Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Sieber

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John Henry Sieber, 1926-2011

Words and church music have been the leit motifs of my life. I don’t know whether I chose them or they chose me.

My interest in church music began in high school when I would play hymns on my church’s small harmonium for the Young People’s Service League services on Sunday evenings. I started taking organ lessons and a few years later, while I was at Newcomb College, became my church’s organist, going two summers to the three-week church music conferences in Evergreen, Colorado. Fortunate enough to be awarded a state Fulbright scholarship for a year’s study in Exeter, Devon, I spent that wonderful year studying English literature during the week and on Sundays joining the organist at Exeter Cathedral atop the rood screen where the console was located. The fact that I was an Episcopalian organist may have been a factor in my becoming a Fulbright scholar, for the head of the state selection committee was an Episcopalian.

An English major in college, I went to New York City after the year in England to get a job in publishing and found an opening as a typist at Harper & Brothers. I also joined the choir at Church of the Ascension on lower Fifth Avenue under the direction of Vernon de Tar; it had an excellent musical reputation and performed major choral works every month. After I had apprenticed writing copy on social and economic books at Harper’s to be sold through mail order, I moved over to McGraw-Hill as a copywriter in the Text-Film department. (In our lunch hour at Harper’s we read books published by the House; at McGraw-Hill we looked at educational films.)

In 1955 I married John Sieber, who had a degree in English literature from Columbia, and we found an apartment on the Upper West Side. I switched over from the Ascension choir to Alfred Mann’s Bach Cantata Group. John began studying architecture in night school at Columbia.

In the summer of 1957, John wrote a query letter to the school of architecture at Rice University. They interpreted it as a letter of application and wired back that he had been accepted in the junior class and the fall term would begin in two weeks. That was a no-brainer of a decision. We bought a second-hand Ford in the dark, attached a U-Haul-It trailer for our books, and drove down to Houston, where John’s mother and sister lived.

We found an apartment near Rice and I got a job with the Houston Independent School District as an editor-secretary in the Curriculum Department. I meant to shop around for a church choir, but when I heard the Verdi Requiem performed at Christ Church Cathedral, I knew I’d found the one I wanted. The organist and choirmaster Jack Ossewaarde meant to audition me before a choir rehearsal, but I had bus problems that evening, so he said, ”Just come on,” relying, I guess, on my track record of having sung at Ascension.

After John got his degree, I became pregnant and left my job at HISD. Ann was born in 1961 and her red-haired brother Jack in 1964. I began years of freelance editing, first with the League of Women Voters and then with a friend who was working on the textbook for James Leslie McCary’s course on human sexuality, which proved to be a great success. My friend and I worked on three editions of the book. I also edited master’s theses, doctoral dissertations, an abbreviated version of the Bible, and master plan documentation for five Aramco towns at the architectural firm of CRS.

In between carpools, I got interested in precinct politics and ran for committeewoman of my precinct in 1972. That was the heady year when McGovern ran for president and Frances Farenthold for governor. We all three lost our races. The following year I developed rheumatoid arthritis. After several years of gold salts injections, the arthritis went into remission.

In Jack’s senior year in high school, when Ann was away at St. John’s College, I began working as a technical editor at Exxon Production Research Company, seven minutes away from my house. The four Siebers traveled to England in 1983 after Ann’s graduation. John and I spent two weeks in Paris in 1992, then traveled to Japan for two weeks in 1993 in the company of Jack and his friend Nancy whom he married in 1995. I am now MeMe, the grandmother of Sarah and Henry.

I left the full-time employ of Exxon at the end of 1994 and resumed freelance editing. Among other projects, I edited two books on Galveston for the Rice University Press before it closed, and worked on a textbook on ear training written by two faculty members at the Shepherd School. In 1998 I started editing the Women’s Journal, program brochures, and women’s Lenten meditation booklets for Brigid’s Place—tasks that have given me much pleasure and satisfaction.

And I am still singing in the Cathedral Choir—I can’t give up the joy of doing it!

Mary Sieber, May 2001

Remembrances may be made in Mary’s name to Brigid's Place, Christ Church Cathedral, 1117 Texas Ave., Houston, Texas 77002.

Condolences can be sent to the Sieber family at 3621 Georgetown Street, Houston, TX, 77005.


