Margaret Anne Combs served as a Catholic Charities adoption social worker for three decades, helping hundreds of eager couples become parents.
At the same time, Combs understood that the young women placing their babies for adoption felt a host of complex, often conflicting emotions. Part of her job was comforting them, too.
"She was a highly intelligent and compassionate person that understood the difficulties for a birth mother with an unplanned pregnancy making an adoption plan, as well as the joy and desire of adoptive parents," said longtime friend and former colleague Teresa Graham.
Combs, of Edina, died on Sept. 26 after several months of declining health. She was 94.
Combs was born in Minneapolis on June 12, 1924, to Thomas and Rose Kiley, a car salesman and a stay-at-home mother.
After graduating from the Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield and the University of Minnesota, she worked for a time as an art teacher and then a clerk at a jewelry store, said her niece, Joan Petersen of Minnetonka.
Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis hired Combs in April 1968. She was so excited about the prospect of being a social worker that she fibbed during the job interview and told them she could drive, Petersen said.
Upon being hired, she rushed to obtain her driver's license, but driving was never her strong suit, Petersen said.
"She just really enjoyed helping create families," Petersen said.
But Combs took confidentiality seriously and rarely spoke about the specifics of her work, Petersen said.
"She was very supportive whether clients decided to make an adoption plan for a child or decided to keep the child," said Graham, who worked with Combs at Catholic Charities for several years. "She had a lot of insight and could see how this work affected everyone's life in the adoption triad — the adoptee, the adoptive parents and the birth mother."
In her free time, Combs volunteered at a crisis pregnancy center, which Graham said helped her to better understand the difficult decisions involved.
"She was a mentor to me as well as a friend," Graham said. "She was a person who gave a great deal of herself to people in the community."
Combs met her husband, John Combs, an attorney and administrative judge, through a Catholic singles organization and they married in 1967. Both the bride and groom were in their 40s.
She retired from social work in 1990. Combs was a longtime member of the League of Catholic Women and enjoyed working at the estate sales the group sponsored as fundraisers.
"She was quite artistic and interested in art," Graham said.
Later in life, Combs enjoyed volunteering, including planting flowers and decorating or preparing food for events at her condo association in Edina.
In her personal and professional life, Combs was genteel and kind and strove to be helpful, her niece said.
She was soft-spoken and always well dressed, Petersen said.
Combs and her husband celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year. John Combs' health had been waning and his wife studiously cared for him. He died in January.
"She missed him terribly," Petersen said.
In addition to her niece, Petersen, Combs is survived by nephew Tom Smith of White Bear Township.