Tuesday, May 19, 2015


We said a really sad goodbye to our lovely Mary who died at the age of 71. She was Kevin's aunty. She was one of those rare people who lit up the room with her smile and yet never claimed attention. She was always laughing and made everyone in that room feel just great about themselves.

Mary, when she was in her early twenties.

She left way before her time. I feel like Mary had just started on the second half of her life. She got a new lease of life after she retired. She got fit and traveled with her brother Bob to the Cotswolds and down to Devon for some rambling in the hills and pastures and towns. (She never lost her sense of childlike joy and silliness; she and Bob crawled up one scary cliff path on hands and knees, cursing their friend Lew for leading them there  - and then giggled for days about it.) She was the most besotted grandmother you've ever seen: giddy at the pleasure of helping look after her four young grandchildren, and now she had the time to do just that.

Thanksgiving: Mary's daughter Janelle with Lila and Grady

Mary was born and raised in Kansas and lived there most of her life.  She remained very close to her extended family who mostly lived there too. She brought up her two children, Janelle and Brent, by herself. Towards the end of her working life, she took on two jobs, yet never complained and always focused on how lucky she was.

Mary's father, Harley, was a dentist and her mother, Elizabeth, incredibly sadly, died of complications from childbirth seven weeks after Mary was born. Mary had two older brothers, Bill and Bob. Her father eventually re-married a widow, Nina, who had a daughter named Rowena.

Baby Mary with her two brothers. Her mother died before this photo was taken.

Toddler Mary

Mary on her birthday with her father Harley and her two brothers, Bill and Bob

Mary (far left) with her brothers, Bill and Bob, and Nina and then sister-in-law Marlene.

One day, when Mary was nine years old, her father, Harley, died suddenly of a heart attack. Their stepmother, Nina, was left to care for all four children.  Seeking work to pay the bills, Nina entered the town elections and won the job of Court Clerk for Cherokee County, Kansas. After that Nina never lost an election. But still, it was a pretty hard life.

Mary grew up incredibly pretty with smiley eyes and a head of auburn curls. She became the family historian and was a wonderful source of stories. She knew about all the generations including one grandmother who was likely Cherokee.  She kept everyone connected with her stories and anecdotes and the family tree in her head.

When our Harley was born nearly 18 years ago in London, Mary collected photos, including some of the ones I've posted today, and sent us a wonderful photo book. She always told the family stories with a ready laugh or a smile. I remember thinking that her fine smile looked drawn by a quill pen with a curly flourish at the corners.

Ever unassuming and always cheerful, Mary did not want to talk about her illness, even at the end. She asked that there would be no service. She did agree to a celebration of life which will be in Kansas in June.

Mary and her brother Bob at our place for Thanksgiving three years ago

Mary, her daughter Janelle and nephew Kevin
Grandma Patty, Tallulah and Aunt Mary

Cheers! Patty, Bob, Kevin, Mary and Mac

We will miss you like crazy, Mary.  I'm so, so sad that we won't see you again...that you won't be around for all those times you deserved after working so hard all your life. There was that next walk in the Cotswolds with your brother, Bob, with some more giggling. There were many more family Thanksgivings at our house watching the kids play wiffle ball and telling family tales over a glass of Mac's best Pinot. There were those glittery days of balloons and cakes and candles, seeing your beautiful blonde and red-head grandkids celebrate another birthday or arriving home from their first day of the new school year.

When you were with us, you made each moment special because you were such a special person. You were a born historian who felt deeply for her family and you knew the magical timelessness of that moment better than any of us.

Mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, friend.  Mary.


  1. Jody what a beautiful tribute. Mary must have been a lovely person and how lucky you were all close. Her life sounds like a book. Cannot imagine losing both parents so young. What a inspiring woman! Thank you for sharing Jody and I am so sorry for your loss. Kim

  2. Such beautiful words for a very special lady. 71 really isn't very old - how sad she is leaving her family too soon.

  3. Oh, I have tears reading this. How very sad that she has been taken from you all so soon. She sounds like a remarkable person, and this is a lovely tribute to her Jody. xx

  4. Written with such warmth and love. A beautiful tribute to someone who sounds like she was a very special person. I'm sorry for your loss.

  5. What a lovely tribute. She sounds like a very special lady and it looks like that wonderful smile has passed onto the next generation too. Condolences on your loss x

  6. What a blessing she is to you and your family. She had a remarkable journey. Her spirit and grace was expressed so lovingly in your tribute. My condolences. Much love.

  7. Family really is everything is it not. I imagine she would have loved this tribute. In tears reading it myself. Emma

  8. This is the most beautiful tribute I have ever read. Mary sounds like an amazing person, that smile! She looks like such fun! And what a life, she had some knocks in there but her spirit sounds extraordinary. I can also tell that she was very well loved.
    I'm sorry you've lost Mary too soon. xo

  9. She sounds like a wonderful soul. I'm so sorry for your loss.

  10. So sorry about your loss and she does indeed sound like a loss. You know though that she does live on in your heart and your memories.

  11. IT seems the goods one always GO FIRST!Why is that?Perhaps, they are needed to orchestrate the HEAVENS............what beautiful memories you have shared.I just know she ADORED YOU TOO!XX

  12. what a beautiful beautiful tribute to a much loved person. Am a but teary reading this. xxx

  13. From her older brother, Bob Coldiron:

    "Our family is a close one. We have been through a lot together and my memories of my younger sister Mary are very precious to me. I was the brother who lived far way in Pennyslvania but made many trips to Kansas over the years to rediscover my roots. We talked on the phone frequently and exchanged views about the world, not always agreeing because being Coldirons we both thought he or she was always right.

    For many summers, Lew Jury, a friend of mine from Penn State days, would travel to England to take long walks in the beautiful countryside. When Mary retired, she decided she would like to go with us. We had such a great time that first summer that she decided to go again the next year. It so happened, just the two of us were able to make the trip. Mary loved a challenge and she was game for just about anything.

    One day our driver dropped us off and we started walking toward a small village across a very steep hill. To get there we had to walk on a narrow path. Along the path were several sheep. Looking down on our right all we saw was a big drop right into the channel. The going was tough and slow. It was getting cold and the wind was picking up. We couldn't go back so we started to look for places on the side of the cliff that we could grasp for support. We were scared. Then out of Mary's mouth came those words of wisdom: "If those darn goats can make it , so can we. Come on. Bob, let's get moving."

    We made it!!!!! What a memory to "hang on to."

    I love her and miss her with all my heart."

  14. A lovely tribute to an amazing woman! I'm so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she enriched the world around you! Hugs to you Jody. It's a very rough time.

  15. What a life well lived.... an inspiration!!

  16. Such a lovely post Jody...I'm sorry for your loss...and her daughter looks just like her I think.

    1. Oh that is a compliment to me! Both Kevin and I have loads of redheads in our family so similar in that way!

  17. I'm very sorry Jody.
    Your narrative celebrated her wonderful life. A fine tribute.

  18. I'm sorry for your loss, Jody, I just teared up reading this.

  19. What a lovely tribute. I'm very sorry for your loss.


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