Please email your thoughts and memories of Mary to and we will add them to this page.

Mary Sieber and I were introduced at my first choir rehearsal in 1971 by William Barnard, longtime organist and choir master at Christ Church Cathedral. Bill said that we should know each other because we lived on the same street in West U. and we should car-pool to choir practice. That moment began a 35-year friendship. Throughout the 70s and for the last year-and-a- half that I have been living back in Houston, and until about two months ago, Mary and I rode together to every Thursday-night choir rehearsal. These were precious moments for us, because it was a special time when we could talk about things that only we might be interested in or share. Occasionally Mary would be concerned that I was going too far out of my way to pick her up; and just very recently she mentioned this again. I responded that at our age we should appreciate every day, because we never knew what a day would bring, and I added that it was a privilege to pick her up. She smiled, and said Thank You.

We shared so many good times, especially back in the 70s. In that decade and for some time thereafter, the choir did not change personnel very much. We all became very close, and we really were like a family. I remember that at one intermission of a choir practice near my 40th birthday, Mary, Bonnie Sue, Annette, Beaver, Elaine, Margie and Diane and a few others appeared from the ladies’ vesting room dressed all in black and with black veils on their heads, crying and wailing, and carrying a birthday cake with black icing: I turned to Gregory Catlow, the choir member who happened to be standing next to me, and I asked him who’s birthday it was. His reply was: “It’s yours!” Everyone knew except me, and I was thrown completely off-guard because my birthday actually had been the week before! Today many of those former choir members are still close friends. In fact, Mary was a charter member of a special group of former choir ladies who called themselves “The Old Girls,” and they meet for breakfast about once a month. Mary sang in the Cathedral choir for a record 45 years, and when choir officers were instituted, she was elected its first president. Needless to say, this choir and this church meant the world to her. She was frequently behind the scenes and especially gave lovingly of her editorial talents for the Cathedral and Bridget’s Place, polishing every bulletin and program for all these many years. She told me she wanted those publications to be “just right.” She was, like Maupassant, in pursuit of “le mot juste,” that unique word that was the only one that was “just right.”

In 1982, the very first year that Ray and I owned the Village Inn in Lenox, Massachusetts, we talked to Mary and John about their children coming up for the summer to work for us. And so they did: Ann was one of our star waitresses and worked long hours; Jack was a dishwasher but always found ample time to enjoy most of the concerts at Tanglewood. Mary and John visited the Berkshires for the first time the following year, and returned frequently. When Jack announced his engagement and plans to marry his Oberlin College sweetheart, in a wedding ceremony near Boston, where they had decided to settle, Ray and I offered to host a pre-wedding dinner party at our house in Lenox, just for the immediate families. It was the first time the two sets of parents had met, and Mary told me later how important that occasion was for them to get to know one another in a private and intimate setting.

In the fall of 1997, Mary joined me on a trip to Virginia to meet some of my old friends and to visit the boarding school I had attended and graduated from. One day I hosted a luncheon in Orange, the town closest to my old school, so Mary could meet some of my former teachers and close friends. On that day, September 25th, Mary had received a call from son Jack that her granddaughter, Sarah, had been born. Mary could not decide on a grandmother’s moniker for Sarah to call her, and she asked for suggestions during our luncheon. One of the women present said that her grandchildren called her Mimi. Mary’s face brightened and she said, “That’s IT, because my name is Mary Elizabeth, M-E-M-E!” When her two grandchildren were here recently for a visit, they put a note on the wall of Mary’s hospital room that read: We love you, MeMe.

This year was a very special one for Mary and John because it marked their 50th wedding anniversary. To honor this important occasion, the choir surprised them with an anniversary cake at a choir rehearsal intermission, and daughter Ann and husband John were able to arrive just as the cake was being cut. Dean Reynolds was in on the plot and gave his accolades and said just the right prayer. A week or so later, Ray and I surprised Mary and John with a small dinner party. I have never seen anyone so shocked as they were when their close friend, Virginia Baldwin, walked in the room, having just arrived from her home in Connecticut. Virginia had sung in the Cathedral choir in the ‘60s, and she and Mary had car-pooled together. But their special bond was that they went through the births of their children at about the same time, and they had kept in close contact over the years. We had lunch with Virginia in Lenox last week and she told us she was going to Houston to see Mary on Sunday. Virginia was with her dear friend when she died. John and Mary celebrated their 50th anniversary by giving themselves a week in New York, where they had met, and where Mary had sung in the choir at the Church of the Ascension, which, because of Mary’s suggestion, I also sang in when I lived in the New York area. On this anniversary trip, Mary and John saw many old friends from those days, and enjoyed museums and concerts. They had returned and been home only about a week when Mary became ill. Perhaps you know that Mary has kept a daily journal all of her life, a legacy for her grandchildren who will treasure it some-day.

