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Paper: Houston Chronicle
Date: Sun 06/25/2006
Section: B
Page: 2
Edition: 4 STAR

Mary Sieber knew the right way to do everything, a friend and fellow choir member said / Church music, words among her passions


Mary Gilbert Sieber, whose life revolved around words, music, church and family, died Monday in a Houston hospital of pulmonary fibrosis and a stroke. She was 75.

"I used to go to sleep to the sound of typewriter keys," said her daughter, Ann Sieber, a journalist. "A whole body of people would come to her as a kind of reference for grammar and writing."

In a memoir, Mary Sieber wrote: "Words and church music have been the leitmotifs of my life. I don't know whether I chose them or they chose me."

In a busy life, Sieber had been for more than 45 years an alto member of the choir of Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral in Houston and the choir's first president, a copywriter for Harper and McGraw-Hill publishers and an editor of several books.

Also at Christ Church, Sieber was a board member of Brigid's Place, an ecumenical women's group that provides emotional and spiritual mentoring to women of many faiths. She also edited the organization's journal, program brochures and women's lenten meditation booklets.

Among the books Sieber helped edit were three editions of "Human Sexuality "by James Leslie McCary, a psychology teacher at the University of Houston.

Sieber's studies of piano and organ instilled in her a love for church and classical music. After hearing a performance of Verdi's "Requiem" at Christ Church Cathedral, Sieber said she had found the church choir of her dreams.

"She was a woman of incredible wisdom, intelligent and widely read. She knew the right way to do everything. Like Melanie in "Gone With the Wind, "if (Mary) said it was right, it was right," said her friend, Pam Stockton, a fellow member of the Christ Church choir who was Sieber's roommate on two trips that took the choir to England.

Mary Gilbert Sieber and a twin sister, the late Esther Walton Gilbert Duncan, were born Jan. 16, 1931.

Sieber spent most of her early years in New Orleans and Houston.

She graduated in 1952 from Newcomb College, where she was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the scholastic honorary fraternity.

After graduating, she studied in England on a Fulbright scholarship. She then moved to New York City, where she worked for publishers.

In New York, she met and married John Henry Sieber, a graduate of Columbia University.

In 1957, the couple moved to Houston, where John Sieber studied architecture at Rice University and Mary Sieber was an editor/secretary for the Houston Independent School District.

In 1972, she became concerned politically, and ran for chairman of her precinct. She also campaigned for liberal candidates Frances "Sissy" Farenthold for governor and Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern.

"We lost all three races," Sieber said in her memoir.

She later was a technical editor at Exxon Production Research Co.

A celebration-of-life service was held Saturday at Christ Church Episcopal Cathedral.


Husband, architect John Sieber, of Houston

Daughter, Ann Walton Sieber, of Houston

Son, Jack Sieber, of Boston, Mass.