A Tribute to Mary

Mary Lea was born on November 28th, 1923 to John and Ava Bay in Tulsa Oklahoma. Mary was an only child, and if you are an only child yourself, or are raising an only child, it is likely you know how she felt about that. Mary’s early and mid-childhood were spent in Tulsa. She seems to have been a lonely child, but one who enjoyed school and was somewhat of a math nerd in a time when girls generally were not encouraged in that field.

Job opportunities moved the family to Nevada Missouri for Mary’s high school years. The family lived on a farm outside of town, and with both parent working, much of the care for the livestock fell on Mary’s shoulders. The academic opportunities in Nevada were much more limited than what had been available in Tulsa, leaving Mary dissatisfied with her stay in Nevada.

After graduation Mary moved to Kansas City Missouri and worked as a bookkeeper. She did well and was able to buy a car and made several road trips, enjoying the opportunity to see the country. On November 11, 1950, Mary married a dashing young sailor, Ed Sarver. They had known each other in Nevada and stayed somewhat connected through Ed’s sister, a friend of Mary’s.

After they were married they moved to Florida, where Ed was stationed, and where their first child, Leatha, was born. When Ed’s enlistment was up they moved back to Nevada where Sue and John, or Buck, were born, and then back to Kansas City where Don was born. While there, Ed reenlisted in the Navy and was moved to San Diego, while Mary remained in Kansas City for a couple of years, once again working as a bookkeeper, and this time raising four children. This was a difficult time in Mary’s life, but it demonstrated her strength and independence, traits that would serve her well in the years to come as a navy wife.

Eventually Mary and the kids joined Ed in San Diego where they lived until his retirement, at which time they moved to Bremerton Washington. They lived here for about 15 years until Ed retired again at which time they bought an RV and began to tour the country, visiting most of the states over the next 10 years, before ending back up in Bremerton.

Mary had 4 children, Leatha, Sue, John, and Don; 4 grandchildren, Ray, Leon, Michael, and Rachael; and 4 great grandchildren, Micaela, Donny, Joey, and Elizabeth. More than nearly anything else, Mary enjoyed spending time with her family. Among the more difficult times in her life were with the loss of a son, John, and her husband. These took a real toll on her that she never fully recovered from.

Mary enjoyed traveling. In addition to her early road trips and the 10 years in the RV, she visited all 50 states and 5 foreign countries, including trips to Hong Kong and the Philippines to visit Ed while he was deployed. Even in the last decade of her life she enjoyed going on a Caribbean cruise and traveling to visit old friends and family.

Her other interests included bowling and dancing when she was younger, cross stitch and crocheting, all kinds of puzzles, and reading. Many of you likely have a cross stitched name in your home that Mary made. She also spent countless hours making senior lap blankets for local nursing homes. Mary was active in her church, wherever she found herself. She would work in the office or in VBS, and was able to use her math and bookkeeping skills as a church treasurer. Mary also volunteered in the local school where her children attended, worked with her husband and sons in Boy Scouts, and was involved with Navy Relief.

Mary’s latter years were challenging. In addition to the loss of husband and son, Mary suffered from Transient Global Amnesia, which took a toll on her memory. A stoke and a bout with pneumonia in the last few years also took a real physical toll, and further impacted her memory. Her independence was challenged when she was no longer able to care for herself, moving in with a daughter for 6 years before spending the last 2 ½ years in an Adult Family home. But Mary remained strong and as independent as possible up until the end.

Mary was not a demonstrative woman. She did not often express her love in words. But she did express her love in what she did for you. The many names she cross stitched, the countless lap blankets she made, the others acts of selfless service she performed all expressed her love. Mary was a strong, independent and stubborn woman, and I was privileged to have her in my home for 6 years and to be a part of her family for over 30.

Probably more than anything else, Mary enjoyed going to church, gathering with other believers. I would guess than she seldom missed an opportunity to be with the church on a Sunday when she was physically capable of being out, and was regular in her attendance up until she could no longer walk. Even when her memory was failing her, and she was not always aware of what was going on around her, going to church was a constant. At times, every day was Sunday, and sometimes twice a day, and she would be up and dressed with Bible in hand, waiting for someone to take her to church.

Mary is free from the prison of a failing body now, and is enjoying ‘church’ without ceasing. So thankful to God for the hope that we can have, and that is now Mary’s reality.

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