Mary Olsen Rivas
19 May 1939 - 20 May 2023
Mary Olsen Rivas, loving and beloved wife, mother, sister, grandmother, aunt, and friend, passed away peacefully on the Twentieth of May, 2023, one day after her 84th birthday.
Mary is survived by her husband, Edward Nilsen; her children, Mary Rivas-Barbagallo, Martin Rivas, and Michael Rivas; daughters-in-law Patricia Landy-Rivas and Jennifer Nilsen; her sisters, Antoinette Burke and Elsie “Cookie” Genna, and her brother, Michael Olsen. She was pre-deceased by her son, Troy Nilsen, her sister, Helen “Dolly” Garone, and her brothers, John and Joseph Olsen. Mary is also survived by her grandchildren, Melissa and Johnny Barbagallo, Scott and Ryan Nilsen, Aiden and Isa Fernandez, Landy Rivas, and Antonio Rivas. Mary also had many beloved nieces, nephews, and godchildren from her large circle of family and friends.
Mary was born in Brooklyn, NY, the second of seven children of the late Helen and John Olsen, and had lived in Port Richmond and Graniteville on Staten Island since January of 1980. She was a long-time member of the choir at St. Roch Church in Port Richmond, where she shared her powerful, resonant voice and love of music with congregants. Mary loved music, and very much enjoyed listening and singing along to Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, and The Supremes, among countless others, on the home stereo.
Mary was valued and beloved by many families for decades as a babysitter and daycare provider. Many of the now-adult children she cared for still consider her to be their surrogate grandmother, and “Mare Mare” loved all of them deeply, as if they were her actual grandkids.
Mary also was well-known at Comic Book Jones, the Mariners’ Harbor comic book and pop-culture institution, where “Momma Jones,” as she was fondly known, spent many a day assisting customers, and making sure that everyone who came to the shop felt unconditionally welcome.
Mary was also a cook par excellence. Anyone who had ever tasted her Arroz Con Pollo can attest to it having the authentic, difficult-to-master “sabor puertorriqueño.” Her chicken cutlets and potato latkes were also the stuff of legend. And she made it all look so easy.
Mary will always be remembered as a loving person who touched the lives of many, and her memory will always be a blessing to those who knew and loved her.