treasure."
Maguire was an avid gardener, tennis player, cyclist, bridge player, an accomplished violinist and a fan of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which she regularly attended with her husband and good friends, local residents Jim and Carol Fitzgerald.
She is survived by her husband, her children James Jr., Frances Glomb, Chris, Susan, Timothy, Megan Maguire Nicoletti, Colleen and Tara, 24 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two sisters, Margie Smith and Mary Way. Funeral services were held on Feb. 15 at Our Mother of Consolation in Chestnut Hill.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802.