When my mother died in 1996, Mary sat with me at her funeral and held my hand. When my sister died in 2001, Mary sat with me at her funeral, here at the Cathedral, and held my hand. When Mary’s twin sister, Esther, died in 1999, I was there at her funeral in Chattanooga, to support Mary and her family, whom I had adopted. Now, dearest friend, it’s your special day, and although I cannot hold your hand, I know you are with me, and always will be.

As I said at the beginning of these personal reflections, Mary and I formed a bond when we first met. This was largely because we liked and appreciated so many of the same things, and it followed naturally that we would share our favorite things with each other, especially music and books. I remember that she was not familiar with Lynton Strechey’s book, “Eminent Victorians,” which was one of my favorites, so I gave her a copy. For a birthday present, she gave me Marcia Davenport’s biography on Mozart, and for another birthday, Davenport’s autobiography, “Stronger than Fiction,” both of which I have reread many times. During that very first week of our meeting, I shared with Mary one of my favorite Emily Dickinson poems, the final stanza of which I should like to quote now:

And so as kinsmen met anight
We talked between the rooms
Until the moss had reached our lips
And covered up our names.

God bless you and keep you, Mary, so full of grace: MeMe, dearest grandmother, and mother and wife and sister, and best of friends.


Cliff Rudisill

Mary was such a soft, yet oh-so-present, being in our midst. I admired her strength, her intelligence, and her way with words. Her prose was such a beautiful gift to us all. We all will miss her.


Anne Shepard

I am so overwhelmed in sadness to hear about Mary's passing. I have been thinking so much about her and about all of you and the long, hard path you've been on. Your emails have been so thoughtful that I really feel almost like I was able to visit with you, and I truly wish I had been able to. Your last email had filled me with so much hope, although I know how difficult the prospect of home care would have been. I know this must have been unexpected, despite the difficulties and setbacks all along.

Dan's mother died a few months ago and we are still feeling bereft, unprepared even though it has already happened. I guess there will never be a time that you can be truly prepared. My heart is with all of you.

With much love from your Goddaughter and Godsister

Meg Henry

Mary was, and will always continue to be, a wonderful and superb human being! My heart goes out to you and your family at this time of deep sorrow and loss. I have so many poignant memories of the innumerable ways in which Mary so abundantly extended her love and support to her family, church, and friends throughout her life! As Nell explained to you, we may miss the memorial service because of a long-planned trip to see my son in Colorado, but we will be in close contact with you upon our return. Our strongest prayers and support are with you!

Sidney Buchanan

It is hard to imagine the world without Mary in it.

Bob Simpson
Choirmaster, Christ Church Cathedral

I received the call just before going to the concert. When James had us all hold hands in the dressing room, he asked me to share. I let everyone know, then shared that the last time I saw Ann's mommy, Mary, I sang to her a few of the songs we were going to sing. I started with "Open Up and Let It Through", sang "Gate, Gate" (Ann's dad is a Buddhist and Mary really smiled when I translated the words!) and ended with "Weep No More". I asked her if she liked the music and she nodded and mouthed, "Yes, thank you". Then I sat with her holding her hand until she fell asleep. It was so peaceful! It's a memory I'll never forget.

Before we began, as the lights came up on stage, I dedicated the concert to Mary Sieber and my own mother. When we sang "Music In My Mother's House", and we got to the line "and when my mother died and she'd sung her last song, we sat in the living room singing all night long!", James looked right at me and poured love from that beautiful heart of his into mine. I sang my heart out and envisioned Mary smiling, peacefully. She sang in her choir at Christ Church for 45 years and I know she would have loved last night's concert.

