PORTLAND – It was a running joke among the six grandchildren of Betty Flaherty: Who was Nanny’s favorite?

The answer was usually whomever happened to have played baseball that day. Or basketball. Or possibly football or hockey. That grandchild would get a big hug, regardless of what transpired on the field, court or rink.

“The great thing was,” said Ryan Flaherty, “whether it was a good game or bad game, she thought you did the best.”

Elizabeth C. “Betty” Flaherty died Friday at age 82.

She grew up on Federal Street in Portland with 11 brothers and sisters. She graduated from Cathedral High in 1946, shortly after meeting her future husband at the F&P Candy Company — they were true sweethearts — on Cumberland Avenue.

Betty and Edward J. Flaherty, her husband of 58 years, raised four children. First came Ed Jr., who played baseball at the University of Maine and currently coaches that sport at the University of Southern Maine. Then came three daughters, twins Janet and Jean, and Karen.

When Karen was in fourth grade, Mrs. Flaherty became an educational technician at the Riverton School, where she gained the respect of students.

“She was very, very personable and caring,” said Ed Flaherty, her son. “She really listened to people and she loved kids.”

Flaherty remembers playing basketball in the yard with his friends and a stray ball muddying his mother’s sheets drying on the clothesline.

“She would just wash the sheets all over again,” said Karen MacDowell, the youngest daughter. “That’s the type of mom she was. She loved having kids around.”

Later in life, she was delighted whenever her grandchildren brought their friends to her backyard swimming pool.

A religious woman, Mrs. Flaherty often read the prayer cards given her by Jean and Janet and would say the rosary two or three times a day.

She played beano at St. Pius X Church on Ocean Avenue.

She was devoted to her husband. “She was prototypical of that (generation),” Ed Jr. said. “She just kind of doted on him.”

And if she wasn’t doting on her husband, she was doting on her grandchildren.

“She’d go to all our games,” said Ryan, who now plays professional baseball in the Chicago Cubs organization.

It wasn’t that she played favorites, it was that she made each grandchild feel as if he or she was the chosen one. “She had a big enough heart that she didn’t have a favorite,” Ryan said. “She loved everyone.”

Staff Writer Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or at:

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