- Mary Engel
On July 4, 2020, our beautiful mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, cousin and friend Mary Magdalene took flight with the angels and left this earthly plane for her next adventure.
Mary was born in 1929 in Elizabeth, N.J., and joyfully migrated to Vermont in 1996. She lived 91 years with humor, fierce independence and a deep sense of justice. She was outspoken, loyal and kind. Mary had a brilliant mind and could convincingly advocate for any cause with which she aligned.
Affectionately nicknamed “Forrest Gump,” she always seemed to innocently gravitate to the center of many important historical moments. A natural teacher, she had a strong, spiritual core that expressed itself through activism. As an organizer and participant, Mary was involved in the Catholic Worker Movement, anti-poverty programs, and marches for racial and social justice in the 1960s.
Boy, did she wear a lot of hats. Literally and figuratively. Catechism, Angel Class and international spiritual teacher. Reiki master. Avon lady. Distributor of Mary Kay (no pink Cadillac, but we all have a lifetime supply of eyeshadow and lipstick!) and Young Living Essential Oils. Wig-wearing, whitewater-rafting, Sufi-dancing, peace-loving, amazing Mom. No one like her in all the world.
Mary always found resourceful ways to educate her children. Trips into Manhattan on the train were frequent, through the grandeur of the old Penn Station. Prayers at Saint Francis Church, walking for hours looking in department store windows, visiting dusty bookstores, and being immersed in the richness of the city’s eccentricities, cultural delights and ethnic diversity conveyed some of her important values. New York City was also the epicenter of her new-age spiritual activities in the 1970s and 1980s.
Mary’s deep understanding of human nature and search for truth led her to study and teach many spiritual subjects, facilitating her travels around the world. Many deep connections and enduring friendships were made in her lifetime. She leaves behind a network of love that she created, which made our family feel even bigger.
A close friend of Mary’s recently said that her 11 children have always been “the great loves of her life.” She is survived by son Joseph (wife Ingrid; granddaughters Sophie and Chloe); son Stephen (wife Jeanne; grandsons Chandler, wife Jenny, great-grandchildren Azalea and Axel; and Tayler, partner Caroline); daughter Mary Jo (grandson Nick, husband Eli); daughter Virginia; son Robert (wife Sue); daughter Rosemary (with loving Texas friends); son William (granddaughter Shona); son John (wife Lisa); son James, (wife Kelly; grandchildren Anthony, Mindy and Kristin; great-grandchildren Mariah, Logan, Serenity, Alyiah and Brooklyn); daughter Christianne (husband Joseph; grandson Joey); daughter Marigrace (husband Michael; grandson Joss); and special godson Michael.
Mary was predeceased by Joseph R. Engel, husband from 1948 to 1975 and father to their children; her parents, Bertha (Blatz) and James Geoghegan; her beloved aunts, who helped raise her children, Mary Magdalene (Mame), Ida, Melania (Millie) and Rose Blatz; and many other treasured aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Many thanks to the health care providers who crossed Mary’s path in recent years; Dr. Rachel Inker for “getting her”; Essex Rescue; and, in her final days, the hospice team at the McClure Miller Respite House for the kindness, compassion and deep commitment to dignified care they showed our weary traveler.
A celebration of Mary's life will be announced in the future.
In lieu of flowers or gifts, please read a good book to honor Mary, who spent her life teaching us all to believe in the power of knowledge. Or, like Janet Armstrong (wife of Neil): “We ask that you honor her by standing up for that in which you believe.”
Donations may be made in Mary’s honor to the McClure Miller Respite House in Colchester, Vt. Arrangements are in care of the Ready Funeral & Cremation Service. To send online condolences to her family, please visit readyfuneral.com.