With love and Big Hugs,


Mary's passing is very sad indeed but this is a once in a lifetime moment to celebrate the whole of Mary as a gift to us in the many roles she lived out with excellence during her life here among us. John, you have my deepest sympathy in the loss of your soulmate!

Mary and I met in the early '60's through a friendship with Bill and (shortly thereafter) Annette Barnard at the Cathedral. When the Standing Commission on Church Music asked me to edit Songs for Celebration as a supplement to the Hymal, I inquired of Alec Wyton as to who might be a fine wordsmithy to help in the publication. This led to lots of quality time spent with Mary sorting out the textual copy for the book. She was a total joy to work with. We laughed a lot and enjoyed each other's company. She and Alec introduced me to the wonderful Texas poet, Vassar Miller some of whose texts Alec has so beautifully set to music. Over the years of living away on the east coast, a visit to Houston simply had to include a call to catch up with Mary and John. She has been a consistent source of encouragement and support. As recent as this past January when Becky Baxter's husband passed away suddenly, Mary came to St. Martin's to sing the Memorial Service for Robin Robbins. Somehow, even in her toughest moments with serious physical impairment she placed a smile on her face, moved her body where ever she could serve best and communicated her commitment of friendship and service.

Mary, into Paradise may Angels lead you and with Lazarus, once a poor beggar, may you be welcomed into the Holy City, Jerusalem, City of Peace.
Mary, may your soul with all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace and Light Perpetual shine upon you. Amen.


George Mims

At Live Oak Friends Meeting Mary Sieber was known to many of us as Ann's mother. It was my good fortune to meet and know Mary Sieber the individual through Brigid's Place. Every time I attended a Brigid's Place event I could count on Mary's being there and the possibility of a shared ride back to West University Place.

There will be many from Live Oak Friends Meeting who will be unable to attend Mary's Memorial due to a wedding at the same time, including Nell Warnes, the bride, who sat with Mary while she was at Kindred. I deeply regret missing the special music that I know Christ Church Cathedral is planning and sharing her memory with Betty Adam, family, friends and the women of Brigid's Place.

Yours in Peace and Love,

Mary McKerall
Clerk Live Oak Friends Meeting

Mary lives in my memory as a woman of gentle humor and grace. The "cage" of metal to bind her wrist was endured without complaint, and with wit. She just went on about her business.

When she lost her twin sister, I had a visit with her to talk about the special relationship of twins. Having nearly lost my twin brother a couple of times, I could feel that particular sorrow - like losing a part of yourself.

Mary always had special angels in her life, and now she is one for all of us who knew and loved her.

Judy Mood

Lorene and I will miss Mary! She was such a good friend. We live just a few blocks from her and have been to visit her several times in her home and she has visited us. Sometimes we rode together to Brigid's Place meetings, she drove sometimes we drove other times.

Mary was as others have said was a gentle soul. She was such a grace to us both.

We will miss the good conversations and company of our friend.

We already knew of Mary's passing to her eternal glory but thank you for your e-mail.

We intend to be at her service to say goodbye with the many others that I know will be there.

Sandi Glorfield & Lorene Pouncey

The first time I met Mary was about 10 years ago when she and her husband and my dear friend, John, came to my house for a celebration get-together when John "retired" after many years of dedicated service with Insight Meditation Houston. When the evening was done and I walked them out to the car, we were talking about something having to do with Mary, I think her ease and support of John's involvement in a spiritual system that was so different from hers. Mary brushed off the compliment and John looked at us and said, "It's nice to be married to an angel." That interaction has stuck with me to this day. I thought about how differently that probably would have played out with many if not most other married couples. To me, it showed strength of character and a deep okayness with herself. Then when I went to their home and saw the abundance of Mary's angel decorations and felt the peace there, I figured John must be right.

Cathy Glowacky

I am so sorry to hear of Mary's death. Obviously so many people have had deep ties to her through the years- but she was so remarkable and vibrant that she also made a deep impression on me, who only met her for one short weekend. I enjoyed staying up late with her to talk about weather, family, music and poetry, and basking in her gracious hospitality.

I was blessed to meet Mary, if only briefly. Her memory will live long, and her presence alongside you.

A dear friend wrote to me when my own mother died, that "death is not an ending- but instead is like the candle light that disappears because the dawn has come."

