SACO – Grace Kerry McNally, a children’s librarian at Dyer Library in Saco for 35 years, dedicated her life to family and inspired thousands of people who participated in the popular Mary’s Walk and Kerrymen Pub Road Race.

The family founded Mary’s Walk in 1999 to honor her daughter, Mary Kerry Libby, who died of cancer in 1997.

Since its inception, more than 20,000 people have participated in Mary’s Walk and the Kerrymen Pub 5K. The event has raised over $1.7 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation. Mrs. Kerry McNally attended every event, except for one.

“She went through the ultimate pain of losing a daughter and she was there smiling, hugging people and shaking their hands,” said her son, John Kerry of Saco. “She was so positive. She was an extraordinary role model for everyone.”

Mrs. Kerry McNally died on Monday at the Gosnell Memorial Hospice House in Scarborough. She was 99.

She was remembered by her family on Tuesday as a beautiful, light-hearted and giving woman, who inspired a love of reading in many children. She led the Dyer Library’s summer reading and story-time programs for many years.

Her daughter, Ann Kerry of South Portland, said she knew many of the children’s names and had a knack for suggesting the right book for the right child. She retired at age 82.

“Her whole existence pretty much centered around children,” her daughter said. “She loved children. She had six of her own and well over 30 grandchildren (and great-grandchildren). My mother was always a woman that looked ahead. She was always forward-thinking. She had this happy and positive view of everything.”

She was the loving wife of Raymond Kerry, former police chief of Saco. They were married for 48 years and lived on Common Street in Saco. She lived there for over 70 years. He died in 1975.

Her daughter said they shared a “wonderful life.” She said her parents attended their children’s school activities and sports events, and went to Mass together.

The family gathered most Sundays for dinner, she said.

“Our life had a wonderful rhythm to it,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Kerry McNally had a passion for playing the piano and singing and dancing.

In her 60s, she took up golf, painting, making pottery and writing poetry. In her 70s, her paintings were exhibited at the Saco Art Festival. Her poetry, including the poem featured in her obituary, was published by the Poetry Fellowship of Maine.

She enjoyed golfing into her 80s.

“I never saw my mother without a smile,” Ann Kerry said.

She was married to her second husband, Ransom McNally for 10 years. He died in 2005.

Mrs. Kerry McNally’s health began to decline recently and when she died on Monday she was surrounded by many in her family.

“She was my dearest friend,” her daughter said. “I’ll miss her presence, her laugh, her smile and her hands. She had the most beautiful hands. They were artist’s hands. She was extraordinary.”

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]