A Beverly/Morgan Park resident since the 1960s — and with more dedications and honors than we have room to print — Pat McGrail’s service to the community is commendable. From director at the Beverly Arts Center to costume curator at Ridge Historical Society, McGrail helped make our community what it is today.
It’s for her support of our community that BAPA is awarding her the community service award for 2023. “I certainly am honored and surprised,” McGrail said. “I look upon BAPA as being such a good neighborhood resource that helps bring people together. I’m very fortunate to have neighbors I see often — I’m happy living right here.”
She and her husband moved here in the 1960s and seven children kept them on their toes. When McGrail first moved to the neighborhood, she got involved with St. Cajetan’s womens club and the Beverly Arts Center. As her children continued to grow and enroll in school, her schedule freed up enough to seek a job. But somehow she ended up with two at the same time.
In 1981, after seeing an ad in the Beverly Review for a costume curator for the Ridge Historical Society, McGrail interviewed and received that position. She also created costumes for the Beverly Theatre Guild and University Club, which used to have an annual show at the high school. McGrail encourages readers to check out the RHS costume collection, which features garments from the 1800s and 1900s. She volunteered regularly with her children’s schools, including the mothers clubs at McAuley and Marist.
Around the same time, Dave Jones, then executive director of the BAC asked if she’d be interested in managing the arts center. “I said, ‘Well I hadn’t even thought about that, but you’ve given me the ego boost of the day!’” McGrail said of her response to Jones. “There were other applicants and one woman much younger than I, but I was chosen and I loved that job,” she grinned.
“I was able to do a lot of new things at BAC that I felt it needed and worked out, so when I turned 65, I thought it was time to retire so I did,” she said. The replacement came and went, so they asked me to come back. “Upshot was I retired four separate times from the BAC,” she said. Retirement finally stuck in 1999, but she continued serving as a board member.
In addition to art, history and theatre, McGrail enjoys gardening. As a long-time member of the local garden club, she remembers when its meetings used to take place in homes. Now the more-than-100-member club meets at a local church. McGrail enjoys the Edna White Community Garden and remembers being part of the court watch program after White’s murder. During the trial, Beverly and Morgan Park residents would sit in the courtroom to show their support. “The court watch program was a significant part of my life and of the community,” she said.
In 2019, the BAC dedicated a garden to McGrail, naming it the Pat McGrail Courtyard Garden. “I was quite thrilled and excited about them naming the garden after me,” she said. Even at 96, McGrail continues to garden. Her favorite part? Weeding. “I like pretty much everything about my garden,” she said. “It’s evolved over the years and one of my daughters is interested in gardening, so that’s nice.”