All the love circling back to you is the very love that Mary gave out during her time on earth.

Deborah Dakin

I am saddened to hear of the loss of Mary Sieber. I did not know Mary Sieber personally nor did I ever have the opportunity to meet her in person. I knew of Mary Sieber through Ann, who is my friend Laura's dearest friend. I came to know Mary Sieber thru her illness and the many tributes and messages that I have read on this wonderful website.

May you all continue to have special memories of a wonderful woman and acknowledge the many accomplishments of a person who was a friend, mother, wife and successful in her career pursuits.


Joy C. West

I was so sorry to hear that Mary has passed on. Virginia called me. I was glad that Virginia was able to get down there and could see Mary. Mary was a wonderful friend, always friendly, thoughtful, and caring. I have such good memories of Mary, dating back 50 years, Virginia and I had just arrived in Houston and Virginia immediately joined Christ Church Cathedral, it was a good part of her life while we were there, and mine too, but I wasn't so deeply involved.

Best and warmest wishes to you,

Charlie Baldwin

I met Mary Sieber through her daughter Ann, on a day we had been reflecting on our lives while looking out over the Gulf of Mexico. Mary inquired about our day and I told her I had put my reflections on paper. She asked to see it and after reading it inquired as to whether she could print it in the Women's Journal at the Cathedral. I agreed and she printed it...a poem where my soul was speaking to me titled "Laura to Laura."

When I stepped into Mary's presence, I felt this sense of calm, peace and serenity. Sometime later, when my daughter was diagnosed with the illness Mary was coping with, I asked her whether or not she could speak to her and give her some guidance. She graciously consented. I reminded her that she was a twin and my daughter was a triplet. She laughed. Mary was a gift and I am so grateful, I shared some time in this space with her. I always felt a sense that all was well when in her presence and on this day of remembrance, I know all is very well indeed, in the existence in which she is now focused. Thank you Mary for sharing your time and space with me. Thank you God for sharing her with all of us.

Laura Ward Holliday

Our hearts go out to you over Mary's death--the world has lost a brilliant editor, a wonderful listener and supporter, a beautiful singer, a kind heart, and a sweet soul. Her soul will live on through all of you and we will join you in celebrating her life well-lived.

Sending love,

Sarah Gish, Stuart Buchanan, Matthew and Alexander

Remembering Mary Elizabeth Gilbert Sieber

In considering Cliff Rudisill’s remembrance of his long friendship with Mary, I am struck by the way in which relationships framed and enriched her life. Mary was twin sister, wife, mother, grandmother, and especially, for countless and disparate people, dear and much beloved friend. Compared to Cliff, I was a new friend: I got to know Mary shortly after her twin Esther’s death in 1999, when I was a new choir member, new to Brigid’s Place, new to the Cathedral generally. But as with Cliff decades before, Mary and I “clicked.” When I introduced Mary to my mother, Mary echoed my feelings succinctly in telling her that she and I “somehow found each other.”

Mary had a gift for friendship, for relationship. Her various friendships were pearls, each comprising layer upon layer of shared thoughts, feelings, incidents, texts, and subtexts. Simply experiencing her wisdom and generosity of spirit was gift enough, but working together on the Brigid’s Place Women’s Journal increased our pearl of friendship to the dimensions of the grandest imperial gem. Never did an editor have a lighter or surer touch, the gift of knowing the subtle changes that transformed a text from good to excellent, from flawless to brilliant. No one had a more encyclopedic grasp of the Chicago Manual of Style, and never was there a rarer or more gleeful pleasure than spotting a tiny mistake Mary didn’t see first.

Mary’s relationships extended beyond the seen to the unseen realm, even during her lifetime. Her angels were never far from her, in forms both visible and invisible. Her faith was intrinsic to her relational web, not propositional or dogmatic but of a piece with her poetic and musical soul, a vibration whose colors shone with irresistible light, beauty, love, and goodwill.

Her loss is irreparable, but not complete. We are formed by relationships, by the friendships we treasure and nourish. Thus the person I am today is better for the burnishing of Mary’s “warm love.” Each of us was touched, shaped, changed in some way by Mary’s unique presence and gentle spirit. As she touched us, all whom we touch are touched by Mary. In that touch is the gift, profound without any hint of grandiosity, of the divine spirit that inspired her, in whom Mary lives today, “nearer yet to God.”

