Mary Seton Corboy, 1957–2016

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Illustration by Jameela Wahlgren

Something About Mary

by Nancy Barton

When my husband, Bill, and I first met Mary and her partner, Tom, they had already started Greensgrow Farms in Kensington, and we had recently bought a building a few blocks away to move our brewery operations.  

I don’t recall if she came to us looking for beer or if we sought her out looking for lettuce. Either way it was a fast, instant friendship—a friendship that flourished over the years.

Mary was the kind of person you just wanted to be around. She was smart, was always full of great ideas and had great insight on so many things. One of my favorite of her great ideas was deciding to raise bees—despite the fact that she was allergic!  She ordered up some hives, smokers, safety equipment and, of course, the bees. I was happy to help with the initial setup, first because I was really interested in learning about the whole beekeeping process, and second because, well, she was allergic and shouldn’t get too close. But, true to her ways, she couldn’t sit on the sidelines and watch. So, there we were in the lot across from the farm, building hives, calming bees with smoke and trying to not get stung—happily it was a success.

Mary’s life took her many places, so she always had a good story to tell. Through all her stories, you got the sense that she learned something from every adventure. She fought for good causes and said what was on her mind when other people wouldn’t, even if it wasn’t the most popular thing to do—Mary was definitely someone to learn from.  

She had her good days and bad days over the last few years. But, through everything, she never complained or even let on when she wasn’t feeling well. But, that was Mary: always upbeat, no matter what life threw her way.

She had a sharp, dry sense of humor that I appreciated and loved. Even through her battle with cancer she kept an amazing wit about herself. I still smile when I think about the time she came up behind me in the drugstore and asked me if I could recommend a good conditioner.  I turned around to see her standing there, just some peach fuzz on her head left over from her chemotherapy treatments. She was clearly not in the market for conditioner—but she still looked beautiful.

I’m thankful for all the years I knew her and for all the people I’ve met through her—people I now call friends. I’m so glad that we got to see her and tell her how much we loved her a few days before she passed. I’ll definitely miss our many dinners together, the Easter parties at her house, the Thanksgiving feast we had with her and the countless Manhattans that we drank together. But, most of all—I’ll just miss her.

Nancy Barton is an owner at Philadelphia Brewing Company. Her friend Mary Seton Corboy was the beloved founder of Greensgrow Farms.