Livonia: On September 22, 2015, at age 72 years, she went home to heaven to be with her Lord, peacefully surrounded by loved ones. Mary is predeceased by her beloved daughter Luralynn Faye and brother Billy Church. She is survived by children; Todd (Kathleen) Church of KY, Robert (Martha Anne) Pickard of Livonia, Kristin (Don) Quinn of Mendon, and Tamara (Sean) Martin of Chili. Mary has 18 beautiful grandchildren: Maryse, Joshua (Danielle), Elizabeth (Charles), Rebekah, Rachael, Leslie, Daniel, Sarah, D.J., Connor, Caedan, Abihail, Jenna, Gabriel, Annelise, Matthias, Kenneth, Grace, and 1 great-grandson; Malachi. Mary also has two surviving brothers; David (Lucille) Church of FL, James Church of Binghamton, as well as many nieces & nephews.
Mary was born in Deposit, NY and spent her childhood in Endwell, NY in a little house on Lee Avenue. Mary was the third child and only daughter to parents Kenneth and Lura Church. At the tender age of two Mary’s life was forever altered when her mother was suddenly stricken with polio, crippled and confined to a wheel chair for the rest of her life. This event was a pivotal moment that would forever create the virtues that would come to define her life, those of service and unconditional love. Her Father Kenneth worked at a small up and coming company called International Business Machines and Mary enjoyed the company’s pool and the many fun picnics. She, along with her brothers earned money to help the family currying newspapers and earned enough to even buy her first bicycle. They raised pigs named Whitie and Osker, always reminded never to get to close since they were to become part of the family supper. She enjoyed Saturday matinees and watching T.V. at the corner gas station, a small walk from her home. A favorite childhood memory of hers was riding home in the front seat of her parent’s Buick DeSoto from her beloved Aunt Miriam’s house, tucked snuggly between them, feeling the warmth and security as the snow gently fell down in the darkness on the windshield. She had so many happy memories growing up with her brothers and cousins. She also used to go to summer camps for disabled children with polio. This unique experience along with many others instilled in Mary the deep gratitude and compassion that she would carry with her for a lifetime. Her family took many camping trips to Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks and to Stratton Mountain in Vermont where her mother’s family originated from. Mary attended Hooper Elementary School in Endwell, NY and at the age of 10 Mary was already demonstrating an exceptional talent for art, but because she was too good was failed by her art teacher when she produced a perfect looking Indian. Mary also had a beautiful lyrical soprano voice and sung in her church choir as she was growing up. Her voice and love of singing praise music to her children and grandchildren for inspiration, is one of the special memories she leaves behind. Mary always sang from her heart and to express her deep devotion and love of Jesus.
As a young woman Mary spent summers working at her family’s resort called “Scott’s Oquaga Lake”, near Deposit, NY. Mary was quite the unique beauty with strawberry blonde hair and deep brown eyes. Known for her loveliness and grace she placed well in a beauty pageant at the resort. In 1960 she graduated from Union-Endicott High School and went on to Charles Wilson School of Nursing in Johnson City, NY where she became a licensed practical nurse. In 1962 Mary had to make a life-altering and difficult decision when she was forced to give up her first son Todd William to her brother because she was an unwed mother in an unforgiving time. Having to give up her son because of society’s norms at the time forever changed her. She struggled with the pain this decision left her with and was a turning point in her life. She was determined to find ways to remain close to her son by showering him with love from afar as his “Aunt Mary” in the years to come.