Mary, we will always miss your vibrant physical presence among us. As you enter the freedom of the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us, you live on in the bonds of community forged by the blessing of your life lived in our midst.

As you reflect upon these three remembrances of Mary, I invite you to enter into silence, to hold Mary in the light in the Quaker manner. Our silence will end with the reading of Mary’s poetic gift to this place.

Pamela Stockton,
which she read at Mary's memorial

Be still my heart

Be still my heart
as evening comes;
the moon’s silvery
quarter lights
the eastern sky and
lands below;
the fox has returned
to her lair; the cat
is nesting in the barn.
My soul begins
to quiet from trials
of the day;
abide with me,
fast falls the eventide.
I lie down in peace;
and quickly fall asleep;
only you, Lord, can
make me dwell in safety.

poem by Micki Simms,
which she read at Mary's memorial

Magnificat, or Thoughts on Singing
in the Cathedral Choir for Forty-odd Years

by Mary Gilbert Sieber

In the beginning
        was the Word set to music
Venite and Te Deum, Kyrie and Gloria
Bach, Britten, Poulenc, Palestrina
Hyfrydol and Lobe den Herren
descants in the dark of Easter
chimes in the dim of Christmas Eve

My soul doth magnify the Lord

Other particulars are these:
a galaxy of stained colors high on a wall
tidal marks of years in oaken sanctuary floor
needlepointed cushions, velvet kneelers, wooden lace
sermons heard backward, baptisms seen close
fanning and coughing and little upright naps
processional challenges in lining up
sideways telescoping into the Andrews Sisters
recessional glances of greeting
kaleidoscoping quartets
wretched Pauline beanies
the colors of purple and white
young relatives noisily doodling on service leaflets behind
        one's nervous back
festive rehearsals at old Camp Allen
Christmas parties, laughter-filled luncheons, Easter breakfasts
(oh, where are the grits of yesteryear)
marriages, births, deaths, departures and returns

My soul doth magnify the Lord

For this blest communion, fellowship divine
this blessed company, this community
(some are in Montrose and Massachusetts
         and some nearer yet to God) this chosen people,
this tunèd wind of God, this choir

My soul doth magnify the Lord

This canticle appeared in somewhat abridged form in Women's Uncommon Prayers, © 2000 by Council of Women's Ministries, Protestant Episcopal Church U.S.A., and later in the Brigid's Place Women's Journal, Spring 2001.

I got to know Mary through our work together at Brigid's Place. She was a centered, grounded and patient person. We had to go through so many rewrites together on our program brochure and it was tedious work. Mary was always a professional and after reading about her life I can easily see how she was a Fulbright Scholar. I truly admired her intelligence and she was so good at what she did. Many times I hung up the phone after talking to Mary and would think to myself "whew she's smart!" I remember being in a meeting with Mary where someone said something negative about feminists. I said I was a feminist and Mary said she was a feminist too and we just looked at each directly. It was a bonding moment in that we were not afraid to speak up and be labeled with the negative stereotypes that are projected on feminists today. I admire so many things about Mary and am glad that I had the opportunity to know and work with her. She was a truly beautiful person and will be missed.

Sheryl Stringer

Dear Mary

You had such a big heart and a wonderful brain. Your knowledge and skill with words was matched by your warm and loving acceptance of those you met and befriended. I was one whom you welcomed to your country. I came into your life with your dear friend Dawn from Exeter University days as a Fulbright Scholar. You welcomed me into your family and into your heart, planned a most wonderful trip for us to stay with various family members and friends of yours, all of whom treated us 'royally'. It was a privilege to be included and a joy to get to know you during our stay in 1994. Our friendship continued at a distance, enabled and preserved by the facility of I mail, which I had never heard of when first we met! I recall and valued your sensitive understanding and encouragements when my elderly mother was in her last months and I appreciated so much your comments on my attempts to write about her life of 971/2 years.

It was a special joy to welcome you to my home in Kent, UK on a couple of visits you made with 'THE CHOIR'. Special memories of the choir's visits to Ely Cathedral and to Westminster Abbey, which we were able to attend will remain in my heart for ever. The most perfect musical sound that the Choir offered to the glory of God was uplifting and inspirational.

