SWANVILLE — Mary Margaret (Cummings) Ristino, 76, passed away Jan. 17, 2022, at her home on the shore of Swan Lake, a place she loved, surrounded by her loving family.

She was born Nov. 1, 1945, in Everett, Mass., to Norman and Elizabeth (Barry) Cummings, as Irish as any lassie could be. An accomplished critical care nurse, Mary spent most of her career caring for coronary bypass patients at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Mass. Many of her patients were nationally known celebrities and jurists who, for the sake of anonymity, will remain nameless, but they know who they are.  Keenly intelligent, she was well respected by her colleagues for her extensive knowledge of nursing and medicine, and her willingness to help out whenever needed. Friends and relatives would often ask Mary for medical advice, even before contacting their doctors.

She was a force of nature. Early in her nursing career while working at Whidden Memorial Hospital in Everett, Mass., Mary was caught in the great blizzard of 1978. For three days she and her fellow nurses cared for patients around the clock without relief and with minimal support. When she finally left for home, state police, enforcing a state shutdown, stopped her on the Mass Turnpike. She rolled her window down, explaining to the officer that she had been working three straight days without a break, so either arrest her or let her go home. They let her go.

Through each era of her life, Mary made deep and lasting friendships. Sadie (Foti) Graziano, who grew up next door in Everett, was her oldest friend. Mary learned to cook Italian by watching Sadie’s mother. Neighbors like the Perkinses, Donovans, Tonachels, Zettls and Nancy Ferretti became lifelong friends. Wayne and Marita Zifcak were the Ristinos’ world traveling companions and supported Mary and her husband in her final days.

An avid gardener, Mary had lovely gardens in her home in Holliston, Mass., and later in Swanville.  More than one friend and neighbor benefited from her extensive knowledge of all things botanical and the baskets of vegetables from her garden that she gladly shared.

She had a great sense of humor, often at the expense of her husband of 57 years, Robert J. Ristino. Bob attributed their long and (mostly) happy marriage to Mary’s infinite capacity for taking pains and ignoring whatever he said or did. Together, they had three children, Laurie Ann, David Robert and Gaelin Elizabeth, weathering the tremendous loss of their son at the age of 5. Mary was proud of the accomplishments of her daughters, whose work, similar to hers, was about service and doing good in the world. Laurie is an environmental attorney and consultant, and Gaelin is an autism therapist. In addition, they have a daughter-in-law, Laurie Izutsu; two grandchildren, Aidan, a sophomore at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., and Neve, a sophomore at Hanover High School in Hanover, N.H.; and a niece and nephew, Cheryl and Michael Cummings, both of Belfast.

When Mary died, Bob and their two daughters held her as she quietly passed. She had long suffered from fourth-stage ovarian cancer. From the very beginning of her diagnosis, she knew she only had a few years to live. Yet she never complained about the countless rounds of chemotherapy and radiation therapy at Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston, nor the followup radiation at Northern Light Cancer Treatment Center in Bangor. She was a true stoic; expressing that her only regret was not having more time to arrange things for her family.

This obituary would be remiss if it excluded the family’s canine residents, dearly loved by Mary. Over the years the Ristinos had many dogs: Kelly, the Irish setter; Shelly, the chocolate Lab; Bailey, the black Lab; Bosco, the bullmastiff; Chula, the puggle; and lastly, Bruno vom Patrotin Schaferhund, a German Shepherd, who mourns her still. She loved them all, as they did her.

Mary’s life was well lived and well loved. She will be missed by all who knew and loved her.

Memories and condolences may be shared with the family at ripostafh.com.

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