Fredericton University student remembered as ‘fabulous’ force

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Mary Frances Cronin, 23, of New Maryland had the world by the tail.

The popular college footballer, coach and Dean’s List student was on the cusp of a remarkable career in geodesy and geomatics engineering, skilled in mapping the ocean floor, creating 3D models or developing navigation.

She was due to fly to Vancouver on Monday for an eight-month internship at the same engineering consulting firm her older brother works for. She was going to live with him and his fiancée, his best friend from college.

She had “a huge, bright future ahead of her. Companies were bidding” for her, her father, Arthur Cronin, said.

“She could do anything she wanted to do. She was just phenomenal,” said her mother, Michèle Cronin.

But Mary died suddenly Friday at Dr. Everett Chalmers Hospital in Fredericton.

A preliminary autopsy shows that she died of a pulmonary embolism.

No one could do anything, her mother said.

“They don’t know how long the pulmonary embolism was there. They don’t know what caused it.”

Mary tested positive for COVID-19 after her death, but it’s unclear if that was a factor, her parents say.

No COVID Symptoms

She had no symptoms of COVID.

She was tired, but she had taken her last exam on Wednesday and had spent 24 hours studying and preparing, so her parents attributed it to overwork and stress.

On Thursday, Mary calmed down, shopping and watching TV with her 13-year-old cousin.

“There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary,” her mother said.

When Mary woke up around 7am on Friday, she felt dizzy.

Her mother helped her settle back into bed and calm down, then tested her for COVID.

The result was negative.

But when she checked on Mary later, she thought her daughter “just wasn’t looking well”, so she called 911.

“I was actually on the phone with 911 and I left to get dressed to go to the hospital and I came home and when I checked her she wasn’t breathing.”

She said the dispatcher, paramedics and hospital staff did all they could.

“As one of the family members said, [Mary] had no idea it was going to happen, which is good,” she said. “In her mind, she was preparing to move on and planning for her future and the rest of her life.”

The older brother looked at her

On Monday, family and friends were united in both their grief and their memories of the remarkable and dynamic young woman who left an indelible impression on everyone she met.

Mary’s brother, Raymund Cronin, 26, is devastated. He and Mary “weren’t just siblings” they were best friends.

“She was the person I confided in. Even though she was younger, I looked up to her every day,” he said. “She was such an amazing person. She made me want to be better.”

His sister was “really bright,” he said, proudly noting that she showed it in every college course they both took.

“When she was first hired at my company, I couldn’t wait to tell people and I couldn’t wait for them to meet her,” he said.

“I was so proud of who she was and what she had accomplished.”

Raymund Cronin, pictured here with his sister Mary at Picaroons, says she was ‘really brilliant’ and lit up every room she walked into (Submitted by the Cronin family)

He knew there was so much more to come, so much more she would accomplish.

“She was coming to work for McElhanney, but I knew that one day she would run a company or be a powerful figure. That’s just who she was.”

She “filled the room with love”

His fiancée, Mackenzie McLeod, remembers the day she met Mary six years ago.

Mary was a freshman at St. Thomas University, where she started out in sociology before deciding to follow in her big brother’s footsteps and move on to a Bachelor of Science in Engineering at the University of New Brunswick.

They were opposites, she says, but Mary quickly endeared herself.

She was “very quirky, very loud. …Even though you barely knew her, you felt like you [had known] her a long time.”

They became close and Mary was to be his bridesmaid at his wedding next summer. The sudden death of her beloved future sister-in-law threw those wedding plans upside down.

“I will definitely miss her for always pushing myself out of my comfort zone and knowing how to make anyone laugh and literally do anything, it was a great time,” McLeod said.

“Like anytime, in any situation, as soon as she walked in, it was better. … She made everyone laugh and filled the room with love.”

Mary Cronin (right) with her friend and future sister-in-law Mackenzie McLeod (left) and friend Kayla Onciul (back) at a Pride Parade in Fort St. John, British Columbia. Mary was a fierce LGBTQ+ ally and loved the many queer members of her family. and friends. (Submitted by the Cronin family)

Mary’s older cousin, Mollie Cronin, 29, fondly remembers the boisterous Mary having her own box of bandages in kindergarten.

“There were a lot of shenanigans,” she said.

Mary, the fifth of 12 cousins, was “always kind of encouraging [the older ones] and forcing us to follow its energy.”

With the younger cousins, she was “their greatest champion. … She was extremely caring and loving”.

Talented football player and role model

Amy Hughes met Mary when she was a “freckled” 15-year-old who was allowed, by exception, to play on the Fredericton women’s league soccer team because of her skill.

Hughes then coached Mary at St. Thomas University, where she was the six-foot goaltender for three seasons, including 2018 when she captained the team to winning the U.S. Championship. Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association.

“She was just larger than life…She just had such a big reach and impacted so many people,” she said, noting how Mary served as a “very strong role model” for young players.

“She would excel at anything she put her finger on, really.

“She gave her all in all aspects of her life, whether she was on the pitch, in the classroom, or coaching young people at [Fredericton District Soccer Association] …she was just a very impressive personality.”

Mary Cronin, in blue, was the goalkeeper and captain of the St. Thomas Tommies in 2018 when they won the ACAA Championship. (Keith Minchin/Faces of Fredericton)

The Fredericton District Soccer Association is “deeply saddened” by Mary’s sudden passing.

She was “a phenomenal leader, teammate, friend to many and a true inspiration to our young players,” he said in a social media post. “She will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”

A family friend created the Mary Cronin Fredericton High School Memorial Soccer Scholarship.

It’s a fitting tribute, her mother said – Mary had a passion for the game, loved the spirit of competition, camaraderie and a challenge.

A talented athlete and fierce competitor, she also excelled at rugby. In 2019-20, she helped the UNB Varsity Reds win the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association championship.

The family are “absolutely stunned” by the number of people Mary has touched in her short life who have offered their condolences, which her mother said is a tribute to the fact that Mary lived her life to the fullest.

“She was fabulous,” she said, “and a force.”

A service to celebrate Cronin’s life will be held at the T. Gordon MacLeod Memorial Chapel at York Funeral Home Thursday at 2 p.m. The service will be broadcast live.

The University of New Brunswick, which provides counseling and other supports to students and staff, will fly its flags on the Fredericton and Saint John campuses at half mast in honor of Mary until service .

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