Anne Marie Larkin Conley and her husband Edward F. Conley Jr.

Paul and Carol Anne Cushing and their children, Jack and Bridget, are honored to be the inaugural donors to LEAP’s Tribute Gift Society. The Cushings first became familiar with LEAP through Paul’s work with Salem Hospital, attending the hospital’s table at LEAP’s annual Great Expectations event at Danversport. They found the energy, dedication and commitment of LEAP’s staff, participants and supporters palpable at the event, and the impact of LEAP’s mission was on full display in the awards to, speeches by and miscellaneous performances of LEAP’s students. “They had us at hello,” says Paul.

The idea for initiating this Tribute Gift Society sprang from the Cushings’ desire to honor the memory of Paul’s favorite Aunt, Anne Marie Larkin Conley, and her husband, Uncle Ed Conley. Anne Marie and Ed were natives of Boston who met later in life square dancing with the Spares and Squares in Canton. At the time they met, Anne Marie and Ed were living with and caring for their elderly and widowed mothers in South Boston and Jamaica Plain respectively. They were a match made in Heaven. Before retiring in 1989, Anne Marie was a dedicated teacher in the Boston Public Schools and Ed was a career engineer at Stone and Webster. The inspiration for this gift derives, in particular, from Anne Marie’s more than thirty years teaching English literature and reading at the Gavin School in South Boston, including the tumultuous years of school desegregation. Anne Marie loved her job and all her students. She spoke fondly of them all the time, says Paul. He is confident they each felt the same love and attention that he and his four siblings always felt from their favorite aunt, who had introduced them over time to the treasures of Boston, including in particular the Swan Boats in summer, the original Enchanted Village at Jordan Marsh at Christmas, and the Tall Ships extravaganza from a perch on Castle Island for the Bicentennial of our nation in 1976. In retirement, Anne Marie and Ed continued dancing, often going five times a week to the Shadow Dancers Round Dancing Club, and remained avid church goers and supporters of their community, where Anne Marie volunteered regularly for her local community hospital.

Anne Marie and Ed were very generous, warm and loving people. It is with that in mind that the Cushings made this gift to LEAP, to honor their memory and hopefully inspire others to follow suit to help expand LEAP’s positive impact and overall reach. They say the beneficiaries of LEAP’s work to address the opportunity gap for underserved communities are not only its students, but our community and society writ large. The Conleys believe that, as with Anne Marie’s own tireless efforts to educate Boston’s diverse youth, the ripples of LEAP’s work reach far and wide. Anne Marie and Ed would have identified closely with LEAP and its students and would have been honored to support their work.