In 1965 she married Robert Pickard and they resided in Binghamton, NY. Their first daughter Luralynn Faye was born in 1967, followed by Robert William Kenneth in 1968. Later they moved to King of Prussia, PA and then along came Kristin Lil in 1972, and then beautiful little Tamara Mary in 1974. For a long time they lived a happy life raising the little ones and enjoying funny adventures on the side such filling their garage with Bestline cleaning solution and selling the miraculous product. Sadly, Robert and Mary divorced in 1975. Mary, a single mother with 4 young children moved to Avon, NY where she later married Robert Stephens, a childhood sweetheart. They purchased a house on Lima Rd. in Geneseo, NY and got right to the task of raising a family. Within a year Robert Stephen’s son Timothy, whom Mary loved and raised as her own, came to live with them when he was six years old. Tim’s sister Lisa soon followed to live with the family two years later and became another precious child Mom was to feel a privilege it was to raise. With six school aged children in the house it was a busy but happy time, remembered by Mary as the happiest years of her life. Mary would draw pictures for the children to color, kept an extensive garden, and sewed all of the children’s clothes. She was an expert housekeeper and worked hard to redecorate their home. Unfortunately the happiness did not last and Bob Stephens and Mary divorced in 1986. This broke up the family and left Mary destitute, but determined to rally and care for her children. To support her kids she took various jobs while renewing her nursing license working days and nights to earn enough to support her family. She worked at a skilled nursing facility, the Rochester Psychiatric Center, and as an in home nurse. For a time she ran a business out of her home called “Slender Forever,” where she counseled people in weight loss strategies. In Mary’s struggles as a single parent and after her divorce from her first husband she came to realize that “divorce is a hardship you bring on the very children you thought you were protecting and will last for generations.” She said “It is my prayer that these hardships will deepen their [her children’s] compassion for others that struggle and that they will come to know the incredible love of a Heavenly Father that heals all wounds.”
Mary was finally able to purchase her own home in Livonia, NY on Wilkins Tract where she carved out a warm and loving environment to give the family a place to gather and grow as they approached adulthood. She created cherished memories each holiday with wonderful family recipes and attention to decorating making each family gathering special and warm. Her thoughtful touches were everywhere from how she adorned wrapped presents with florals to how she lovingly set a table and made clothes and bedding for her grandchildren. In 2005 Mary started to develop a worsening condition of COPD and in the following year had to be placed on continuous oxygen. She was placed on the transplant list for 3 months and received a new pair of lungs in January 2007 after a harrowing 12-hour surgery at UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA which also included a double bypass. Her recovery at UPMC lasted for six months because of an initial organ rejection. After her recovery she rallied again becoming strong, vibrant and able to return to most of what she was able to do before the COPD. For five years Mary really thrived after her lung transplant, then with multiple infections, finding out her daughter Luralynn had cancer she started to decline. Even in declining health and many hospitalizations she remained strong in spirit and faith. She never complained about the medical procedures and dialysis after her kidneys failed. She put up with constant doctor’s appointments, blood draws, and a medication list a mile long. She remained loving, thoughtful, and full of hope in her Lord Jesus Christ to the very end. She loved her church family, loved to disciple young Christians, and loved to care for people. Her devotion to her children went beyond compare. Her legacy of bravery and compassion in overwhelming odds continues to give strength to her family and friends and transcends her own life into the next generation. She would want all to know that it is a blessing that she now resides with her Savior, but her departure leaves those who loved her with a tremendous void because her life touched so many. Mary was a true disciple of Jesus, always humble, always forgiving, considerate, loving, gentle, graceful, faithful, and generous to a fault. Her eloquence and patriotism was a huge part of who she was and will also always be remembered. To all who had the joy of knowing her, caring for her and loving her, may she always be remembered as the fiercely devoted and unfailingly loving, courageous woman that she was.
Friends may call on Saturday, Sept. 26th, from 11am-12noon at Faith Fellowship Church, 5630 Pebble Beach Road (Corner of Pebble Beach and West Lake Road), Lakeville, NY 14480, where her Memorial Service will be held following calling hours at 12noon. Rev. Tim Sweeting will be the celebrant. Interment will be held privately at the convenience of the family and a luncheon will be held at the church immediately following the service. Memorial contributions may be made to Faith Fellowship Church at the address above. Arrangements entrusted to the Kevin W. Dougherty Funeral Home Inc., Livonia-Honeoye. To send condolences please visit: