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Mary V. Ostrowski, 90, matriarch of large family was nurse, widow of State Supreme Court Justice

Oct. 22, 1928 — March 24, 2019

Mary V. Ostrowski was an only child who lost her mother at age 19. So she was determined to have a large family — she hoped for 10 children and eventually had six — and welcomed into her home many relatives, friends, neighbors and even her children's friends.

"She knew early on that she really wanted to have a large family," said her daughter Julie Rebbechi.

Mrs. Ostrowski, a onetime registered nurse and widow of New York State Supreme Court Justice William J. Ostrowski, died in her Orchard Park home on March 24, 2019, after a brief illness. She was 90.

"She looked out for and encouraged us to be accepting of people who didn't always fit in, and to be mindful of those in need of extra care, especially children," said Julie Rebbechi. Mrs. Ostrowski opened the family home to her children's friends who had working parents.

Mrs. Ostrowski was the only child of Martin and Catherine (Sullivan) Waldron. Her father immigrated from Ireland in 1899 and at the time of her birth was working as an accountant for the gas company. The family lived on Cushing Place off Abbott Road.

Mrs. Ostrowski was the oldest of more than 30 first cousins.

She attended St. Agatha’s School and South Park High School, where she played on the basketball, volleyball and baseball teams and graduated in 1946.

Her mother was a model for AM&As Department store, then worked in a Curtiss-Wright aircraft factory during World War II. She died of lung cancer.

Mrs. Ostrowski graduated from the Mercy School of Nursing in 1949. While she was a student there, she worked at Gowanda State Hospital.

She met William J. Ostrowski when the Canisius College Glee Club, to which he belonged, performed at her nursing school. They married on Oct. 15, 1949, in Our Lady of Victory Basilica and moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended Georgetown Law School.

In Washington, she worked as a nurse at Providence Hospital. In that era, hospitals were segregated in Washington and Mrs. Ostrowski insisted on working in the African-American ward of the hospital, her son James Ostrowski said.

She had a brush with greatness while a busy nurse at Providence Hospital, her daughter Mary Frances Ostrowski said. She was running down the steps of the hospital when she bumped into a man and they both went tumbling. After they brushed themselves off, her friend told her that the man was Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, then the host of a popular weekly TV show.

The couple returned to Buffalo in 1953 and raised six children. Mr. Ostrowski worked as an attorney and later became a judge on the Buffalo City Court and State Supreme Court.

Their home on Downing Street in South Buffalo was a second home for dozens of relatives, friends and neighbors, said their son James. The Ostrowskis frequently had parties, including the Dinner of the Month Club with a circle of close friends that lasted for more than 50 years.

Mrs. Ostrowski was active in St. Martin of Tours Church for 60 years, and belonged to its Mothers Club. She was a Cub Scout den mother for about five years in the 1960s and supported the March of Dimes.

She and her husband were supporters of the pro-life movement. During the Spring of Life protests in 1992, Mrs. Ostrowski attended a rally in support of then-Mayor James Griffin, whom Justice Ostrowski swore in at his first inauguration in 1978.

Mrs. Ostrowski traveled with her husband to Europe for reunions of the 100th Infantry Division, with which he served during World War II.

They were married for 62 years until Mr. Ostrowski's death on Sept. 13, 2011.

Mrs. Ostrowski moved to Orchard Park in 2015, living with her daughter Mary Frances in her final years. "There would be standing room only in her room," said Mary Frances Ostrowski.

She enjoyed writing songs and poetry and following the national political news. In the first month of the captivity of U.S. hostages in Iran from Nov. 4, 1979, to Jan. 20, 1981, she collaborated with Buffalo musician Tom Calandra on the song "Unity," which was broadcast on local television before a Sabres game. Her daughter Julie called the song "an appeal to God and the nation for their safe return."

Mrs. Ostrowski was a lifelong and passionate Buffalo Bills fan. In recent weeks, she insisted on attending her grandson William’s St. Joseph's basketball games in a wheelchair.

She is survived by her sons James and Michael Ostrowski; four daughters, Catherine Amico, Mary Frances Ostrowski, Susan Ostrowski and Julie Rebbechi; 12 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and many cousins.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 11:15 a.m. Saturday in St. Martin of Tours Church, 1140 Abbott Road.

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