The Biscayne Times

Jul 08th
A Farewell to Mary Tanguay PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor   
December 2019

South Florida mourns the loss of a community advocate

MPix_PetTalk_12-19iami Shores Woman’s Club president Pat Cocchi can’t wait to speak about her best friend, “sister from another mother,” and first vice president, Mary Tanguay, who passed away September 14 at the age of 69, after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.

“She has done so much good for so many people,” Cocci tells the BT. “She was a rare person. You couldn’t get a harder worker. I know she went straight to heaven.”

Over the years, Mary and Pat helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for charities and local institutions, such as the Autistic Child Advocate Association, the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, the Humane Society of Greater Miami, My Animals Rock, the Miami Theater Center, the Brockway Memorial Library, and the Miami Shores Community Center. Mary was also an ambassador for H2U (Health to You) in Aventura.

The two women met in 1993 at Mary’s pet shop, Mary’s LB in North Miami, and immediately clicked when they found out they both were cuckoo for Elvis Presley. Over their three-decade friendship, they shared a lot of laughs and their love for the King, traveling twice to Graceland (where Mary first noticed cancer symptoms), sitting front row at local Elvis impersonator concerts, and watching horror flicks.

“We did everything together, and we got into a lot of trouble together,” says Pat, laughing. “We had so much fun.”

Mary also went out of her way to help people, notes Pat. Mary’s daughter Maria Ramirez, who runs the store along with new manger A.J. Gonzalez-Vence, agrees.

“Walking into the shop is like walking into Cheers -- everybody knows your name,” says Maria. “My mom knew customers’ names and what they buy. She made sure we have a family relationship with our customers.”

It’s a rare thing these days amid impersonal big-box chains to have a friendly pet expert greet you at the mom-and-pop-shop door and only think of what’s best for your pet and not the bottom line. “Mom was all about unbiased information for our customers,” Maria adds.

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1950, Mary Tanguay grew up in Hialeah. According to her daughter, she didn’t go past the ninth grade and was a mother by age 15, with three kids by age 19. She became a single mom after divorce, worked at an assortment of jobs to raise her family, remarried, and moved to North Miami. Her boat-cleaning business took muscle, but Mary wasn’t immune to hard work.

One day she telephoned a local pet store near closing time to ask the owner if he would remain open just a few minutes longer so she could race over and pick up several bags of dog food for her Dobermans. When the owner indignantly answered, “Absolutely not,” right then and there Mary decided to go into the pet supply business. She wanted to be there for her customers.

Her first shop in North Miami was too small and her supplier warned that she couldn’t make a go at that location. She found the perfect place at 13295 W. Dixie Highway in 1989. There she flourished like a force of nature, not only growing the community’s pet store, but rescuing and rehoming dogs and cats at a time when animal rescue barely existed. She became a bird expert, raising and caring for cockatiels and parakeets, and was the longtime go-to pet professional to help anyone with a furry, feathered, or scaly friend.

Because of Mary, Pat has had a menagerie of pets over the past quarter century. “Animals in our community have suffered a terrific loss with Mary’s death,” she says.

Mary’s LB Facebook page is abuzz with touching comments. “I could always stop by and get advice and a smile,” wrote Harvey Bilt. “Mary added so much to so many pets’ lives -- and their owners.”

Arnold Markowitz wrote: “Loss, tears, and sorrow here. At the Rainbow Bridge, wagging tails and joyful noise.”

Others called Mary “one of the good ones,” “a great lady,” “a godsend,” “a wizard,” “a source of wisdom,” “one of a kind,” and “unforgettable.”

A celebration of life was held for Mary at Helen’s Pet Poodle in Ojus on November 10, where friends, family, and customers (human and canine) gathered to remember her. Elvis impersonator Chris MacDonald performed “Can’t Help Falling in Love” one last time for his No. 1 fan, while a box of tissues passed through the crowd.

Mary’s LB lives on. Maria continues to run the downstairs shop, while Mary’s cremated ashes keep watch in a special nook upstairs in an Elvis-decorated urn, near urns of beloved pets. It’s a fitting resting place for a remarkable animal advocate.


Janet Goodman is a Miami Shores-based dog trainer and principal of Good Dog Bad Dog Inc. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


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