How aware Greig was of such bloody matters is unclear. She certainly knew of the players. The McGonagles lived just one block away from her family home on Fourth Street, and a determined Robert A. McGonagle, another McGonagle brother, had eagerly pursued her. And Bulger’s notoriety was inescapable—despite his gangster doings, he was widely known and even admired as a kind of local Robin Hood. He routinely donated money to local sports teams or needy families and distributed turkeys in the housing projects over the holidays.
Greig trained her gaze beyond such local dramas. It was a career, not settling down with the boy down the street, that topped her list of ambitions. At the time of her graduation, Greig was undecided whether she wanted to be a veterinarian or a dental hygienist. But the following year she enrolled in a two-year program at the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, then affiliated with Northeastern University. Several former participants in the program remember that Greig swiftly earned recognition. In 1971, her second year of the program, Greig was one of a handful of students who were chosen by Dr. Sigmund S. Socransky, a prominent periodontist and scientist, to do research in his lab at the Forsyth Institute.
“It was a real feather in her cap,’’ recalled Patricia Connolly-Atkins, a former associate dean at the Forsyth school. “Sig was very particular about who he worked with and he chose Cathy. She was a very impressive person.’’
It was a pivotal year for Greig. Just before the second year of the dental program began, she married Bobby McGonagle in St. Brigid’s Catholic Church. Greig, just 20, was smitten by the headstrong McGonagle, three years older than her. Although McGonagle hung at the periphery of his elder brother’s doings, he frequently wound up in bar fights and scrapes of his own, according to family members.
As she would confide to her hairdresser in California decades later, Greig had a taste for “bad boys’’ when she was young. But the marriage between the gregarious McGonagle and the bookish Greig got off to an uneven start. On the day the couple returned from their honeymoon, as one McGonagle family member who asked not to be identified recalls it, “Bobby threw up his hands and said Cathy had sat on the beach and read books the whole time. They were just very different people.’’
McGonagle was temperamentally more attuned to Margaret, the more boisterous of the Greig sisters, according to former classmates and McGonagle family members. Once, when he was found in a compromising situation with Margaret, he joked to family members that he had confused the twins. By the middle of 1973, McGonagle had moved out, according to the couple’s divorce papers, leaving Greig with their pair of miniature Schnauzers. At some point he began a relationship with her sister, then named Margaret McCusker. McCusker had married James McCusker while in high school but the relationship collapsed in 1974, according to their divorce papers. When McGonagle signed a summons relating to his divorce from Greig in 1976, it was Margaret McCusker who signed as the witness.
Although McGonagle and McCusker never married, their relationship endured until he died in 1987. His death notice mentioned her as his “dear friend.’’
Greig was heartbroken by her husband and twin sister’s betrayal, according to family and friends. Although she divorced McGonagle in 1977 and eventually rekindled her relationship with her sister, some say Greig never fully recovered from the blow.
“Cathy never had much confidence,’’ recalled one of Greig’s high school classmates who asked not to be identified. “You’d tell her how beautiful she was and she’d say, ‘Oh, no, I am not.’ And you could tell that she actually meant it. So how was she going to survive this?’’
She survived by immersing herself in her work. Although Greig mentioned her turbulent domestic life to some at Forsyth, she did not go into detail. After earning an associate’s degree in dental hygiene in 1972, Greig began working on a bachelor’s degree in health science at Northeastern’s University College, which let her take classes at night while she taught at Forsyth during the day.
Like many of the other young women employed at Forsyth, Greig worked long hours, and she was well-liked by the collegial group. In Greig they found someone who was not only deeply committed to the dental program but sensitive in her dealings with faculty and students. One of her teachers describes her as “an exceptional person. She had a great deal of integrity in what she did.’’ Continued...