Remembering Mary Shelton
Mary Isabel Shelton 1915-2012
“How beautifully leaves grow old. How full of light and color are their last days.” ~ John Burroughs
When I think of Mary I remember a woman who was special not only for who she was, but for the person she brought out in each of us - often the best version of ourselves. Her optimism, humor, stoicism and energetic intellect always drew out the same qualities in me. Any complaints I might have had seemed trivial in comparison to Mary’s life in the context of World War II, David’s terrible combat injuries, raising her family and the challenges of growing older.
I met Mary in 2000 not long after her beloved David had passed away. After the services, and after all of the relatives had headed back to their lives, I often saw Mary in the evenings through her window reading in a warm pool of light at her kitchen table. Our friendship began with her asking for help with small things - a lid that wouldn’t budge or a difficult necklace clasp. After awhile I found myself lingering in front of her house hoping she might need me for something. Soon enough we were visiting most evenings, finding comfort in talking art, music, news and old stories over a bit of chocolate or a glass of wine.
As we got older we relied on each other more and soon no birthday celebration was complete without Mary and her wonderful acapella rendition of Happy Birthday. If you ever received one of her birthday voicemails, you know what I mean. Well into her 90’s we walked together for exercise – when she wasn’t at the gym – and enjoyed many gourmet meals, museum openings, movies, and swanky parties. As I’m sure you’ll all agree, she was wonderfully fun to hang out with.
We shared tough times too, like the difficult conversations about the need to let someone else drive (“But I can see fine out of one eye!”). She talked to me about how it scary it was to be losing her vision and her deep sadness and frustration over being unable to read any longer. She also listened carefully to my own problems with work and dating – often keeping track of names and events that even I forgot. Somehow our fifty year age difference never mattered, we were just two people trying to get through things the best we could.
I never thought of Mary as my grandmother, even though we jokingly called her Granny. She was one of my closest friends. There are so many things that I will always remember about her - she was so funny, inquisitive and down to earth - but the main thing will always be how she inspired me to be my best.
Work hard, listen to jazz and laugh every chance you get.
Press the orange play button to hear some of Mary's great voicemail messages and note the nifty download button if you want to take any to keep.
Download the Short photo montage with music by Bill Evans (.zip file of an .mov)
Download the Long photo montage with music by Bill Evans (.zip file of an .mov)
Mary singing Happy Birthday to Toni (.zip file of an .mp4)
Download a pdf of Mary's Order of Service (.pdf)
Download the PowerPoint presentation from Mary's service (.pptx)