So I thank God upon every remembrance of 'dear Mary' and give thanks for her life and her love, her friendship and her courage in the face of adversity, and her lovely smile.

My prayers continue for John and Ann and Jack in their sad loss.

Ruth Marden

I didn't know Mary in person but she was so tenderly helpful to me in editing some poems I sent in to the Women's Journal.  In her guidance, she showed that her intelligence was made brighter by her kindness. I'm sorry that I didn't get to be around her. I know she was a blessing to Brigid's Place!

With love,

Camille Bloom

Mary touched all of us. She always had a kind word, always thought of the greater good and was always the moral compass for those around her.

For a number of years, I have sat directly behind Mary in the Christ Church Cathedral choir. Until recently, I hung on to the version of the Nicene Creed which says “I believe.” When I told Mary that I couldn’t vouch for others, only myself, she suggested that I could think of her and say “We believe” for the two of us. Only after a poignant sermon where Dean Joe Reynolds told the story of someone who couldn’t say the Creed for himself and relied on others do say “We believe….” for him, did I convert to saying “We believe.” Though Mary didn’t comment on the change, I knew by the smile she gave me at the passing of the Peace that she had noticed. These past months I have said the Creed for both of us.

I will miss Mary – we will miss Mary. Her spirit will live on in the choir. There is a certain piece we sing, and, whenever we do, there is a cipher in the organ. Those of us who have been around for a long time believe it is Bill Barnard. Mary, too, will be with us always.

With love,

Frances Kittrell

Having read all the beautiful tributes to Mary on the web site, I felt at first that it had all been said and that I had nothing further to add. However, thinking about it, I realised that two factors would make my tribute a little different; first, that I have probably known Mary in terms of years longer than most; and secondly, that I am definitely her most long-standing English friend.

I first met Mary when I started in 1952 as an undergraduate at Exeter University, at that time the University College of the South-West of England. Mary was, of course, a Fulbright scholar and so a graduate and three years older than me but we ended up sharing a room in Lopes Hall, an all-women’s hall of residence – as they were in those days.

Despite the differences in age and experience, we immediately hit it off. I, of course, was a very green 18-year-old, away from home for the first time for more than a few days. My life till then had also been quite circumscribed by the war and its aftermath – in fact, I remember Mary being surprised by the fact that I had never visited the Lake District, the centre of the great outpouring of English literature in the 18th and 19th centuries. Mary, on the other hand, seemed to me to be a young lady of vast experience and great confidence – though she never, of course, showed the slightest sign of superiority. In fact, because she was a great Anglophile and eager to learn as much as she could about all things English we each learned from the other.

We had much in common, particularly our Christian faith and our love of music and it wasn’t long before we joined the college choir under Reginald Moore, the organist of Exeter Cathedral and sang in many concerts together. Other memories of that year include late-night play readings in our room – The Importance of Being Earnest being one that stood out for me; sleeping on the pavement in the Mall the night before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II and being so cold and wet that we rushed home to watch the rest on television; and numerous trips to places of interest in London and elsewhere.

Since then, Mary and I have met only 5 times but whenever we have it is just as if we have never been apart. And in between times our friendship has been maintained through letter-writing and phone calls. Ours was a very special friendship because, as so many of us know, Mary was a very special person. I have recently found her last letter to me and as usual it was written not only with elegance but also with the great warmth which was so typical of her, and it was full of news of her family whom she loved so dearly.

Her wit, wisdom, graciousness, generosity and so many of her other qualities have all been spoken of elsewhere, and far more eloquently than ever I could hope to do. But as I sat on the Saturday evening of the service celebrating her life – which would have been the time it was taking place in Houston – and listened to a CD of the Houston Cathedral choir made on one of their tours to England, my sadness for myself was mixed with joy for her as I heard the words from 'Bright Canaan': "I'll join with them who’ve gone before, whose sin and sorrow are no more, I’m bound for the land of Canaan"

My heart goes out to John, Ann and Jack, Nancy and the grandchildren; and I would like to thank them from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to have a small share in Mary’s life; and to thank God for causing our paths to cross all those years ago and for blessing our friendship ever since.

Dawn Catten