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Obituary: John David McGee, Mamma Maria Owner

John David McGee – On May 10, 2020, John David McGee, of Charlestown and Kittery, Maine. Loving father, committed friend, and dedicated restaurateur at Mamma Maria in Boston’s North End, lost his struggle with cancer, while surrounded by his family. John was the son of Harry and Mary McGee, born on Feb. 3, 1960 in Montreal, Canada. He grew up playing hockey and was a lifelong fan, successfully hiding his closet support for the Canadiens from his loyal Bruins patrons. He attended Middlebury College in Vermont, where he made lifelong friends, graduating in 1982.

Almost 35 years ago, he started work at a restaurant as a dishwasher and within months rose to manager. A few years later, in 1988, he bought the restaurant which became his love and passion. He guided Mamma Maria in the North End to become a renowned Italian fine dining restaurant and one of the best in Boston. At Mamma Maria, he cultivated a dining experience that is unique and authentic, while building a family of longtime employees and loyal customers along the way. He was committed to the importance of seasonal, locally-sourced ingredients, which he often picked up himself from family farms and vendors all around New England.

On June 10, 1989 he married Laila Haddad of Boston. They made their home in Charlestown, Mass. and became the proud parents of two daughters. Anyone who was around him for more than 10 minutes soon learned that the sun rose and set on Zoë and Phoebe as far as John was concerned. Nearly two decades ago, he found his retreat and happy place at his waterfront home in Kittery. He found peace there during the last two months of his life.

He will be remembered for his welcoming charm, widespread generosity, quick wit and contagious humor. He was the master of the sarcastic, subtle one liner. He would be walking away with his trademark slight grin before the full impact of what he just said hit you, and you started to laugh uncontrollably. He loved traveling, exploring international culture and cuisine, and was passionate about music and film. He was dedicated to the game of golf, often traveling to play tournaments with friends throughout the US and abroad. He was also a longtime member of the Weston Golf Club in Weston, Mass. He was frequently seen at Weston sneaking in a few holes, just before dusk, with his ever present and faithful Jack Russell Terrier, Phantom following closely behind. He was also a member of the York Golf and Tennis Club in York, Maine.

John was a generous, caring and charitable member of his community, always giving back through philanthropic efforts. As a business owner and friend, he was known to help in whatever way he could when anyone needed it. He was an active board member for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Charlestown and Big Brother Big Sister of Eastern Massachusetts, and a generous supporter of St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, Dana Farber, Mass General’s International Trauma and Disaster Institute, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Joslin Diabetes Center and the Pan Mass Challenge. He also contributed to Community Servings, Rosie’s Place, Taste of the North End, Paul Revere House, St John’s School, Hurley School and Boston Latin Academy, among others. John was preceded in death by his father Harry and mother Mary.

He is survived by his wife, Laila; his two daughters, Zoë and Phoebe; his sister, Joan McGee of Aurora, Colo.; his family-in-law and many friends, as well as Phantom. A future memorial service will be planned when life returns to some kind of normalcy. Arrangements by George F. Doherty and Sons Funeral Home, Wellesley, Mass. In lieu of flowers please support the restaurant and order dinner at mammamaria.com.

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