Mary R. Stilwell

Dec. 22, 1924 — Feb. 19, 2018

Mary R. Stilwell went to heaven on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, after a lifetime of being an extraordinary mother, wife and friend to so many. She has always been an angel and now will be one forever.

Throughout her life, Mary practiced private charity directly to those in need. Few knew of her many acts of kindness with her husband, buying and delivering food to needy acquaintances during the holidays.

Mary R. Stilwell

She never joined the chorus and criticized those accused of crimes or indiscretions. Her compassion was unwavering for those in the glare of unfavorable publicity. She always had the underdog’s back.

In her declining years, she was saddened by the passing of so many old friends and relatives. She was also frustrated by physical impairments that limited her mobility. The dedicated attention of her neighbor, Helen Leich, her sister-in-law, Pat, and her niece, Judy, made her life more bearable. Though her body and mind betrayed her from time to time, her kind and bright spirit always shone through and showed us all how to act during times of adversity.

She was born Mary Rebecca Blades in Somerset, Pennsylvania on Dec. 22, 1924, the youngest child of Harry and May Blades, two honorable survivors of the great depression who managed to be charitable to many strangers and friends in need during a time when the Blades family, themselves, were struggling through a layoff from the railroad. Mary’s mom and dad excelled at raising four successful children and never missed a payment on their new home in Cumberland, Maryland.

Mary graduated with the first class to complete four years in Cumberland’s Fort Hill High School in 1942. She was popular with teachers and students alike and loved attending class reunions. After graduating from high school, she worked at city hall in Cumberland until she gave birth to her only child, Craig, on May 27, 1947. She had married Teddy R. Stilwell on Dec. 30, 1944, in Cumberland. Her husband passed away on Feb. 28, 1997.

Much later, she managed the Pyramid Oil gas station, later named Welch Oil, next to alumni field in Dowagiac. Her employees appreciated her efficient and kind management style.

Throughout her life, Mary loved all living creatures, especially birds and dogs. She was enthralled by her favorite backyard visitors: hummingbirds and mourning doves. Two amusing black Labrador Retrievers, Shadow and Sam, joined Mary and Ted until fast cars ended their lives far too soon.

Mary is survived by her loving son, Craig R. Stilwell of East Lansing, Michigan, two sisters-in-law and many nieces and nephews. She lost her brother, Harry, at Pearl Harbor during World War II. She also lost her father on July 28, 1963, her mother on Dec. 17, 1969, her sister, Mildred, on Nov. 18, 1989, and her brother, John, on Dec. 23, 1999.

Mary’s final years were enhanced by the loving care, first at the Cass County Medical Care Facility especially from Michael Fine and, for more than four years at the Ingham County Medical Care Facility in Okemos, Michigan. The dedicated, compassionate staff in Okemos showed their affection for Mary every day in countless ways. Mary never wanted to be in a nursing home but the attention she received helped her to laugh and smile often, make new friendships and, undoubtedly, live longer.

Her sisters-in-law Pat and Sharlene kept in touch from afar by writing frequent notes which her son read to her after she was no longer able to read them herself.

Nearly every day these last few years, Mary said she wanted to be home with her mom and dad and Mildred. And now she is.

A Celebration of Life Service will be held at 2 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, at Clark Chapel, 405 Center Street, Dowagiac, with Rev. Tom Bird officiating. Friends may visit with the family from noon until the time of service at the funeral home. Burial will follow at Mission Hills Memorial Gardens in Niles. Memorial contributions may in Mary’s name may be made to Ingham County Medical Care Facility. Those wishing to leave an online condolence may do so at clarkch.com.

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