In Memoriam - Mary Deming Torrence (Class of '39)

Imagine being only ten years old and having to take a two-day 1,000 mile train trip across India with your younger brothers in order to attend a boarding school. No wonder travel and adventure were so normal to Mary throughout her life. For those of you who only knew our mother as the sweet polite proper little lady of her later years, we want you to know that Mary was way more complex than that.

We knew Mary as the family prankster when she taught us how to short sheet a bed every April Fool’s Day. She was a musician who serenaded her kids to sleep many nights by playing Bach on the piano and who encouraged us to sing as a family in four-part harmony. She was the planner of everything fun, like early morning picnics at the Red Pyramid outside of Cairo. She was energetic and generous of her time to so many community organizations like scouts or church choirs, or in her later years to Church Women’s United, sister city projects, her Congregational church. Mary loved to travel and plan unusual activitiesWe once all hiked through a dark tunnel under the city of Jerusalem in waist deep icy cold water with only candles for light and that was Mary’s idea of a great outing. She and Ed took local long distance bus rides through India where Dad had to help push the bus when it got stuck in the mud. Mary climbed Mt Kilimanjaro with a group of young Swedish guys a week after Ed had climbed because she had had a cold the week before but did not want to miss the experience. She rafted through the Grand Canyon, flew across the world on a military plane carrying ammunition and she fell out of the top bunk near the landing time, signed on for a National Geographic cruise to Antarctica. Mary had us scurry through the dark passageways of a lesser known pyramid with flashlights, attend operas in Edinburgh or Greek plays in amphitheaters in Greece, swim at midnight in an ancient spring called “Cleopatra’s Bath at the Siwa Oasis in Egypt. Mary was more than a good sport who went along ior the ride. She was the creator of the ride and wher family always felt like we were somehow privileged to be invited to the party.

Mary was a devoted wife to her wonderful husband and our wonderful dad, Ed. She often turned to us as kids, when Dad left the room, and said “isn’t he the most handsome man in the world”! She and Ed were inseparable during their 32 years of retirement together, which we are sure many of you can still picture. They truly enjoyed each other’s company and they loved to entertain. Mary was perhaps not a great cook, but she did love to give dinner parties and surround herself with interesting people. When her granddaughters would stay for long visits she gave them little tea parties every afternoon. Picnics with deviled ham sandwiches were her staple fare as we traveled in the car or went to various scenic spots.

After Ed passed away in 2008, which was only three months after they had relocated to Eugene, Oregon, Mary was rather stoic in her response to her new reality of life without Ed. She always said that she accepted whatever life gave her and we must have heard her say a thousand times that she was “content”. Even in the hospice house during her last three weeks of life she still maintained that she was content.

We her children knew that she couldn’t live forever, although she gave it a pretty good shot, but we might not be as stoic as she was and say that we are content to live our lives now without our precious mother. Mary is going to be sorely missed by so many of us. She was one special lady. Gracious, funny, stubborn (no one ever wanted to know less about modern technology than she did), kind, cuteness personified, energetic, creative, loyal, family-centered and yet world aware, easy to please, easy to be with and the most loving mother one could ask for. Thank you, Mary, for your life well lived.

By Daughter Nancy Torrence

A copy of Mary’s obituary may be viewed here: